Lee Davis: Tiny Typo Leads To Flawed Warrant And Excluded Evidence

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
What may have seemed like a small typo on a warrant amounted to enough reason for a judge to prevent prosecutors from using evidence collected as a result of the raid. The case involves a search of a Knox County driving school, a company operated by a retired homicide investigator.

The former murder detective, Don Wiser, has been accused of taking money in exchange for handing over certificates for having completed his driving school. The Sherriff’s Office says it raided Wiser’s office after two undercover officers went to the school and walked out with paperwork claiming they’d attended a 16-hour course when they really only spent two hours at the facility. Wiser vehemently denies the charges and says he is being targeted by the Sheriff’s department because he’s operating a competing driving school that has taken money away from the county.


So far Wiser appears to have clearly won the first round of the legal battle. His defense attorney pointed out that there was an error in the search warrant used by Knox County sheriff’s officers when they raided his business. What was the trouble exactly? The wrong date appeared on the paperwork.

The raid was carried out at his business on April 14, 2012, but the search warrant incorrectly listed the year as 2011. The Assistant District Attorney in charge of the case pointed out that there were several other places on the warrant that clearly indicated the year was 2012 and that the typo only occurred once. However, this was not enough for Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword.

Judge Sword said that while he might have agreed with prosecutors that the error was simply a typo, it did not matter because state law on the subject is clear. He said Tennessee rules left him no choice but to throw out the warrant as legally flawed. Given the flaw in the warrant, all evidence collected as a result of the warrant was also excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree.

Tennessee is one state that does not recognize the concept known as “good faith exception”. Other states and the federal system rely on the principle which says that so long as an officer has good faith in believing that the warrant he or she is exercising is valid, the evidence obtained as a result of such a good faith search can still be used.

In this case, the warrant says that the information used a basis for the search was obtained a year before the warrant was actually executed. That long of a gap makes the information too old to act on and thus an improper basis for the search.

Read: Judge: Typo on search warrant of business means it's no good,” by Jamie Satterfield, published at KnoxNews.com.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


Rochat To Manage Investments, Banking For BlueCross

James K. Rochat has been hired as director and assistant treasurer, investments and cash management  for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. In this role, Mr. Rochat is responsible for management of both BlueCross’ investment portfolio, as well as all of its banking relationships. He comes to BlueCross from St. Paul, Minnesota-based AgriBank, where he has managed a $4.5 ... (click for more)

TDEC Announces Public Hearing Dates For 2015-2025 Solid Waste And Materials Management Plan

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced October public hearing dates in its process to develop the 2015-2025 Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan. Public participation activities for this planning process began in March with a series of four special focus meetings and continued in May with four public input meetings and one Web-based conference. ... (click for more)

EPB Says Bottom Line Is It Owes City $17,049 For Street Light Billing; DePriest Says Figure Is Starting Point For Talks With City: EPB To Ask Dismissal Of "Frivolous" Lepard Lawsuit

EPB officials on Tuesday morning released a report by Mauldin & Jenkins, the independent accounting firm charged with analyzing the process errors that led to questions about billing for public street lights, that gives a bottom line figure that EPB owes the city of Chattanooga $17,049. Harold DePriest, EPB president, said that is a starting point for ongoing talks with the ... (click for more)

Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: He Can Never Go Home

When Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston sparked top-ranked Florida State to a 56-41 comeback over N.C. State last Saturday, you would have thought the world had forgotten and virtually excused his vulgar rant from the week before. His inexcusable mid-week antics kept him sidelined during the Clemson game and brought down the nation’s scorn but less than a week later he was ... (click for more)