United States v. Ruiz

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 07-11-2014
  • Case #: 13-30003
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Christen for the Court; Circuit Judge Fisher; Dissent by Circuit Judge Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Reckless omissions by a police officer about the credibility of an eyewitness to obtain a search warrant may fatally undermine a finding of probable cause without corroboration that the eyewitness is truthful.

Following a shooting at a trailer home in Payette, Idaho, police officers obtained a search warrant for the home of Martin Cantu Ruiz. Eyewitnesses identified Ruiz as the possible shooter, based on a photo lineup and a nickname that he used. In Ruiz's home, police officers found a shotgun. Ruiz challenged the validity of the search warrant because it was obtained after police failed to disclose to the magistrate that the eyewitness was a drug addict, who participated in drug sales that were allegedly tied to the shooting, and that the eyewitness had agreed to be a police informant. In addition to the eyewitness, police also had statements from neighbors, and were able to independently verify that Ruiz used the nickname. The Ninth Circuit held that while the omission to the magistrate was reckless, the circumstances as a whole supported a finding of probable cause. The credibility of the eyewitness was damaged enough by the disclosures that the testimony alone would not have supported probable cause. In this case however, enough other factors existed to repair the credibility of the eyewitness that made it unlikely that she lied about the identity of the shooter. AFFIRMED.

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