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Search warrant was not bare boned and thus good faith exception applied

Facts

Per a state-issued search warrant containing allegations from a confidential informant that Jimel Harris possessed crack cocaine, law enforcement searched a hotel room where Harris was present. The search yielded 6.9 ounces of synthetic marihuana, cash, cell phones, and a digital scale with cocaine residue.

Harris moved to suppress all evidence seized. He said that the search warrant affidavit was “bare bones,” so the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply, and that the issuing judicial officer lacked a substantial basis for believing there was probable cause for the search. In his report and recommendation, the federal magistrate judge denied Harris’s motion, finding that the good faith exception applied because the warrant was more than bare bones. The report stated that a confidential informant had contacted the affiant detective, had previously provided reliable information, was familiar with cocaine, and had seen cocaine in Harris’s hotel room within the previous forty- eight hours.

The affidavit stated, in pertinent part, Within the 48-hour period preceding the preparation of this affidavit, your Affiant received information from a reliable and confidential informant . . . . Your affiant knows the informant has provided information in the past which has proven reliable and credible. The informant has provided your affiant and other police officers with information in the past which has led to arrests of persons for narcotics related offenses including offenses involving cocaine. The informant has demonstrated to your affiant that they know what cocaine looks like, how it is sold, how it is used, how it is packaged, and understand the various quantities and weight of cocaine as it is trafficked on the street. The informant has provided your affiant with information documented in this affidavit which your affiant verified through independent investigation. Within the 48-hour period preceding the preparation of this affidavit, a Confidential Informant (CI) working for the Killeen Police Department Organized Crime Unit had observed a quantity of Cocaine, described by the CI as several crack rocks inside the hotel room. The CI said he/she has also identified Jimel Edward Harris, a black male, date of birth [**/**/****] by the use of un-named photographs.

The district court adopted the report and denied the motion to suppress. Harris entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his motion to suppress. The 5th affirmed.

Analysis

We look to the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an affidavit is bare bones. See United States v. Fisher, 22 F.3d 574  (5th Cir. 1994). And our judgment is made in a common sense manner. See United States v. Jackson, 818 F.2d 345 (5th Cir. 1987).

Bare bones affidavits typically contain wholly conclusory statements, which lack the facts and circumstances from which a magistrate can independently determine probable cause. See Gentry. An issuing magistrate can draw reasonable inferences from the affidavit, and the ultimate determination of the affidavit’s sufficiency is entitled to great deference on review. See United States v. May, 819 F.2d 531 (5th Cir. 1987).

Through a totality-of-the-circumstances inquiry, the affidavit here provided more than conclusory statements or boilerplate. The affidavit stated that the confidential informant had provided reliable and credible information in previous narcotics investigations and had observed crack cocaine in the hotel room within the 48-hour period before execution of the affidavit. See United States v. McKnight, 953 F.2d 898 (5th Cir. 1992) (approving an affidavit as sufficient to support the good faith exception on similar facts). The affidavit provided specific facts and circumstances that allowed the issuing judge to make a probable cause determination regarding the search of the hotel room.

Because affidavits must be construed in a common-sense manner, with great deference given to the issuing judge’s probable cause determination, we cannot reason that the district court erred, plainly or otherwise, in finding that the affidavit in the instant case was not bare bones. Therefore, the executing officer’s reliance on the warrant was objectively reasonable and made in good faith, so the district court was correct to deny Harris’s motion to suppress the evidence on that ground. We therefore need not reach the issue of whether the warrant was supported by probable cause.

https://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/21/21-50738.0.pdf