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Media Alerts - United States v. Stephens - Fourth Circuit
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October 9, 2014
  United States v. Stephens - Fourth Circuit
Headline: The Exception Slowly Becomes the Rule: Expanding the "Good Faith" Exception

Area of Law: Evidence, Fourth Amendment, Criminal Procedure

Issue Presented: Whether the district court correctly declined to exclude evidence where a warrantless GPS search (pre-Jones) was conducted in "good faith."

Brief Summary: While investigating Henry Stephens, an officer attached a GPS tracker to Stephens' car without a warrant. Stephens was indicted using evidence found with the help of the GPS tracker. Applying the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Jones, the district court found that attachment of the tracker to Stephens' car violated the Fourth Amendment. However the district court refused to exclude the evidence because the police officer relied in good faith on the state of the law prior to Jones. Stephens later entered a guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the district court's suppression order.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court's ruling that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule should apply. The court held that the Supreme Court's beeper cases and other circuits' rulings on GPS tracking devices constituted binding precedent, and therefore the officer acted in good faith when relying on those decisions pre-Jones. In reaching this result, the court expanded the "good faith exception" that had been applied in United States v. Davis.

In the dissent, Judge Thacker argued that under the proper application of Davis, the good faith exception applies only "when binding appellate precedent specifically authorizes a particular police practice."

To read the full text of the opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Shedd, Thacker and Hamilton.

Argument Date: 10/30/2013

Date of Issued Opinion: 08/19/2014

Docket Number: No. 12-4625

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Rebecca Berger

Counsel: ARGUED: Christopher Ford Cowan, LAW OFFICE OF CHRIS F. COWAN, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant. Albert David Copperthite, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Shedd

Case Alert Supervisor:
Professor Renée M. Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 10/09/2014 02:04 PM     4th Circuit  

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