United States v. Elmer Zahn, No. 22-1408 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. He appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Defendant argued that his unconstitutional arrest stemmed from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office’s reckless conduct, i.e., its failure to establish any procedure to handle recalled warrants. Defendant contends that the office should have implemented a review system, suggesting that “[a] simple, routine process of a weekly review would have caught the error.”
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that it was employee negligence—not reckless disregard of constitutional requirements—that resulted in the failure to remove Defendant’s recalled warrant from the file and the computer system. The sheriff’s office manager and her co-worker’s negligent conduct “was not so objectively culpable as to require exclusion” of the evidence garnered after Defendant’s arrests. Thus, the court wrote in light of its conclusion that the exclusionary rule does not apply, it need not consider the government’s alternate ground for admission of the evidence, i.e., that Defendant’s resistance to his illegal arrest furnished grounds for a second, legitimate arrest.
Court Description: [Wollman, Author, with Kelly and Kobes, Circuit Judges] Criminal case - Criminal law. The exclusionary rule does not apply when an officer reasonably believes there is an outstanding warrant for a person's arrest and that belief turns out to be wrong because of a negligent bookkeeping error by another police employee; there was no evidence here that the error in failing to pull a warrant for defendant's arrest was the result or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.