The Good Faith Exception

Commonwealth v. Johnson

86 A.3d 182 (Pa. 2014).


Whether the officer’s “good faith” acts as an exception to the exclusionary rule.


Federal: If the officer is relying on objective good faith on a warrant issued by a judge, the evidence may not be excluded. See U.S. v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).

Pennsylvania: A good faith exception is not available regardless of whether the purpose of exclusion is privacy concerns or deterrence.


Good faith exception is not available in Pennsylvania, affirmed.


An officer pulled over a vehicle and discovered there was an arrest warrant for the driver. Upon doing a search incident to arrest, the officer did drugs. Turns out the arrest warrant had expired. Thus, there was a motion to suppress the evidence which the trial court granted.


The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter police misconduct. In Leon, the officer did not make the error, the judge made an error. Thus, the purpose of the good faith exception is to allow the evidence when the officer made no error.

Previously, in Edmunds, the court had rejected the good faith exception. The reason for the denial was because the Edmonds court emphasized the privacy of interest. Here, the only factor in play was deterrence, not privacy interests. Regardless, the court

Additional Notes

Further exceptions to the Good faith Exception:

  1. Officer gave false info to the judge
  2. Magistrate is not wholly independent
  3. The warrant is facially deficient.

About 15 states

Farmer v. State

759 P.2d 1031 (Okla. Crim. App. 1988).

Undercover police officers went to a hotel to conduct surveillance. However, they were checked into the wrong room by the mistake of the hotel staff. Located in the room was luggage. The officers checked the luggage and cabinets and discovered drugs.

Under federal law: the exception does not work because it needs to be based on a warrant issued by a judge.

Independent Source and Inevitable Discovery

Although seen as an exception to the exclusionary rules, the independent source rule essentially infers the prosecution would have obtained the evidence even without the improper search of the officers. In other words, because the evidence would have been obtained lawfully in a subsequent discovery request, the material is not excluded.

Wehrenberg v. State

416 S.W.3d 458 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013).


Whether Texas will apply the independent source exception to the exclusionary rule.


The independent source exception allows evidence “initially observed during an unlawful search but later obtained lawfully through independent means.”

In the federal system, the burden of proof is on the state and must show that the independent source is based on a preponderance of the evidence.


Texas will adopt the independent source doctrine.


The officers had received a confidential tip stating the defendants were preparing to manufacture illegal drugs. Shortly after, the officers entered the house without a warrant, removed the occupants and placed them on the front lawn, and conducted a protective sweep (unlawful search). After the initial entry was conducted, the officers prepared a warrant affidavit which listed the information from the informant but failed to disclose their initial entry to the property. Based on this information, a warrant was issued, a search conducted, and chemicals used in the manufacture of illegal drugs were discovered.


The court begins by stating the scope of the independent source doctrine. It only extends to material that is disconnected entirely from the initial search. However, this material may be discovered during the initial search (in plain view) and that does not disqualify the independent source doctrine.

Second, the court determines the doctrine is in line with the Texas statute of exclusion.

Third, the court distinguishes the independent source doctrine from the inevitable discovery doctrine. In the inevitable discovery doctrine, the causal link is not disrupted, but invites the court to consider the hypothetical of whether the officers would have discovered the material regardless of the initial unlawful conduct.

The concurrence argues there is no distinction between the two doctrines.

Finally, the dissent is concerned the officers will abuse initial searches, treating them as a preemtive search, because the doctrine allows them to do obtain a lawful warrant later.

Additional Notes


  • Independent source: Evidence derived from a lawful source, if apart from the illegal conduct, is admissible. The second search has an actual connection to the evidence.
  • Inevitable discovery: If the evidence would have been discovered if the conduct was legal, then it is admissible. The connection to the evidence is hypothetical, based on the first search. Only Texas and Washington have rejected this doctrine.

Nix v. Williams

467 U.S. 431 (1984).

Williams was suspected of abducting a little girl and then disposing of her body along the side of a road some distance away from the abduction location. A search party was sent out to find the body. An illegally caused confession of Williams disclosed the location of the body. At the time the body was discovered, the search party was about two and a half miles away from the body with an impending snow storm.

