Good Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule

As noted previously, the Fourth Amendment protects the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  U.S. Const. Amend. IV.  Ordinarily, evidence obtained in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used in a criminal case against that individual. See United States v. Riesselman, 646 F.3d 1072, 1078 (8th Cir. 2011).  However, there are some instances when a Fourth Amendment violation does not trigger the exclusionary rule. Davis v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2419, 2426 (2011). The purpose of the exclusionary rule is solely to deter future violations of Fourth Amendment rights. Id. When exclusion of evidence would not further this purpose, courts will sometimes find that the circumstances weigh against application of the exclusionary rule. See id.

The good faith exception is one instance in which a Fourth Amendment violation may not require exclusion of the evidence gathered as a result of that violation.  When an officer has acted in objective good faith in obtaining a search warrant from a judge or magistrate and investigating within its scope, evidence uncovered through the execution of the warrant may be admitted even if the warrant is subsequently invalidated. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 920-21 (1984). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will use the good faith exception to avoid excluding evidence in appropriate circumstances, unless: (1) the affidavit or testimony supporting the warrant application was intentionally or recklessly false and misleading, (2) the issuing judge abandoned his judicial role when issuing the warrant, (3) the affidavit supporting the application for a warrant was so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render belief in the existence of probable cause entirely unreasonable, or (4) the warrant was so facially deficient that no police officer could reasonably presume it to be valid. United States v. Fiorito, 640 F.3d 338, 345 (8th Cir. 2011).

The good faith exception to the exclusionary rule may apply when evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment was used in an application for a warrant, provided that the prewarrant conduct was close enough to the line of validity to make the belief in the legality of the warrant objectively reasonable. United States v. Cannon, No. 12-1362 (8th Cir. January 8, 2013).  If officer conduct prior to the warrant was clearly illegal, the good faith exception does not apply. Id.

It is important to note that the above cases are all from federal courts.  The Minnesota Supreme Court has consistently declined to adopt, much less address, the good faith exception. State v. Jackson, 742 N.W.2d 163, 180 n. 10 (Minn. 2007).