United States v. Johnson (1994) – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Johnson, 26 F.3d 669 (7th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 940 (1994), five co-defendants were convicted of federal drug crimes.

One co-defendant, Reginald Johnson, argued on appeal that a gun and cocaine seized from the bedroom and kitchen of his upstairs unit in a duplex should have been suppressed because the search warrant was overbroad.

The Seventh Circuit concluded that those cases were distinguishable and upheld the denial of the motion to suppress.

It explained as follows the holding in United States v. Hinton, 219 F.2d 324 (7th Cir. 1955):

The affiant (law enforcement officer) who sought the warrant in Hinton, did not have probable cause to search any particular apartment unit in the apartment building. He only knew that illegal activity was occurring somewhere in the four-floor, four-unit building, i.e., in one of the units. Such a generalized search violated the Fourth Amendment because the officer was in effect playing a "shell game" searching for the one apartment out of four where the illegal activity was occurring. Id. at 692.