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A warehouse is a single structure with several divided units separated by concrete walls. These units have different sequential addresses;

  • 1000 Fake St (unit A)
  • 1001 Fake St (unit B)
  • 1002 Fake St (unit C)
  • 1003 Fake St (unit D)

Lets say a person is selling marijuana from unit C. Police get a search warrant for unit C but mistakenly enter the wrong one (unit B). Inside of unit B, Police find 1 lb of marijuana.

  • Can this evidence be used against the suspect who is listed as the renter/owner of unit c?
  • Can the renter/owner of unit b, be charged for the marijuana?
  • Is this evidence even admissible in court?
  • In a situation where a judge doesn't allow the submission of this evidence in any case. Can the rightful owner of the marijuana ask for it to be returned even thou it is illegal in the state?
  • Illegal goods don't become okay just because they shouldn't have been found. – Nij Nov 15 '17 at 5:23
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    Obviously illegal items don't become legal. Of course there are often times when illegal items are not admitted as evidence in court. So while @Nij could get a point for brevity, that's about it. – A.fm. Nov 15 '17 at 10:58
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    @Nij Illegally obtained evidence is often inadmissible in court. See Fruit of the poisonous tree. But I don't know if this case falls in that category. – CodesInChaos Nov 15 '17 at 14:10
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    The case where the warrant is already for the wrong apartment seems to be admissible due to the good faith exception. Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement, Volume 1 By Larry E. Sullivan - pg. 651 – CodesInChaos Nov 15 '17 at 14:21
  • I wasn't able to see any content at the link, @CodesInChaos. However, I think the good faith exception would apply to Unit B (the wrongly-entered unit that the police in good faith thought was the correct unit), but not applicable to Unit C (the unit they had the warrant for). Of course, nothing would stop them from, after mistakenly executing the warrant on Unit B and realizing their mistake, subsequently executing the warrant on the correct unit. – A.fm. Nov 15 '17 at 14:57
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Here is an excellent (and extensive) explanation of jurisprudence regarding the "good faith exception" to the admissibility of evidence found due to an error. In short: Yes, the contraband found in Unit B would be evidence admissible in court.

(Of course, evidence found in Unit B would only support charges against whomever had a nexus to that property. If the owner of Unit C had no access to Unit B, then evidence in Unit B would not per se implicate him in a crime.)

Law enforcement will not return seized property if it believes the property is "contraband." As an example, in Pennsylvania a person can petition a court for return of property seized by law enforcement: Rule 588 requires the petitioner to establish entitlement to lawful possession of the property, but the motion will be rejected if the State successfully argues that the property is contraband, or "derivative contraband" (which has been defined in case law to mean there is "a specific nexus between the property and criminal activity").

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    Where it gets complicated is when someone is, according to state law, in lawful possession, but the property is contraband under federal law. There was a California court decision ordering police to return marijuana that had been illegally seized, even though the police argued that they would be violating federal law in doing so. – Acccumulation Nov 15 '17 at 20:49
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There was a case where the police in the USA had a warrant to search the flat on the top (third) floor on a building. Nobody realised that there were two flats, so they searched the wrong one, and found a gun. Which was admissible as evidence.

I think this is covered up to the point where they realise their mistake, and then the police has to leave immediately.

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