Illegal Predicate Searches and the Good Faith Exception

In United States v. Leon, the U.S. Supreme Court created the good faith exception, which provides that the exclusionary rule does not bar ev-idence seized in reasonable reliance on a warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate in criminal trials. This note examines whether the good faith exception applies to evidence seized pursuant to a warrant that is itself the fruit of an illegal search. After examining the ambiguities be-tween the narrow holding and broad rationale of Leon and tracing the origins of the split of authority regarding illegal predicate searches, the author analyzes three different ways that courts have resolved the issue: extending the good faith exception, refusing to extend the exception, and making application of the exception contingent on the disclosure of facts concerning the predicate search to the magistrate. The author explains why all three of these approaches are unsatisfactory before proposing a novel, three-step analysis. The author’s proposed approach attempts to remain consistent with existing doctrine and to restore both the defendant and the government to the status quo ante.

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