Example Motion to Quash Search Warrant California
What is the procedure the lower court should follow when a California defendant seeks to quash or traverse the search warrant ?
In People v. Hobbs (1994) 7 Cal.4th 948, the Supreme Court concluded that "taken together, the informant's privilege (Evid. Code, 1041), the long-standing rule extending coverage of that privilege to information furnished by the informant which, if disclosed, might reveal his or her identity, and the codified rule that disclosure of an informant's identity is not required to establish the legality of a search pursuant to a warrant valid on its face (Evid. Code, 1042, subd. (b)) compel a conclusion that all or any part of a search warrant affidavit may be sealed if necessary to implement the privilege and protect the identity of a confidential informant. Evidence Code section 915, subdivision (b), expressly authorizes lower courts to utilize an in camera review and discovery procedure to effectuate implementation of the privilege." (Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 971.)
Hobbs outlined the procedure the lower court should follow when a defendant seeks to quash or traverse the search warrant.
"The court must initially determine whether the affidavit is properly sealed, i.e., whether valid grounds exist for maintaining the informant's confidentiality, and whether the extent of the sealing is justified as necessary to avoid revealing his or her identity." (Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 973.)
If properly sealed and the defendant moves to traverse, the court determines "whether the defendant's general allegations of material misrepresentations or omissions are supported by the public and sealed portions of the search warrant affidavit, including any testimony offered at the in camera hearing." (Id. at p. 974.) Generally, to prevail on a motion to traverse, "the defendant must demonstrate that:
(1) the affidavit included a false statement made 'knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth,'
(2) 'the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause.'" (Ibid., quoting Franks, supra, 438 U.S. at pp. 155-156 57 L.Ed.2d at p. 672.)
If the trial court finds the defendant's claims of material misrepresentation are not supported, "the court should simply report this conclusion to the defendant and enter an order denying the motion to traverse." (Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 974.)
If the court determines that the affidavit is properly sealed and defendant moves to quash, the court determines "whether, under the 'totality of the circumstances' presented in the search warrant affidavit and the oral testimony, if any, presented to the magistrate, there was 'a fair probability' that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found in the place searched pursuant to the warrant." (Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 975.)
If the court finds the affidavit sets forth probable cause, "the court should simply report this conclusion to the defendant and enter an order denying the motion to quash." (Ibid.)
But if the court determines that "there is a reasonable probability the defendant would prevail on his motion to quash the warrant . . . then the district attorney must be afforded the opportunity to consent to disclose the sealed materials to the defense, after which the motion to quash can proceed to decision, or, alternatively, suffer the entry of an order adverse to the People on the motion to quash the warrant." (Ibid.)
Hobbs applied the foregoing guidelines and determined that "the trial court acted within its sound discretion in conducting its own in camera review of the sealed materials, affirming the magistrate's determination that the sealing of the entirety of Exhibit C was necessary to implement the People's assertion of the informant's privilege, and in thereafter denying defendant's motions to traverse and quash the search warrant." (Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 976.)
In concluding that the defendant's motions were properly denied, the Supreme Court stated, "based on our review of the record and sealed materials, . . . it was not reasonably probable defendant could prevail on her motions to traverse or quash the search warrant." (Id. at p. 977.)
On appeal, defendant requests that this court independently review the sealed portion of the search warrant affidavit to determine whether it was properly sealed, contains material misrepresentations or omissions and establishes probable cause for issuance of the search warrant.