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United States v. Sumlin

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 29, 2017

RYAN K. SUMLIN, Defendants.


          DONALD C. NUGENT, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, Ryan K. Sumlin's Motion to Suppress Evidence. (ECF #84). The Government filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion. (ECF #85). No Reply was filed. Defendant waived a formal hearing on his Motion, with both parties agreeing that the Court should rule based solely upon the written briefing. (ECF #86).


         The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing, the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. U.S. Const. Amend IV. There is no Fourth Amendment violation when a search is conducted pursuant to a search warrant, issued upon a finding of probable cause which is supported by an affidavit.

         A supporting affidavit must show a fair probability, or likelihood that contraband or evidence of a crime will be located on the premises of the proposed search. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983); United States v. Jenkins, 396 F.3d 751, 760 (6th Cir. 2005); United States v. Church, 823 F.3d 351, 355 (6th Cir. 2016). The affidavit must point to some “nexus between the place to be searched and the evidence sought.” United States v. Carpenter, 360 F.3d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 2004)(en banc). Reliance on hearsay is entirely proper. United States v. Gunter, 551 F.3d 472, 479 (6th Cir. 2009).

         A review of the sufficiency of the evidence presented in support of a search warrant is limited to the information contained in the four corners of the supporting affidavit. United States v. Berry, 565 F.3d 332, 338 (6th Cir. 2009). The affidavit must be judged based on a totality of the circumstances, using commonsense, and taking into consideration that the they are “normally drafted by nonlawyers in the midst and haste of an on-going criminal investigation. United States v. Woosley, 361 F.3d 924, 926 (6th Cir. 2004); United States v. Pelham, 801 F.2d 875, 877 (6th Cir. 1986); United States v. Brooks, 594 F.3d 488, 490 (6th Cir. 2010).

         A judicial determination of probable cause, once made, “is entitled to ‘great deference' and must not reversed in the absence of clear error.” United States v. Calloway, 116 F.3d 1129, 1132 (6th Cir. 1997)(citation omitted); see also, e.g, United States v. McLevain, 310 F.3d 434, 439 (6th Cir. 2002). “[T]he task of the reviewing court is not to conduct a de novo determination of probable cause, but only to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the [judicial officer's] decision to issue the warrant.” Massachusetts v. Upton, 466 U.S. 727, 728 (1984); see also, e.g., United States v. Rodriguez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6thCir. 2003).

         Further, even if a search warrant is not supported by probable cause, a reviewing court cannot suppress the evidence uncovered during the search unless it finds that the affidavit was so deficient that the officers executing the warrant were not acting in good faith. See, United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). Except in extraordinary circumstances, the existence of a search warrant issued by a magistrate suffices to show that the executing officer acted in good faith in conducting the search. United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 823, n. 32 (1982); Leon, 468 U.S. at 922. “[W]here officers rely in an objectively reasonable fashion on a search warrant issued by a neutral magistrate that is subsequently found to be invalid, the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule does not require suppression of the fruits of the search.” United States v. Bowling, 900 F.2d 926, 931 (6th Cir. 1990). The United States Supreme Court has recognized four grounds for finding extraordinary circumstances that could override the good faith presumption. In this case, Mr. Sumlin claims that one of these grounds applies, that being that the affidavit is “so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.” Leon, 468 U.S. at 922-923.


         Defendant contends that the search warrant permitting the search of 926 Firestone Boulevard was not supported by probable cause because the affidavit submitted in support of the warrant did not demonstrate a fair probability that evidence of a crime would be located there. (ECF #84). He claims that because the affidavit contained no allegation of illicit activity occurring at the searched residence, there was no nexus between the property and the sought after evidence. Defendant cites United States v. Pinson, 321 F.3d 558 (6th Cir. 2003), and United States v. Brown, 823 F.3d 375 (6th Cir. 2014), for the proposition that without more, a drug dealers place of residence is not searchable based solely on a general expectation that drug dealers tend to keep drugs, money, guns and/or records of transactions at their homes. In those cases, the court found no nexus between the suspect's residence and the alleged criminal activity. Id. Even under the good faith standard for an officer's execution of a search warrant, which is significantly less demanding that the standard for finding probable cause, the Brown court found that the affidavit must still draw on some “plausible connection” between the criminal activity and the residence to be searched. A connection between the alleged criminal and the residence is not, in and of itself, sufficient to support either standard. See, Brown, 823 F.3d at 385-86.

         In this case the affidavit attests to the following facts:

(1) A 2007 Chrysler 300, registered to the Defendant's mother was parked in the driveway of 926 Firestone Boulevard (“the subject property) on multiple days.
(2) The utilities for the subject property are in the name of the Defendant's girlfriend.
(3) There are notes from prior recent police reports, indicating that the Defendant resides at the ...

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