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Appeals Court: Thinking About a Warrant is Enough

police men in a cop car
By George Khoury, Esq. on June 18, 2019 1:37 PM

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a rather controversial decision that is raising the ire of legal commentators. The decision in the USA v. Huskisson case explains that cops can get away with illegally entering a home if they were at least thinking about getting a warrant before doing so.

Significantly, the three-judge panel agreed that the facts of the Huskisson case threaded a rather particular needle such that the illegal entry and the evidence obtained from it were not necessary to support a warrant, thus triggering the independent source exception.

Mountains of Drug Evidence

Curiously, the case against Huskisson seemed open and shut before the DEA and local law enforcement illegally entered Huskisson's home. A confidential informant had been feeding the feds info and allowing calls to be monitored and recorded, and had already turned over evidence of thousands of dollars' worth of meth buys.

On the day law enforcement illegally entered Huskisson's home, the informant had provided reliable information that there would be a large purchase at Huskisson's home that night. After the confidential informant exited the home and gave a signal indicating the drugs were present in the home, the authorities entered the home without a warrant.

After officers entered and saw a whole lot of meth in plain sight, they sought a warrant to search the home when Huskisson refused to consent. A few hours later, they had the warrant and commenced searching. Pretrial, Huskisson's attorney attempted to suppress the evidence from the search warrant for being based on illegal entry and search. However, the circuit court explained that the officers had enough evidence to support the independent source exception, and that the trial court did not make any error when weighing the credibility of one local law enforcement officer who was working with the DEA.

For criminal law practitioners, particularly in the Seventh Circuit, this case is one to read as the above summary doesn't do all the details justice, nor does it delve into the mental and legal gymnastics the court relied upon to reach its conclusion.

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