4th Circuit Court of Appeals invokes Good Faith exception to defeat argument warrant was required

In this MS-13 gang racketeering trial, the defendants were convicted of attempting to kill a fellow gang member who broke MS-13 rules. The prosecution case involved a flipper, hours of recorded phone calls where defendants implicated themselves, as well as physical and forensic evidence, including cell site location information.

The cell site information in this case was obtained without a warrant, using the same procedures in the Stored Communications Act as was in the Carpenter case.

In response to the defense argument that a warrant was required, the Fourth Circuit cited previous Circuit precedent that held that there was no Fourth Amendment violation, United States v. Graham, 824 F.3d 421, 425 (4th Cir. 2016) (en banc).

The Fourth Circuit held that the defendants in this instant case are not entitled to any relief as “(t)he exclusionary rule’s “sole purpose . . . is to deter future Fourth Amendment violations,'” citing Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 236-37, 131 S. Ct. 2419, 180 L. Ed. 2d 285 (2011).

The Fourth Circuit also alternatively invoked the harmless error rule as three eyewitnesses testified at trial that defendant Chavez murdered the victim Urrutia. Chavez also discussed the murder in a recorded conversation introduced at trial.

If one is to assume that it’s sound that Circuits that have prior case law validating these warrantless searches provide good faith protection, the following Circuits have precedents that will inoculate law enforcement (taken from a segment of one of the Carpenter opinions):

United States v. Graham, 824 F. 3d 421 (CA4 2016) (en banc);
In re Application of U. S. for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F. 3d 600 (CA5 2013);
Carpenter v. United States, 819 F. 3d 880 (CA6 2016);
United States v. Thompson, 866 F. 3d 1149 (CA10 2017);
United States v. Davis, 785 F. 3d 498 (CA11 2015) (en banc).

The case is United States v. Chavez, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 18022 (July 2).

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