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United States of America v. Oladayo Oladokun

January 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge


On August 10, law enforcement agents obtained a search warrant for Apartment 1415 at 6210 Belcrest Road, Hyattsville, Maryland ("the apartment") by swearing to an Affidavit in Support of Application for Search Warrant ("Apartment Affidavit"). The affidavit explained the history of the agents' investigation into a so-called "account takeover" scam. Law enforcement executed the search warrant on August 11, 2010, and found the defendant, his girlfriend, Lameka Keys, and two other individuals in the apartment. After interviewing Keys, agents obtained a second search warrant for a silver Lexus parked in the visitor's parking area of the apartment building by swearing to a second affidavit ("Lexus Affidavit"). Agents then executed this warrant and searched the Lexus. Both searches recovered evidence against Oladokun.

Defendant now moves to suppress evidence seized as a result of both searches, arguing that the affidavits in support of the search warrants lacked sufficient probable cause. In addition, defendant appears to challenge the veracity of certain portions of the Lexus Affidavit. For the reasons set forth below, this motion will be denied.



A. Probable Cause

A federal judge evaluating a search-warrant application to determine whether it demonstrates probable cause must "simply . . . make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit . . . including the 'veracity' and 'basis of knowledge' of persons supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). The determination of probable cause cannot be made by viewing relevant facts in isolation. See, e.g., Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 372 n.2, 124 S. Ct. 795, 157 L. Ed. 2d 769 (2003) (noting that a court was "mistaken" in its approach of considering a fact "in isolation, rather than as a factor in the totality of the circumstances"); Massachusetts v. Upton, 466 U.S. 727, 734 (1984) (per curiam) (finding that a state supreme court had erred by "judging bits and pieces of information in isolation" and thereby failing to consider a law enforcement officer's affidavit in its entirety). Indeed, it is axiomatic that "[i]n determining the existence of . . . probable cause, we do not isolate each factor of suspicion, but instead look to the totality of the circumstances." United States v. Saucedo-Munoz, 307 F.3d 344, 351 (5th Cir. 2002). "While each fact standing alone may be insufficient, the combination of all the facts can establish probable cause . . . and certain conduct that may appear 'innocent to a lay person may have entirely different significance to an experienced [law enforcement] officer.'" United States v. Gilliam, 167 F.3d 628, 633 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Catlett, 97 F.3d 565, 573-74 (D.C. Cir. 1996)).

It is the duty of a reviewing court "to ensure that the magistrate had a substantial basis for . . . conclud[ing] that probable cause existed." Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39 (internal quotation marks omitted).

B. Veracity of Affidavit

The standards that govern a defendant's challenge to the veracity of an affidavit used to secure a warrant are set forth in the Supreme Court's decision in Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). In Franks, the Supreme Court held that:

There is, of course, a presumption of validity with respect to the affidavit supporting the search warrant. To mandate an evidentiary hearing, the challenger's attack must be more than conclusory and must be supported by more than a mere desire to cross-examine.

There must be allegations of deliberate falsehood or of reckless disregard for the truth, and those allegations must be accompanied by an offer of proof. They should point out specifically the portion of the warrant affidavit that is claimed to be false; and they should be accompanied by a statement of supporting reasons. Affidavits or sworn or otherwise reliable statements of witnesses should be furnished, or their absence satisfactorily explained. Allegations of negligence or innocent mistake are insufficient. The deliberate falsity or reckless disregard whose impeachment is permitted today is only that of the affiant, not of any non-governmental informant.

Finally, if these requirements are met, and if, when material that is the subject of the alleged falsity or reckless disregard is set to one side, there remains sufficient content in the warrant affidavit to support a finding of probable cause, no hearing is required. On the other hand, if the remaining content is insufficient, the defendant is entitled, under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, to his hearing. Whether he will prevail at that hearing is, of course, another issue. 438 U.S. at 171-72. Likewise, under certain circumstances, an evidentiary hearing and suppression are an appropriate remedy if the ...

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