Last updated on October 24, 2023

The Michigan Good Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule

In legal jurisprudence, one rule that often comes under scrutiny is the exclusionary rule. This principle, which is used in the United States legal system, prevents evidence collected or analyzed in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights from being used in a court of law. However, like many legal principles, the exclusionary rule is not absolute. One such exception that has been recognized in various jurisdictions, including Michigan, is the “good faith exception”. This exception allows for the use of evidence that was obtained in violation of a person’s rights if the law enforcement officials collecting the evidence had a “good faith” belief that they were acting within the law.

Understanding the nuances of the Michigan good faith exception to the exclusionary rule can be a complex task, laden with intricate details and potential pitfalls. In this article, we will explore this exception in detail, discussing its origins, its application, and its potential impact on criminal proceedings. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Michigan, it’s crucial to understand how this exception could impact your case. The guidance of an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can be invaluable. At Michigan Defense Law, our team of Michigan criminal defense lawyers may be able to help you navigate the complexities of the Michigan legal system while protecting your rights and interests. Contact us today at (248) 451-2200 to schedule a consultation.

What is the Exclusionary Rule?

The United States and Michigan Constitutions provide residents with certain rights. Among those is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. While a person’s right to be free from unreasonable searches varies somewhat depending on where they are located, there is no greater protection afforded to a person’s home. Indeed, under Michigan law, generally, “a search of a seizure within a home or its curtilage without a warrant is per se an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.”

Typically, when evidence is seized in violation of the state or federal constitution, it cannot be used at trial. This is referred to as the “exclusionary rule.” The exclusionary rule is meant to deter law enforcement from infringing upon the rights of citizens because, if they violate a person’s rights, any evidence obtained as a result of the conduct cannot be admitted. However, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule allows for the admission of evidence that was illegally obtained if it was seized in reasonable, good-faith reliance on a warrant that was later determined to be invalid.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan drug bust case in which the defendant challenged the issuance of the search warrant that was obtained to search his home. Ultimately, the court concluded that the warrant was defective as issued, because it lacked critical information. However, the state’s good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule prevented the evidence from being suppressed.

According to the court’s opinion, the warrant lacked information indicating that the affiant personally witnessed any of the alleged drug transactions documents in the affidavit. The affidavit also lacked any basis to believe that the defendant lived at the home, or could be found there. At a motions hearing, the officer claimed to have witnessed everything contained in the affidavit.

The lower court determined that the warrant was fatally flawed in that it lacked the necessary information. However, the court found that there was no government misconduct present in the case. The court explained that this case involved a “poorly drafted affidavit,” rather than one that was deliberately misleading or fabricated. As a result, the court held that the warrant was executed in good faith, and that the exclusionary rule did not apply. Thus, the evidence seized during the search was not suppressible, and the defendant’s motion was denied.

What is the Good Faith Exception?

The Good Faith Exception is a legal principle that comes into play during instances of search and seizure. This rule can be applied when law enforcement, under the impression of conducting a lawful search, relies on a warrant that later proves to be invalid. The exception is typically invoked when all involved law enforcement officers conduct themselves as mandated by law during the search.

However, the Good Faith Exception has its limitations. For instance, it cannot be used as a shield if an officer intentionally provides false information to obtain a search warrant. Similarly, if the validity of the warrant is ambiguous enough for a reasonable officer to question, evidence gathered under such a warrant would not be permissible in court.

Despite the controversies surrounding this rule, courtrooms often lean towards upholding the Good Faith Exception. A case in point is when an officer commits an error while managing warrant databases, leading to a search for the wrong individual. In such cases, the principle of good faith can be invoked, given the officer’s error was unintentional. This has led to the Good Faith Exception becoming a significant aspect of search and seizure law, and a contentious topic in legal discussions.

To ensure that your rights are protected, getting the help of a skilled Michigan criminal defense lawyer is crucial. Contact Michigan Defense Law today for a consultation.

Topic Explanation
Exclusionary Rule Typically, evidence seized in violation of the state or federal constitution cannot be used at trial. The rule is in place to deter law enforcement from infringing upon the rights of citizens, as any evidence obtained as a result of such conduct cannot be admitted in court.
Good-Faith Exception The good-faith exception allows for the admission of evidence that was illegally obtained if it was seized in reasonable, good-faith reliance on a later invalidated warrant. This exception recognizes that not all instances of evidence collection are conducted with malicious intent; sometimes, law enforcement acts in good faith, and if the warrant is later found to be invalid due to technical defects, the evidence may still be admissible.

Have You Been Arrested after Police Officers Searched Your Home or Car?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a Michigan drug case or gun offense, Michigan Defense Law can help. There are very strict rules that must be followed when police officers want to search your home, car, or place of business, and the failure to do so may result in any evidence that was obtained being inadmissible at trial. Attorney Paul J. Tafelski, the founder of Michigan Defense Law, is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of serious crimes, including drug distribution, weapons offenses, violent crimes, and theft crimes. Attorney Tafelski has over 20 years of experience helping his clients through the difficult, dangerous, and often confusing, criminal justice system. To learn more, contact and to schedule a free consultation today, call 248-451-2200.

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