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United States v. Burk

United States District Court, D. Alaska

March 17, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNNYLEE PRESTON BURK, Defendants.

RECOMMENDATION REGARDING GOVERNMENT’S OBJECTIONS (DOC. 166)

DEBORAH M. SMITH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

In the Initial Report and Recommendation, this Court recommended that Defendant Johnnylee Burk’s Motion to Suppress be granted. (Doc. 160). The government filed numerous objections, (Doc. 166), and Burk responded, (Doc. 169).

Notably, the government did not object to the Court’s findings that the act of driving Burk away from the scene of his initial detention was made without an investigative purpose or out of a concern for officer safety. Filed simultaneous with these recommendations is the Court’s Final Report and Recommendation.

I. The Government’s Objections

A. Objection 1: The Tracker Warrant Did Not Violate the Fourth Amendment.

The government reasserts its argument that the state GPS tracking warrant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 166 at 1). As the Court explained in section III(A) of its Final Report and Recommendation, it is unnecessary to reach this issue because the Court finds that it must recommend suppression even if the warrant was valid under the Fourth Amendment.

B. Objection 2: The Alaska State Troopers’ Reliance on the Warrant Was Proper.

The government reasserts its argument that even if the GPS tracker warrant was invalid, Sgt. Nelson of the Alaska State Troopers acted in good faith in relying on a warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate. (Doc. 66 at 1-2). It is unnecessary to reach this issue, as the Court must recommend suppression even if the warrant was valid under the Fourth Amendment, or, in the alternative, law enforcement acted in good faith in executing an invalid warrant. See Section III(A) of the Final Report and Recommendation.

The Court reiterates its conclusion in section III(F)(3) of the Final Report and Recommendation: the warrant in this case did not authorize an arrest without probable cause to facilitate the replacement of the GPS tracking device following a Terry stop in an unrelated investigation. Accordingly, the government cannot rely on the officer’s good-faith reliance on the warrant to justify the arrest of Burk that occurred when he was driven away from the scene of his initial detention without justification.

The Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have rejected a good-faith exception premised on an officer’s mistake of law. See, e.g., Taylor v. Alabama, 457 U.S. 687, 693 (1982) (rejecting, without discussion, a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule where law enforcement conducted an investigatory arrest without probable cause); United States v. Lopez-Soto, 205 F.3d 1101, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000) (acknowledging that an officer’s good-faith mistake of fact can form the basis of an exception to the exclusionary rule, while rejecting “a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule for police who do not act in accordance with governing law.”).

However, this should not be confused with the Supreme Court’s rulings in United States v. Leon and Davis v. United States. In United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), the Supreme Court held that the exclusionary rule is inapplicable where law enforcement obtained evidence in objectively reasonable, good-faith reliance on a warrant erroneously issued through the legal error of a neutral, detached magistrate. Similarly, the Supreme Court has extended the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule to instances where law enforcement reasonably relied on binding appellant precedent that was later overruled. Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229 (2011).

As noted, the evidence at issue here cannot be saved from suppression by claiming good-faith reliance upon the warrant pursuant to Leon. The warrant did not authorize the arrest without probable cause of Burk following a Terry stop in an unrelated investigation.

In addition, it is irrelevant to the resolution of this motion whether Sgt. Nelson, Trooper Cook and Officer Smylie believed in good faith that it was lawful to drive Burk away from the scene to facilitate the placement of the GPS device. Such detention was unlawful under the established Supreme Court precedent in Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983) (plurality opinion) and Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1616 (2015) (extension of traffic stop for eight minutes to allow for a drug detection dog to arrive made stop an illegal detention absent a ...


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