Have you ever wondered whether officers are allowed to lie in order to gain entry into your home? It is already well-established that they are allowed to lie in order to convince defendants to confess to a crime. However, an encouraging ruling by the Fourth Circuit this month clarifies that lying - and saying they have a warrant, when in fact they have none- is not acceptable and violates the constitution. The case is United States v. Rush, yet another great victory for the Federal Public Defender's Office of the West Virginia.
At trial, on the motion to suppress, the court agreed with the defense that a constitutional violation had occurred. The officer had lied to the defendant, asserting he had a warrant to search his apartment, and therefore stripping him of his Fourth Amendment right to object to the search. However, the trial court concluded, the evidence seized as a result of this unconstitutional search should not be suppressed. It was admitted under the "good faith exception."
How could a lie fall under the good faith exception? In this case, Mr. Rush was staying at the apartment of a Ms. Wills. It was Ms. Wills who requested that police remove him from home due to suspected drug activity. The police, in lying about the search warrant, were trying to protect Ms. Wills.
Legally, that is not sufficient for good faith. The lie was absolutely clear, and the information about drug activity was not corroborated in a way that was sufficient for probable cause for a warrant.
This case shall now stand for the proposition that police officers cannot lie about warrants, or other incidences which induce people to consent to searches or seizures.