VA Code 19.2-54 Interpretation

In Quintana v. Commonwealth, 224 Va. 127, 295 S.E.2d 643 (1982), the defendant moved for suppression of evidence seized in a search because, as in the instant case, the magistrate failed to strictly comply with the procedural requirements of Code 19.2-54. Specifically, the magistrate who issued the search warrant in Quintana failed to certify the supporting affidavit before he filed it with the clerk of the circuit court and did not do so within thirty days after issuance of the search warrant. According to the defendant, the uncertified affidavit was not "the required affidavit" under the terms of the statute. Hence, the search was invalid, he concluded, because the magistrate failed to file the required affidavit within thirty days and because the statute necessarily implies that, when the failure to file the required affidavit continues beyond thirty days, the search is invalid even if conducted the day the affidavit is filed. Rejecting both the defendant's premise and conclusion, the Court in Quintana reasoned as follows: Having in mind the Fourth Amendment purposes the statute was designed to foster, we believe "the required affidavit" means the affidavit required to support issuance of a search warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, the content of that affidavit must be sufficient to support a finding of probable cause by a neutral and detached magistrate. The Constitution does not require the magistrate to certify an affidavit. The purpose of that requirement in our statute is to insure that the affidavit filed with the clerk for the information of the accused is the same affidavit upon which the finding of probable cause was based. . . . Finding that the statutory purpose was fully served and that the omission of the magistrate's signature in the jurat caused defendant no prejudice, we hold that the trial court properly overruled defendant's motion to suppress. Id. at 136, 295 S.E.2d at 646-47. Plainly, the Supreme Court in Quintana, in addressing the certification requirement of Code 19.2-54, gave greater weight to the achievement of the notice-based purpose of the statute than to a strict, technical reading of the statute.