This is an example of applying the inevitable discovery doctrine. The case shows how broad the inevitable doctrine is, despite the potential difficulty of discovering the body, the doctrine was applied and the evidence was not excluded.

Also see U.S. v. Thomas, and Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. 232 (2016). The rule can apply as long as there is no flagrant officer misconduct.

State v. Ellis

469 P.3d 65 (Kan. 2020).

Ellis had been in a Casey’s restroom for about 45 minutes when the staff called the officers to check on her. This was classified as a wellness stop. The officers asked Ellis if she was ok, asked her to step out of the stall, and ran a warrant check on her. Ellis said that she was waiting for her friend to pick her up and had an upset stomach. When the warrant check showed an outstanding warrant for a probation violation and the officer noticed Ellis shaking, he asked her if she had any drugs that day. She said no and the officer asked to search her purse. She said no but admitted there were drugs in there. Shortly after the officer arrested her, conducted a search of the purse, and discovered the drugs.


State v. Bruns

789 A.2d 226 (N.J. 2002).


Whether Bruns had standing. Only the first prong of the rule outlined below is an issue.


Standing is defined as an interest that is substantial enough to say the person was aggrieved by the unlawful search or seizure.

In New Jersey, to establish standing, the defendant must show:

  • First, there was a “proprietary, possessory, or participatory interest in the place searched or the items seized.”
  • Second, the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in those locations.

The federal standard only asks whether the defendant has a reasonable expectation of privacy. See Rakas v. Illinois.


The defendant did not have a proprietary, possessory, or participatory interest and thus had no standing.


Edwards was pulled over and arrested after discovering an outstanding warrant. Evans was the sole passenger and also placed in the back of a patrol vehicle. Afterwards, the officers opened the glove department and discovered a toy gun (although it appeared real at first glance) and a knife. This evidence was connected to a bank robbery Evans and the current defendant Bruns had committed a week earlier.

At trial, Bruns moved to suppress the evidence found in Edwards car saying it was the fruits of an illegal search. The state argued that Bruns had no standing to make the motion to suppress the evidence.


After working through the federal and state standards for standing, the court applied the test to Bruns. Presently, Bruns has no standing because (1) the alleged robbery happened over a week previously, thus destroying his interest in those items, and (2) the defendant has no interest in the location where the items were discovered (Edwards car).

Additional Notes

This case did not explore the legitimate expectation of privacy test. So, applying the federal standard, we need to ask whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy. Under this test, the defendant still does not have standing because he has no expectation of privacy in the car of another individual.

Minnesota v. Carter and Olson

525 U.S. 83 (1998); 495 U.S. 91 (1990).

Carter and Johns were at a party for three hours where officers were tipped off illegal drug activity was ongoing. While the officers were preparing a warrant, Carter and Johns left the party. They were pulled over and arrested. A search of the vehicle revealed illegal drugs. Later the house was searched and found more drugs that matched the ones found in the car.

The challenge here is whether the evidence derived from the search of the house could be applied to the defendants. Here, the court said there was no standing because there was no reasonable expectation of privacy (in the house for a short period of time and only for business). Even if there was standing here, the search appears to be valid.

Compare State v. Hess, 680 N.W.3 14 (S.D.2004) (a repeat overnight guest may have standing).

Other Exceptions

Grand Jury Proceedings

No evidence needs to be excluded to grand jury proceedings because the material is not being presented to the actual jury at trial. The reason for this is because there is no deterrent effect when presenting to the grand jury because the evidence will still not be admissible later.

Calandra, 414 U.S. 338 *1974).

Administrative Hearings (e.g., Immigration Hearings)

These are not criminal.

Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984).


Judges should be given all the material available when deciding a sentence, so the exclusionary rule does not apply.

U.S. v. McCrory, 930 F.2d 63 (D.C. Cir. 1991).


The exclusionary rule does not apply if the purpose is to impeach the defendant.

United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620 (1980).


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