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Name: People v. Nguyen
Case #: H042795
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 06/07/2017

Trial court properly suppressed evidence obtained during search because defendant’s residence was outside the scope of the warrant, police did not act in good faith reliance on the warrant, and police had no probable cause to search. Police obtained a search warrant based on probable cause that a computer located at an address in San Jose was being used to share child pornography online. The warrant included the main residence, garages, and outbuildings. While searching the main residence, police discovered that Nguyen was living in a separate residence located behind the house. They searched his residence and found child pornography on a computer. He was charged with possession of child pornography (Pen. Code, § 311.11, subd. (a)). Nguyen moved to quash the warrant and suppress evidence found in his residence. The trial court found the execution of the warrant overbroad and suppressed the fruits of the search. The prosecution appealed. Held: Affirmed. The warrant clause of the Fourth Amendment prohibits the issuance of a warrant except one which particularly describes the “the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.” The scope of a warrant is determined by its language. In this case there was no language in the warrant authorizing the search of Nguyen’s residence, which was plainly not a “garage” or “outbuilding.” Thus, his residence was outside the scope of the warrant. Further, police lacked probable cause to search Nguyen’s residence because there was no basis to believe the suspect network was being accessed from his house.

Even if the language in the warrant could be interpreted to include defendant’s residence, the warrant and affidavit failed to provide probable cause for such a search. The affidavit in support of the search warrant contained no facts showing that Nguyen’s residence shared Internet access with the main house or that his residence was connected to the main house via cable or wire that carried a network signal. Even assuming the main residence was broadcasting a wireless network signal, this does not, standing alone, provide probable cause to search any other residence which is located within the range of the signal.

Police lacked a good faith basis for the search of defendant’s residence. “The good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies when police act in objectively reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate.” The trial court determined that police knew Nguyen’s residence was a separate residence, and not a garage, before they searched it. The warrant did not mention Nguyen’s residence or any probable cause to believe that he had accessed the network associated with the suspected IP address. The good faith exception requires the police to have a reasonable knowledge of the law. Thus, police should have ceased any attempted to search the rear residence as soon as they learned that Nguyen lived there.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: