United States v. Underwood

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-06-2013
  • Case #: 11-50213
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judges Noonan and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

A court order to suppress evidence of drug trafficking obtained during the execution of a search warrant will be upheld when: (1) the warrant does not have a sufficient basis for probable cause because it lacks underlying facts; and (2) the good faith exception is not met because the executing agents could not have acted in objectively reasonable reliance on the warrant.

John Underwood was charged with “conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances,” including cocaine and ecstasy, after a search warrant was executed upon his residence and federal agents found evidence of drug trafficking. Underwood filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrant lacked probable cause. The district court judge granted the motion, and the United States appealed. The affidavit, which was used as the basis for the search warrant, was written by a federal agent, and it only noted Underwood’s marijuana use and an incident where the agent observed Underwood transferring crates into his car. The agent then noted his experience and beliefs about the behavior of drug traffickers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the court order suppressing the evidence, holding that when viewed in the totality of the circumstances, there was not a sufficient basis for probable cause because the warrant was not adequately supported by underlying facts. Further, the panel held that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule was not met. The agents did not act in “objective, reasonable reliance” on the warrant because it lacked a sufficient factual basis for which the agents could reasonably conclude that cocaine and ecstasy drug trafficking evidence would be found in Underwood’s home. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search