California Landmark Cases on The Good Faith Exception

The Good Faith Exception The California Constitution permits " 'exclusion of relevant, but unlawfully obtained evidence, only if exclusion is required by the United States Constitution.' " (People v. Fortune (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 941, 948-949 (Fortune).) Moreover, evidence need not be suppressed if the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule as articulated in United States v. Leon (1984) 468 U.S. 897 (Leon) applies. (Fortune, supra, at p. 953.) Under this rule, relevant evidence does not need to be excluded when the evidence has been seized pursuant to a warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate and when the officer executing the warrant and conducting the search acted in an objectively reasonable belief in the validity of the warrant. (Leon, supra, at pp. 907-908.) " 'The essential prerequisite to the reasonable good faith exception' is a finding that 'the officers had a good faith objectively reasonable belief that the search they conducted was authorized by a valid warrant and . . . "that the officers properly executed the warrant and searched only those places and for those objects that it was reasonable to believe were covered by the warrant." ' " (Fortune, supra, 197 Cal.App.3d at p. 950.) "The question to be addressed is whether a reasonably well-trained officer in the officer's position would have known that his affidavit failed to establish probable cause . . . ." (People v. Lim (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 1289, 1296-1297.) The state has the burden of establishing "objectively reasonable" reliance upon the warrant. Leon set forth four exceptions in which suppression remains "an appropriate remedy: (i) the issuing magistrate was misled by information that the officer knew or should have known was false; (ii) the magistrate 'wholly abandoned his judicial role'; (iii) the affidavit was ' "so lacking in indicia of probable cause" ' that it would be ' "entirely unreasonable" ' for an officer to believe such cause existed; and (iv) the warrant was so facially deficient that the executing officer could not reasonably presume it to be valid. Leon, supra, 468 U.S. 897, 923." (People v. Camarella (1991) 54 Cal.3d 592, 596.) Thus, "if the officer 'reasonably could have believed that the affidavit presented a close or debatable question on the issue of probable cause,' the seized evidence need not be suppressed. " (People v. Pressey (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 1178, 1191.) The court in Fortune, supra, 197 Cal.App.3d 941, considered the application of the good faith exception to a situation where the oral affidavit made in support of a telephonic search warrant had not been recorded and transcribed as required by statute. In United States v. Stefanson (9th Cir. 1981) 648 F.2d 1231, the magistrate supplemented the probable cause statement from the magistrate's memory because the recording with the affiant officer was in part inaudible due to problems with the recording device. (Id. at pp. 1234-1236.) The Stefanson court held that the defendant had not established that he suffered any prejudice from this irregularity. (Ibid.) Similarly, in United States v. Allen (N.D.Ill. 1984) 586 F.Supp. 825, the court refused to exclude evidence because the defendant failed to establish he was prejudiced by the unavailability of a verbatim transcript of the affidavit when the tapes with the affiant were blank. (Id. at pp. 828-829.) Even in those cases where a defendant contests the sufficiency of probable cause established by the affidavit, the Fortune court emphasized that "the best result a defendant could hope for in challenging the sufficiency of the affidavit is that it would be found lacking and the search warrant would fall. However, in such a case, the 'good faith' exception . . . could still salvage the admissibility of the evidence seized. We can conceive of no reason why a defendant should be better off when a technical defect, apparently totally beyond the control of the officer, prevents the tape recording of the oral affidavit as required by statute than that same defendant would be if he were successful in showing the affidavit was insufficient to establish probable cause." (Fortune, supra, 197 Cal.App.3d at p. 953.)