With the warrant, the police proceeded to the scene. They found McWebb at the scene and
used his key to gain entrance to the building. At the top of the third floor, they could look into two
rooms (the doors were open). The police, thinking it was part of McWebb's apartment, entered one of
the two rooms. After entering, they seized heroin which was in plain view. At this point, however, they
suddenly realized that they were not in McWebb's apartment. The Court held that had the police
known (or if they should have known) that there were two separate residences on the third floor, they
would have been required to exclude the other apartment from the scope of the warrant. They had
probable cause to search McWebb's apartment only. The Court, however, "must judge the
constitutionality of their conduct in light of the information available to them at the time they acted."
Under the facts, if the police knew or should have know of the existence of a separate apartment on the
third floor before they entered the other apartment, "they would have been obligated to limit their search
to McWebb's apartment." Here, however, the police didn't know, and they made an "honest mistake."
The police reasonably thought they were authorized to search the entire third floor, since they thought it
all belonged to McWebb. They acted with good faith, and the evidence was admissible. Maryland v.
Garrison, 40 Cr. L. 3288 (1987).
In Arizona v. Evans, 63 U.S.L.W. 4179 (1995), the exclusionary rule did not require suppression of
evidence seized incident to an arrest resulting from an inaccurate computer where court personnel
were responsible for the inaccuracy. In this case, the police did act in good faith and the court
personnel were clearly responsible for the error.
Remember, good faith is not equivalent to carelessness or ignorance. The issue is whether a
reasonably well-trained police officer would have known the search authorization/warrant was bad. The
police, then, are held to a standard of reasonable competency. If a reasonable police officer would
have known that the warrant was invalid, there is no good faith. A police officer cannot, therefore, close
his eyes to the facts and shield himself with ignorance. The courts will not reward a police officer who
fails to know what he reasonably should have known. Malley v. Briggs, 38 Cr. L. (1986).
The best way to avoid problems with the exclusionary rule is simply to comply with the law at all
times. The exclusionary rule will only apply where there has been a Fourth Amendment violation in the
first place. The exceptions to its application are, then, only applicable in situations where there has
been a violation of the law in the first instance. What we will now examine is the substance of the
Fourth Amendment itself; i.e., what is a lawful search and what makes a search unlawful. Remember,
the Fourth Amendment prohibits searches and seizures that are unreasonable. Also, there is a general
preference for the use of a search authorization/warrant. These two themes underlay the entire Fourth
Amendment area, and we will continually be coming back to them.
PART C - SEARCHES PURSUANT TO AUTHORIZATION (THE PROBABLE CAUSE EQUATION)
1. General. As we saw earlier, the Fourth Amendment states a general preference for the use of a
search authorization/warrant. This is not an absolute rule, however, as there are various situations
where the police may act without a prior authorization. We will examine each of them in detail