Narcotics Team 'Loses' $294,000 In Seized Cash Because It Omitted The Location To Be Searched From Its Search Warrant

from the [LOCATION-TK]-[INSERT-FACTS-AND-SUCH] dept

Mississippi drug warriors had their eye on nearly $300,000 in "forfeited" funds but threw it all away by issuing one of the most deficient search warrants ever. It's not that it was loaded with errors or questionable probable cause assertions. It's that it omitted perhaps the single most important element of a search warrant -- the location being searched.

Appellant Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (hereinafter “the State”) had a search warrant signed and executed at the home of Bobby Ray Canada and Beverly Turman. Section one of the search warrant, denoting the location for the search to be executed, was completely blank. The State collected, among other things, $293,720 from the home, and the State then filed a civil forfeiture action. Canada and Turman filed a summary judgment motion, arguing that the search warrant was blank and void, and therefore, the search violated their Fourth Amendment Rights. The trial judge granted the summary judgment motion. The State appealed. We hold the summary judgment motion to be well taken and affirm.
The State didn't deny that its officer had served a warrant with a blank space where the location to be searched should have been. But it claimed it had supporting documentation that made this omission irrelevant.
The State responded, arguing that the proceedings should be stayed because the affidavit and the underlying facts and circumstances sheet, listing the location of the search, were sealed by the State for other investigations, and they were needed to show the validity of the search warrant in the instant case. The State alleged that Judge Brown had seen and signed the affidavit and the underlying facts and circumstances sheet when he signed the search warrant. After the search warrant was signed – but before the search warrant was executed – both documents were sealed.
So the State briefly unsealed the documents to show the trial judge that, yes, the warrant was clearly and significantly deficient, but look, we wrote down the location in other places. The trial judge remained unimpressed by the officer's inability to fill out a search warrant properly. Summary judgement was granted and the State appealed, arguing that the warrant was still valid (really?) and even if it wasn't, the "good faith" exception applied.
The State’s argument hinges on the incorporation of the affidavit and the underlying facts and circumstances sheet. Yet the record before the Court contains neither the affidavit nor the underlying facts and circumstances sheet. In effect, the State has asked us to make a ruling on something that has not even been presented to us.
Despite the State's failure to produce these documents, the appeals court still entertained the government's argument. Even while pretending to have the relevant information in front of it, the court still found the government's arguments weak and unappealing.
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. 5 ¶11. Further, in Miller v. State, 93 So. 2 (Miss. 1922), the Court faced a similar issue where one section of a search warrant was completely blank. In Miller, the search warrant was blank as to the name of the person to be searched and the place to be searched at the time of its execution. Id. at 2. After the warrant was executed, the proper person and place was filled in on the warrant. The Court held that “[a] blank warrant or a blank affidavit amounts to nothing."
As to the so-called "technical error" that resulted in the lack of a very important search warrant element, the court finds that the very malleable "good faith" exception cannot be stretched to cover this omission.
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.
The Fourth Amendment wasn't erected to be an irritant to law enforcement and a criminal's best friend. It was put in place to protect citizens from government officials and employees who hold vastly more power than those whose lives they intrude on in the course of their duties. Walking around with a warrant that doesn't specify where or what is to be searched is no better than simply demanding random homeowners open their doors and allow the police to root around in their belongings. That's simply not allowed. If the government wants to breach the privacy of someone's house, it needs the proper paperwork. This clearly wasn't proper and this officer's omission -- although likely not intentional -- gave the warrant no more power than a random page torn from a notebook.

In doing so, the State just "lost" nearly $300,000. Given the state of asset forfeiture, it would be clearly erroneous to equate large amounts of cash with guilt, despite our government's proclivity for doing exactly that. The perverted incentives of asset forfeiture programs may have led to this glaring omission, as the drug task force named in the filing appears to have rushed through filling out its warrant in its haste to crack open a private residence and avail itself of the sweet, sweet cash it expected to find waiting inside.

Filed Under: asset seizure, beverly turman, bobby ray canada, details, mississippi, search warrant


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:41pm

    Do it right or don't bother

    In doing so, the State just "lost" nearly $300,000. Given the state of asset forfeiture, it would be clearly erroneous to equate large amounts of cash with guilt, despite our government's proclivity for doing exactly that.

