Case Example 1: Officer Furlong searches a residence for evidence of illegal bookmaking pursuant to a search warrant. The officer obtained the warrant by submitting to a magistrate an affidavit containing statements known by the officer to be false.

Question: Is the search valid because it was conducted pursuant to a warrant?

Answer: No. By submitting a false affidavit, Officer Furlong did not act "in good faith." The search was thus improper, and whatever it turned up is inadmissible in evidence.

Case Example 2: Officer Cal Ebrate stops a motorist for a traffic violation. A computer check of the driver's license reveals the existence of an arrest warrant for the driver. Officer Ebrate places the driver under arrest, searches the car and finds illegal drugs. It later turns out that the computer record was wrong, and that an arrest warrant did not in fact exist.

Question: Are the illegal drugs admissible in evidence against the driver?

Answer: Yes. The officer acted in good-faith reliance on the computer record. The seizure was therefore valid even though the record was wrong. (Arizona v. Evans, U.S. Sup. Ct. 1995.)

15. If the Police Have a Warrant to Search My Backyard for Marijuana Plants, Can They Legally Search the Inside of My House as Well?

No. The police can only search the place described in a warrant, and usually can only seize whatever property the warrant describes. The police cannot search a house if the warrant specifies the backyard, nor can they search for weapons if the warrant specifies marijuana plants. However, this does not mean that police officers can only seize items listed in the warrant. Should police officers come across contraband or evidence of a crime that is not listed in the warrant in the course of searching for stuff that is listed, they can lawfully seize the unlisted items.

"Well, Look What We Have Here"

The rule that police officers can seize items not listed in a search warrant in the course of searching for the stuff that is listed creates obvious disincentives for police to list all the items they hope to find. For example, perhaps a police officer suspects that a defendant carries a weapon, but can't establish probable cause to search for it. No problem. The officer can obtain a search warrant for other items, and then seize a weapon if the officer comes upon it in the course of the search. The defendant's only hope of invalidating the seizure of the weapon would be to convince a judge that the officer did not just happen to come across the weapon, but in fact searched for it.