People v. Hobbs

In People v. Hobbs (1994) 7 Cal.4th 948, 873 P.2d 1246, the Supreme Court established guidelines for the sealing of search warrant documents and for motions to quash or traverse search warrants supported by sealed affidavits. The court recognized "the defendant's due process right of reasonable access to information that might form the basis for challenging the validity of a search warrant." This right "is based on the fundamental proposition that the accused is entitled to a fair trial and the opportunity to present an intelligent defense in light of all relevant and reasonably accessible information." However, portions of an affidavit may be sealed if they would tend to reveal the identity of a confidential informant. If necessary, the entire affidavit may be sealed. ( Id., at pp. 963, 971.) When a defendant moves to quash or traverse a search warrant supported by a sealed affidavit, the trial court must conduct an in camera hearing to "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." ( Id., at p. 973.) Any sealed portions that would not tend to reveal the informant's identity "must be made public and subject to discovery by the defense. Citation." ( Id., at p. 963.) If critical portions of the affidavit have been sealed, the court "must take it upon itself both to examine the affidavit for possible inconsistencies or insufficiencies regarding the showing of probable cause, and inform the prosecution of the materials or witnesses it requires." ( Id. at 973.) The court "may, in its discretion, find it necessary and appropriate to call and question the affiant, the informant, or any other witness whose testimony it deems necessary to rule upon the issues." (Ibid.) If the defendant has moved to traverse the warrant, the court must "determine 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. Generally, in order to prevail on such a challenge, the defendant must demonstrate that: (1) the affidavit included a false statement made 'knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth,' and; (2) 'the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause." ( People v. Hobbs, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 974.) If the court determines that the affidavit and any testimony offered do not support the defendant's allegations, it "should simply report this conclusion to the defendant and enter an order denying the motion to traverse." (Ibid.) If the defendant has moved to quash the warrant, the court must determine "whether, under the 'totality of the circumstances' presented in the search warrant affidavit . . . there was 'a fair probability' that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found in the place searched pursuant to the warrant." ( Id., at p. 975.) If the affidavit supports the magistrate's finding of probable cause, the motion to quash must be denied. (Ibid.)