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Practice Notes

Recent Court Decisions & Updates

Police Officers' "Flagrant Disregard" for Scope of Search Warrant leads to Exclusion of Evidence

State v. Roy D. Lucas (WD77088)

In July 2013, a search warrant was issued, based upon the affidavit of law enforcement, allowing police to search a  Randolph County residence for

  • marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, drug paraphernalia, cell phones, digital recording devices, cameras, and other related items related to the drug trade.

Law enforcement executed the search warrant and seized:

  • a cell phone, six pipes for marijuana or methamphetamine, two BB pistols, a pistol cap gun, gun holsters, a knife, a bandana, a marijuana cigarette, and a homemade videotape. 

As a result, Defendant Roy Lucas was charged with two C class felonies:

  1. one count of possession of a controlled substance, and
  2. one count of maintaining or keeping a public nuisance

Following the search of the home, the trial court found that the “issuing judge did not have a substantial basis for concluding that there was a fair probability that evidence related to methamphetamine would be found within the Defendant's property. As such, the determination that probable cause existed in this case was clearly erroneous." The court also found that the officers acted in bad faith by "seizing items that were not contemplated by the warrant." As a result, the court suppressed all evidence seized and all of Lucas’ statements. The State appealed the Court's suppression of evidence.

On October 21, 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District issued its decision, agreeing with the trial court, and upholding the suppression of evidence.  The Western District stated:

"All in all, the officers seized about as many items not covered by the warrant as covered by the warrant, evidencing a flagrant and widespread disregard for the scope of the warrant by the officers. As the officers did not properly execute the warrant by seizing items outside the scope of the warrant and flagrantly disregarding the scope of the warrant, the good faith exception does not apply." 

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

The Exclusionary Rule is a restriction on law enforcement's power to search your property without a valid search warrant. Police officers executing a search warrant may search only those places and for those objects that it was reasonable to believe were covered by the warrant. Evidence obtained as a direct result of an unlawful search or seizure is considered fruit of the poisonous tree and is inadmissible at trial. 

To protect your rights, a person should never volunteer his/her home or property for search by police. Without your consent, the US Constitution mandates that a valid search warrant be issued before police enter your home.  As demonstrated by Mr. Lucas' case, sometimes police officers ignore the rules and go beyond the scope of their search warrant.  In these instances, evidence that could be used against you can be excluded from trial. 

If you are charged with a crime, contact the Kaiser Law Office to discuss your options and protect your rights.  Tel. (816) 645-5799. Email: attorney@kaiserlawkc.com