In 2019, Philadelphia P.D. received calls of shots fired near Loper Street. Deputy Todd Adcock noticed a white SUV turn onto Loper street. He followed the vehicle and heard gunshots and saw multiple blasts coming from the driver’s side window of the vehicle.
He followed the SUV to an address and then left for another call. Officer Josh Ray arrived as Adcock was leaving and he observed shell casings on the floorboard of the SUV with his flashlight. Jeremy Brown’s sister then approached and said it was her car and police could search the vehicle.
Ray found eight shell casings from two different calibers. Based on law enforcement’s investigation, Jeremy Brown became a person of interest. The next day, a confidential informant told Ray that Brown was outside 381 Loper Street. Ray obtained a search warrant for the house from Judge Cumberland, seeking handguns and rifles. Judge Cumberland did not put a time on the warrant or list the name of the law enforcement officer to whom the warrant was delivered.
Ray executed the warrant the same day he got it from Judge Cumberland and seized a pistol, two rifles, and multiple ammunition. Brown was arrested at the residence after the items were seized. Two eyewitnesses testified that Brown was the shooter and he was convicted of shooting into a dwelling and aggravated assault and sentenced to 50 years.
On appeal, Brown argued that the search warrant was invalid because it did not specify the time it was issued or name the law enforcement officer to whom the warrant was delivered. MCOA affirmed the trial court conviction.
Admittedly, Mississippi Rule of Criminal Procedure 4.3(3) does require such contents to be included as can be seen below:
Every search warrant issued by the court shall:
(3) be signed and dated by the judge, showing the exact time and date and the name of the law enforcement officer to whom the warrant was delivered for execution.
Ray testified that he served the search warrant the same day he got it and Judge Cumberland testified that he found probable cause and signed and dated the warrant but did not specify the time it was issued.
Because the officer executed the warrant within mere hours of its issuance, the laudable goals of execution of the warrant within ten days were met. Although the warrant technically violated Rule 4.3, the search and seizure actions by the government in this case were in conformance with the constitution. Thus, we find that the warrant’s failure to provide the exact time was harmless error because the warrant was clearly executed within hours of issuance and within the mandated ten day time frame.
We further find that the warrant’s failure to include the name of the designated officer was harmless error because the record is clear that Officer Ray was the officer who requested and received the warrant. In conclusion, the goals of Rule of 4.3 were met, and to hold the search warrant in this case invalid would, without doubt, put form over substance.
In a footnote, MCOA noted:
This opinion does not stand as precedent for the proposition that the government can ignore the dictates of Rule 4.3 without consequence. Rather, under the unique circumstances of this case and the arguments presented, the alleged deficiencies concerning compliance with Rule 4.3 were harmless and did not violate constitutional demands.