Case summaries and commentary on recently decided criminal law cases in the Third Circuit provided by Federal Defenders and CJA Panel Attorneys.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Good Faith Exception to Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule Applies to Pre-Jones GPS Surveillance
In United States v. Katzin, No. 12-2548, 2014 WL4851779 (3d Cir., Oct. 1, 2014), Defendants challenged the warrantless tracking
by FBI agents via a GPS device. The agents installed the device onto
Defendants’ van in December, 2010, after Defendants had been identified as
suspects in a string of pharmacy burglaries. The GPS surveillance was conducted
over the course of two days. Subsequently, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its
decision in United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012), in which the Court
ruled that GPS installation and surveillance constituted a search that is
subject to the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Citing Jones,
the trial court in Katzin suppressed the evidence gathered via GPS. A
panel of the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling that a warrant was
required in this instance. The panel also held that the good faith exception to
the Fourth Amendment=s
exclusionary rule did not apply, thereby upholding the district court’s
suppression order. The Third Circuit sitting en banc, reached the opposite conclusion. Citing United States
v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), and Davis v. United States, 131 S.Ct.
2419 (2011), the court ruled that, as the police conduct occurred before the
Supreme Court had issued its ruling in Jones, the good faith exception
to the Fourth Amendment=s
exclusionary rule applied to save the GPS evidence from exclusion.
The Third Circuit cited Herring v. United States, 555
U.S. 135 (2009), to conclude that suppression is warranted only where police
are sufficiently deliberate and culpable that deterrence will be effective and
outweigh the costs of suppression.
The Third Circuit determined that suppression is unwarranted
in these circumstances if, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the
officers possessed an objectively reasonable good faith belief that their
conduct was lawful. Pursuant to Davis v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2419
(2011), the Court held that the agents acted in accordance with Abinding appellate precedent,@ namely the Supreme Court’s decisions
in United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 (1983), and United States v.
Karo, 468 U.S. 705 (1984). Knotts and Karo both involved the warrantless
installation of a beeper onto a canister containing contraband, and surveillance
of the suspects’ vehicles on public roads. Despite the factual dissimilarities
between beepers and GPS, and the tracking at issue, the Court held that the agents’
reliance upon these Supreme Court rulings was objectively reasonable.
In the alternative holding, the Third Circuit ruled that the
existence of “binding appellate precedent” is not necessary to a finding of
good faith. Davis happened to involve such precedent, but the good-faith
issue is broader, asking whether agents had an objectively reasonable belief
that they were acting lawfully. The Circuit answered that question in the
affirmative here, based on the totality of the circumstances.