POLICE MAY NOT AUTOMATICALLY OBTAIN WARRANT TO SEARCH SUSPECT’S HOME JUST BECAUSE THE CASE INVOLVES POSSESSION or USE OF A GUN
Torres filed a Motion to suppress the evidence seized at his home after the search warrant was served. The trial court denied that Motion, reasoning as follows:
The shooting of Officer Davies, which occurred mere blocks from Appellant’s residence, involved an illegally obtained firearm. Based on this information, police applied for a search warrant of Appellant’s residence. They sought to find further evidence linking this firearm to Appellant, such as ammunition, in their search. The search of the home led to significant evidence of a drug-dealing operation, which directly led to the search of the other vehicle, which was parked at the residence and also registered to Appellant.
Torres appealed to the Superior Court, arguing that “the affidavit in support of the search warrant for his home did not contain sufficient facts from which the issuing authority could find probable cause to search the home.” Specifically, because he and the gun were recovered at the scene, “there was not probable cause to believe that connecting evidence would be found at [his] home.” Furthermore, Torres maintained that the Commonwealth is required to establish a nexus between the crimes under investigation and the search proposed in the warrant and, in this case, failed to do so. The Superior Court agreed on both counts.
The Superior Court acknowledged that, generally speaking, “[p]robable cause to believe that a man has committed a crime does not necessarily give rise to probable cause to search his home.”
As referenced by the Superior Court, the warrant at issue sought “[h]andguns, rifles, shotguns, ammunition, gun storage boxes/containers, holsters, proof of identification, any items of evidentiary value.” However, the Superior Court concluded that it was “unclear how any of the items specified in the warrant were of any evidentiary value.” To support this conclusion, the Court noted that Torres’ identification was not in doubt and, police were already in possession of the firearm used in the shooting. “Said another way, there [was] no obvious nexus between the crimes under investigation and the proposed search.”