6th Cir. Rules for Dealer Caught Up in DEA Sting

     (CN) — The police had no right to search a Detroit man’s home for drugs despite his having been arrested after leaving the home of a known heroin trafficker and a police dog finding the scent of drugs in his car, the Sixth Circuit ruled.
     Ricky Brown was caught up in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting aimed at capturing an alleged heroin trafficker, Marzell Middleton, in Detroit, Michigan.
     Brown was seen visiting the trafficker’s home, where one of the men with him emerged with over 500 grams of heroin.
     However, this man drove away in a different car. Brown rode away as a passenger in another car, which was soon pulled over.
     Police found no drugs in the car, but confiscated two of Brown’s phones inside. A text message found on one of these phones referred to the street price of an ounce of cocaine, but said nothing about heroin.
     A police dog alerted to the smell of narcotics in Brown’s car, parked in front of his house, but no drugs were found inside.
     However, the police used this information to win a search warrant for Brown’s home, where they found 60 grams of marijuana, a pistol, a shotgun, and a purported drug ledger listing names and gram quantities.
     No evidence found in the home supported the DEA’s allegation that Brown was involved in heroin trafficking.
     Brown was convicted of possession with intent to sell marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a trafficking crime after his motion to suppress evidence seized from his house was denied.
     But the Sixth Circuit overturned his convictions Monday, ruling that the evidence should not have been allowed in court.
     “In the present case, the search warrant affidavit contained no evidence that Brown distributed narcotics from his home, that he used it to store narcotics, or that any suspicious activity had taken place there,” Judge Jane Stranch said, writing for the three-judge panel.
     The police never conducted surveillance at Brown’s home, or recorded any of phone conversations that indicated illegal activity took place there.
     Although his car tested positively for drugs in a K-9 search, “a more direct connection was required, such as surveillance indicating that Brown had used the car to transport heroin from his home to Middleton’s on the day in question. The mere fact that the car was registered to Brown’s home was too vague and generalized a nexus to support the search warrant,” Stranch said.
     The panel said the good-faith exception to the warrant requirement does not apply here where the police had no plausible reason to believe Brown was involved in heroin trafficking.

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