In 2013, MBN got a search warrant for the home of Bobby Ray Canada and Beverly Turman. Section one, denoting the location for the search to be executed, was completely blank. They executed the warrant and collected $293,720 from the home and then commenced a civil forfeiture action. Canada and Turman filed a motion for summary judgement and the trial Judge granted the motion. MSC agrees with the trial judge that the warrant was void and violated their Fourth Amendment Rights.
A. Plain reading of constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Mississippi Constitution, Article 3, Section 23, reads: The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, and possessions, from unreasonable seizure or search; and no warrant shall be issued without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, specially designating the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.
Based on a plain reading of both the Mississippi and United States Constitutions, the State’s case fails; the warrant is void and unenforceable on its face.
B. Hamilton’s incorporation by reference
In spite of the ample precedent against the State, it argues, citing Hamilton v. State, 556 So. 2d 685 (Miss. 1990), that incorporation by reference to the affidavit and the underlying facts and circumstances sheet cures a search warrant’s incorrect description of the place to be searched.
In Hamilton, the search warrant and the affidavit contained a description of the residence to be searched; they just failed to set forth the correct description. The Hamilton court said, “We are of the opinion that the affidavit and search warrant, both of which incorporated by reference and made a part of the instruments the underlying facts and circumstances sheet, sufficiently directed the officers to appellant’s premises where they found him in his residence, executed the warrant and discovered marijuana.”
In this case, both parties agree that the underlying facts and circumstances sheet and the affidavit were sealed at the time of the search and were not attached to the warrant. Also, section one of the search warrant was completely blank, as opposed to the search warrant in Hamilton which contained an incorrect or inadequate description of the place to be searched.
C. Good faith
The State characterizes the warrant as containing a “technical error” and argues that the good faith exception applies because no officer engaged in willful violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), put forth a “good faith exception,” wherein, even when a warrant is invalid under the Fourth Amendment, officers acting in good faith reliance on the warrant should not be penalized for a magistrate’s error. The Leon court limited its holding by stating that an officer must act with objective reasonableness. Thus, application of the good faith exception is based on a case by case analysis, and the exclusionary rule still may apply under the facts of certain cases.
In determining whether the facts of a case justify application of the good faith exception, the Leon Court stated: “Finally, depending on the circumstances of the particular case, a warrant may be so facially deficient—i.e., in failing to particularize the place to be searched or the things to be seized—that the executing officers cannot reasonably presume it to be valid.”
In the instant case, section one of the warrant is completely blank. A warrant with a blank section cannot even rise to the level of “failing to particularize” a place. It is clearly, facially defective, and the whole premise of the good faith exception would be negated if we were to find the exception applies. Thus, we hold that the good faith exception does not apply, and the instant issue is, therefore, moot.