    Even if every single bill seized was directly related to criminal activity, the correct ruling was still handed out here. If those supposedly 'enforcing' the law can't follow the law, then those they arrest and the property they seize, even if guilty, deserve to be let free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:16pm

      Re: Do it right or don't bother

      Almost 100 years ago this was stated:

      "Men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government"

      But as noted as the dissenting opinion of Judge Jackson:

      "It is very well to say that those who deal with the Government should turn square corners. But there is no reason why the square corners should constitute a one-way street."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 12:54pm

      Re: Do it right or don't bother

      The Enforcers of the law are paid tens of thousands of dollars a year, have sworn an oath to do their duty, and have the same requirement to obey the law or else that every citizen does. Additionally, the government is limited by the Constitution.

      The general public have fewer legal restrictions on them than the Enforcers (both must obey statutes, Enforcers are additionally bound by the Constitution), and are not paid to enforce the law nor sworn to uphold it.

      So if the Enforcers can't be bothered to obey the law, why should anyone?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mis-story Theater 3000, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:52pm

    OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

    Not that I disagree, that's just all you can take away from this. Otherwise it'd be routine. In other cases, like the copyright one today, Techdirties are perfectly willing to say that judges are without sense. The only constant here is not The Law, but how affects pirates / drug users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Mis-story Theater 3000, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:55pm

    OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

    Not that I disagree, that's just all you can take away from this. Otherwise it'd be routine. In other cases, like the copyright one today, Techdirties are perfectly willing to say that judges are without sense. The only constant here is not The Law, but how affects pirates / drug users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Mis-story Theater 3000, 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:57pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      Since you won't see the two prior attempts, I'll inform that Masnick still does his best to censor me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

        You need to expand your horizons by going outside and discovering new, strange, wonderful things to you like, trees, grass, sun.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          k-h, 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

          Alleged drug dealers I think you meant.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      S. T. Stone (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 1:57pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      Damn, son. You should get a job as a tailor, considering how good of a job you’re doing dressing up scarecrows.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nigel Lew (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:07pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      No one around here conflates piracy with drug dealing pea brain. Except for you that is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:17pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      "Not that I disagree, that's just all you can take away from this."

      Except it's not. It's more like "that's all you can take away from what wasn't actually said in the article".

      What's taken away from this is that a judge ruled properly, a notable blank in a warrant did not follow what is considered standard procedure for the filling out of said warrant and as such anything seized was unlawfully seized and rightfully and , more importantly, legally returned to its rightful owners.

      "Otherwise it'd be routine."

      Yeah, if law enforcement had followed proper procedure in filling out a warrant it would be routine. Yet they didn't, so they were in the wrong which a judge clearly noted and called out.

      "In other cases, like the copyright one today, Techdirties are perfectly willing to say that judges are without sense."

      Techdirties? Really? Wow. You've gone from sad to pathetic to grasping at straws for your ad homs.

      The rest of that statement is just more of the regular ludicrous nonsense you love spouting.

      "The only constant here is not The Law, but how affects pirates / drug users."

      Hardly. The only constant here is your misinterpreting and misrepresenting anything that is written on this website by its various writers.

      The constant here is more "caring that the law is properly followed by those charged with enforcing it and pointing out issues where there might be potential for misuse or flat out abuse on the part of those enforcing it or those demanding changes be made to it in order to force their interests/beliefs/biases against those they deem have done them wrong".

      Don't you get tired of being as pretentious and as big a liar about this site as you constantly are?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:25pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      The main point of this is not that criminals got away. It's that there are judges giving police officers blank checks, that allow them to get into anywhere they want! They could bust down anyone's door with a warrant like that. And while the blank warrant lost them this case, what's to keep them from filling in the blanks on future signed warrants with whatever they want? I just wish their were some repercussions for the judge that signed the warrant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 11:45pm

        Re: Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

        I think there were a few takeaways:

        First, that some warrant-issuing judges are not ensuring that paperwork is correctly filled out before certifying that the warrant as presented is valid for execution. This simply should not be happening. To my mind, this failure is something that should be able to be raised with a Judicial Conduct board or such.

        Secondly, that some members of law enforcement will not ensure that they have the correct paperwork before attempting to execute a warrant. As part of their basic training, they should know that blank warrants are a no-no, and that a warrant risks being declared invalid later if it doesn't contain particulars like who, what, when or where even if it's certified by a judge. Personally, given the warrant's task of providing them legal cover for breaching somebody else's rights, this failure should be accompanied with the prospect of significant legal sanctions.

