case law update

Not All Grounds for a Warrant Must be Valid

Only one ground of an affidavit in support of a search warrant needs to be supported by probable cause for a district court to deny a Franks hearing request, the Eighth Circuit recently held.


In February 2012, Kansas City Police began investigating Gregory Shockley for drug trafficking. Months later, police suspected that Shockley was involved in a homicide after learning that he was the victim’s pimp and drug dealer and that he had fought with the victim hours before her death. In pursuit of both investigations, officers went to Shockley’s residence and searched his trash. In addition to evidence of drug activity, the trash also contained a torn, red-stained piece of cloth that investigators believed had come from a tank top the homicide victim was wearing several hours before her death.

Because of what they found in Shockley’s trash, police obtained a search warrant for Shockley’s home based on a detective’s affidavit summarizing the drug and homicide investigations and the items discovered in Shockley’s trash. Executing that warrant, police found firearms, ammunition, and drug evidence in Shockley’s home.

A grand jury subsequently indicted Shockley for being in possession of a firearm. Shockley then filed a motion for the district court to hold a Franks hearing and to suppress evidence seized during the search of his home.

Shockley argued that the detective’s affidavit underlying the search warrant contained omissions and false and misleading statements about the homicide investigation – and that the affidavit lacked probable cause absent those false statements. The district court denied Shockley’s request because he did not challenge any of the affidavits statements regarding the drug investigation. Shockley then conditionally pleaded guilty to the charge against him and he, in part, appealed the district court’s denial of his motion for a Franks hearing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

On appeal, Shockley again argued that he should have been given a Franks hearing because the search warrant affidavit contained false statements, and without those statements the affidavit would not have supported probable cause to search his home.

Reviewing the district court’s ruling for abuse of discretion, the Eighth Circuit agreed that the unchallenged statements regarding the drug investigation were sufficient to support a warrant to search Shockley’s home. Because that one ground was sufficient to support the search, the appellate court did not even address the veracity of the affidavit’s statements concerning the homicide investigation. Thus, the Eighth Circuit held that, where multiple grounds are asserted, only one ground of a search warrant affidavit needs to establish probable cause for the warrant to be valid.

Rejecting Shockley’s arguments as to the Franks hearing, the Eighth Circuit affirmed Shockley’s conviction, but it remanded his matter for re-sentencing based on other grounds.

Read the full case: United States v. Shockley

This case law update was written by James P. Garay Heelan, associate attorney, Shaw Bransford & Roth, PC.

For thirty years, Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C. has provided superior representation on a wide range of federal employment law issues, from representing federal employees nationwide in administrative investigations, disciplinary and performance actions, and Bivens lawsuits, to handling security clearance adjudications and employment discrimination cases.

Posted in Case Law Update

Tags: case law update, search warrant, james p. garay heelan


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