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Andrews v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

August 15, 2019

Darrell Andrews, Appellant,
v.
District of Columbia, Appellee.

          Submitted May 2, 2019

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CDC-15416-16) Hon. Gregory B. Jackson, Trial Judge

          Nigel A. Barrella was on the brief for appellant.

          Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, and John W. Donovan, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee.

          Before Fisher and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

          NEBEKER, SENIOR JUDGE

         Appellant Darrell Andrews challenges his convictions of possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. He argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence that was obtained pursuant to a warrant to search his home. Because the warrant was issued without probable cause and the police's reliance on the warrant was objectively unreasonable, the trial court should have suppressed the firearm and ammunition found at appellant's home. Despite the arguments of the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General to the contrary, we reverse both the order and the convictions.[1]

         I.

         Appellant's brief accurately states the facts essential to our decision: A Superior Court judge issued a warrant to search the premises at 3518 6th Street, S.E., #6, in Washington, D.C., for evidence of illegal firearms. The warrant was issued on the basis of an application that included an affidavit from Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Officer Tony Covington. The officer-affiant stated that he "received information in reference to a YouTube[2] video," depicting "multiple individual [sic] displaying handguns" that appeared "to be operable." The officer-affiant recognized the location of the video as a parking lot at the 3500 block of 6th Street, S.E. He also identified one of the individuals in the video as Andre Becton.

         The affidavit continued:

Your affiant has checked multiple databases and was able to determine 3815 6th St #6 SE [sic]. A firearms registration check revealed Andre Becton does not have a current registration for a firearm at 3815 6th St #6 SE. Your affiant has received corroborating information from several sworn MPD members as to the identification and residence of Andre Becton.

         The officer-affiant concluded that he knew from his training and experience that people with illegal firearms tend to store them and related items at their homes, and requested a search warrant to search the premises at "3815 6th St #6 Southeast, Washington, D.C." As appellant notes, the address in the affidavit (3815 6th Street) did not match appellant's address listed in the warrant (3518 6th Street) and does not exist in the District; the affidavit fails to directly state that Andre Becton was associated with the stated address; and it only vaguely refers to "multiple databases" and "corroborating information from several sworn MPD members" to justify the request to search the stated address.

         The police executed the search warrant at 3518 6th Street and found a semiautomatic .45 caliber handgun loaded with one round of ammunition, as well as mail in appellant's name. The police arrested appellant, who was in the apartment at the time of the search. Appellant was then charged by information with possession of an unregistered firearm, in violation of D.C. Code § 7-2502.01(a) (2012 Repl.), and unlawful possession of ammunition, in violation of D.C. Code § 7-2506.01 (2012 Repl.).

         In November 2016, appellant moved to suppress evidence obtained from the search, arguing that the warrant's supporting affidavit failed to demonstrate probable cause that evidence of illegal firearms would be found at his address. At a hearing on April 26, 2017, the trial court denied appellant's motion. A stipulated trial immediately followed, where the trial judge found appellant guilty of both charges, and sentenced him to a ...


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