        Third, that some judges will correctly affirm that a warrant needed to be filled out in the main particulars at a minimum for it to be considered valid.

        I hope there are repercussions for the law-enforcement side of this debacle beyond the warrant simply being declared invalid and the search voided. In these roles, if you're not going that right, you're simply not doing the job. It's basic due process.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:37pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      Techdirters are happy when the people responsible for enforcing the laws actually follow them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2015 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

        "Techdirters are happy when the people responsible for enforcing the laws actually follow them."

        If they followed the laws, the court wouldn't have invalidated the warrant, little girl.
        Go back to school...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2015 @ 9:35am

          Re: Re: Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

          It is you who needs to go back to school and learn to read.

          The supreme law of the land states:

          "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"

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 11:48pm

      Re: OMG! Another "Dog Bites Man" story! Techdirters are happy when drug dealers escape and police look foolish.

      I'm sorry, i didn't realise that the Law As Written could be ignored just as and when YOU see fit.

      Because it couldn't possibly be applied to you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:26pm

    due process

    A long time ago, I read an article---I wish I could remember where---discussing the question of, basically, why prosecuting and convicting someone of a particular crime was so complicated and time consuming given that, in that situation, the crime and perpetrator were plainly caught on camera.

    The gist of the article was that, even in cases where it's "obvious" that someone committed the crime in question, the government still has to check every box, fill out every form, and generally speaking follow every last, single, minor, nitpicky aspect of the law before it can put someone in prison. Even if guilt is "obvious" the law demands that meticulous, proper procedures are followed before depriving someone of their liberty, and this was the basis of due process of law.

    Basically, if we can't trust the government to follow the rules when arresting and convicting an "obviously" guilty person, how can we trust that they'll follow the rules when things are ambiguous?

    Now, you may say that we don't trust the government at all, with good reason, and I'm not trying to argue that point. I just mean that the idea---however idealized it might be---is that the only way you should be able to convict someone is to do absolutely everything by the book. If you don't, whether intentionally or through honest accident, then tough luck, the guy walks. If that makes law enforcement "harder" then so be it... that is, or ought to be, the nature of a free society and a government of laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:34pm

    but...

    paperwork is hard!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 2:39pm

      Re: but...

      It's less 'paperwork is hard', and more 'paperwork sets limits'. If you don't have any idea what you're looking for, or what you think you'll find, because you have no real evidence to back up your hunches, then filling out a proper warrant is just a wee bit difficult.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:32pm

    But, your honor...!

    But, your honor...!

    Yes, we understand this is a completely blank piece of paper. But imagine if there had been the form of a search warrant here, and information about the person and place to be searched, and a probable cause, and a judge's signature: Then it would have been perfectly valid!

    But...but...we pulled it out of a fresh ream, and everything!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wazmo (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:54pm

    So the narc team's budget is down $294,000 because of a mistake and the head isn't going to get his bonus. What to do....I got it! I'll dock the entire team's pay and bonuses to cover the shortfall! I'm a genius just like those Wall Street guys!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Beta (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 4:57pm

    Judicial Fantasy #8

    "The State alleged that Judge Brown had seen and signed the affidavit and the underlying facts and circumstances sheet when he signed the search warrant."

    "Bailiff, call Judge Brown to the stand."

    "You can't call me to the stand, I'm a judge!"

    "Well, the day is young, and you signed a blank warrant..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 5:35pm

    out_of_the_blue just can't stand it when due process is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 8:45pm

    What do you want to bet?

    They'll hand the defendents a briefcase full of cash, then immediately serve a new warrant and take the cash back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Jun 2015 @ 9:30pm

    We need to follow rules

    or there is nothing left distinguishing the government from unorganized crime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 9:41pm

      Re: We need to follow rules

      Nonsense, one side has shiny badges, obscene amounts of funding, and a court system more than willing to look the other way no matter what they do.

      See, huge difference even without those pesky 'rules' or 'laws' getting in the way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    Who does the officer think he is? Taylor Swift?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 6:46am

    Secret warrants are no fun,
    Secret warrants hurt someone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2015 @ 10:00am

    so why do I expect the state to act out of spite and target the people that denied them their illegal action, instead of fixing their actions to no longer be illegal. maybe I am just a cynic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 23 Jun 2015 @ 3:20pm

      Re:

      Why not do both? Harass those not proven guilty, and write some legislation letting them bust down any door and take whatever they want for whatever reason? Clearly you're not very cynical at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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