Argued June 10, 2015
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 13-cr-10086 -- James E. Shadid, Chief Judge.
For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: K. Tate Chambers, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Peoria, IL.
For Sidney Thompson, Defendant - Appellant: Charles Schierer, Attorney, Schierer & Ritchie, LLC, East Peoria, IL.
Before MANION, WILLIAMS, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Sidney Thompson challenges the denial of a motion to suppress evidence that was seized from his house during execution of a state search warrant. The affidavit underlying that warrant, Thompson argued, does not establish probable cause. The district court disagreed with this contention and, alternatively, concluded that the police relied on the warrant in good faith. We conclude that, even if the affidavit does not include sufficient facts to establish probable cause, the evidence was admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.
In July 2013 a circuit judge in Peoria County, Illinois, issued a warrant to search Thompson and his house in Peoria for evidence that cocaine was being sold and used. The judge issued the warrant based exclusively on the affidavit of Peoria police officer Matthew Lane, who averred that an informant had told him that " a black male" named Sidney " routinely sells cocaine" from his house in Peoria. According to Officer Lane's affidavit, the informant had recounted going to Sidney's house twice within the past 30 days (most recently within 72 hours) and both times observing " cocaine in and about the premises" and seeing Sidney with " a quantity of an off white like rock substance that was represented to be cocaine." Officer Lane attested that the informant had provided Thompson's address and his physical description.
Officer Lane explained in the affidavit that he had corroborated some of the informant's information. He knew from prior investigations that Thompson matched the physical description given by the informant, and the informant had picked Thompson from a photo array as " Sidney." Officer Lane also had checked Thompson's criminal history and found 14 arrests involving drugs and 4 convictions. A state database gave Thompson's address as the one provided by the informant, and Officer Lane had conducted surveillance and seen Thompson enter and exit the side door of the house. As for the informant's reliability, Officer Lane stated in the affidavit that one time previously the informant had made a controlled buy of marijuana and another time had given information which led to a search warrant and the suspect's arrest for possessing a controlled substance.
Police officers executed the search warrant for Thompson and his house the same day it was issued. They found about 17 grams of cocaine in the house, and a federal grand jury charged Thompson with possessing the drugs with intent to distribute. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Thompson moved to suppress the cocaine, arguing that Officer Lane's affidavit does not establish probable cause. According to Thompson, the affidavit provides " nothing more than mere conclusions and assertions of wrongdoing." The affidavit, he said, omits details--e.g., the amount of drugs seen by the informant, how the informant knew that the powder was cocaine, and whether other people were at the house--and the informant did not appear before the state judge. Moreover, Thompson argued, the good-faith exception of United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 919-23, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984), could not salvage the search because, in his view, the affidavit is so facially deficient that no officer reasonably could have believed that it supplies probable cause.
At a hearing on the motion, Thompson repeated his argument that the affidavit's accusation of drug sales is " summary in nature" and provides " no information" about " how the confidential informant [drew] these conclusions." In response the district judge initially declined to decide if Officer Lane's affidavit establishes probable cause. Rather, the judge concluded from the bench that, although the affidavit " does lack some detail," the good-faith exception of Leon " would make this a valid search warrant." It was significant, the judge thought, that the informant had been in Thompson's house within 72 hours, that the informant had described Thompson in detail, and that Officer Lane had corroborated some of the informant's information. After the hearing, though, the judge issued a written order concluding that Officer Lane's affidavit indeed establishes probable cause. And as he had said at the hearing, the judge added that, probable cause or no, the cocaine ...