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Whiteley v. Warden


A sheriff received information that the defendant had broken into a building and stolen some property. The sheriff filed a complaint that did not mention nor corroborate this information. It merely contained the officer’s conclusion that the defendant had committed the crime. Based on this complaint, the magistrate issued an arrest warrant and the defendant was arrested.


Whether the government can establish probable cause for an arrest warrant on information that was not presented to the issuing judge, but which the government possessed at the time of the warrant application?


No. An arrest warrant must be based on the facts as they were presented to the issuing judge. Any subsequent arrest based on that arrest warrant alone cannot be sustained by facts that were not presented to the judge.


If a warrant is challenged, its validity may only be established by information in the affidavit (or complaint). The government may not present information other than that originally presented to the magistrate judge.

In this case, the arrest warrant was struck down as invalid. Since an objectively reasonable officer in the sheriff’s position would have recognized that the affidavit was insufficient, the “good faith exception” of United States v. Leon does not apply. Also, since the arresting officer did not have information other than the fact that an arrest warrant had been issued, the Court refused to consider information that was not contained in the complaint on which the arrest warrant had been based.


401 U.S. 560, 91 S. Ct. 1031 (1971)

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