The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided another good faith case against a defendant who raised the issue in the District Court before Carpenter was decided. The 11th Circuit in the end, held that law enforcement acted in good faith and denied the Carpenter claim.
The defendants in this case were charged pre-trial with multiple counts of Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. One defendant was facing additional attempt robbery counts. These counts arose from the robberies of a series of CVS and Walgreens drugstores in the Atlanta metropolitan area during May and June of 2015. Two defendants were arrested when law enforcement officers observed Joyner and Sturgis casing two CVS stores one evening.
Law enforcement acquired the cell phone records—including “cell site data” of the phones of two defendants. The Government obtained the cell site data at issue here through three court orders issued pursuant to the Stored Communications Act. The Defendants moved to suppress the data before Carpenter was decided last June.
The 11th Circuit noted that about about six weeks before the Government obtained the SCA orders challenged in this case that the 11th Circuit held that a Stored Communications Act order (without a warrant) complied with the Fourth Amendment in United States v. Davis, 785 F.3d 498, 518 (11th Cir. 2015) (en banc).
Because of this precedent, and the fact that Davis also was decided on good faith grounds, the 11th Circuit applied United States v. Leon to deny this Carpenter claim, citing as well the 4th Circuit case United States v. Chavez, 894 F.3d 593, 608 (4th Cir. 2018) (previously featured on this blog on August 24).
As I have stated before, I believe the United States Supreme Court must clarify the nature and scope of the good faith exception. What started as officers acting in good faith when there was controlling precedent allowing them to engage in the search (as is true here) has mutated in other instances featured on this blog to “there’s no case law saying they can’t do this search without a warrant.”
This topic is undoubtedly going to come up again.
The case is United States v. Joyner, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22513, 2018 WL 3853443 (11th Cir.) (August 14).