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

Tuesday, January 8, 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.)


Andrew Puzder Says He Will Fiercely Defend American Workers As Secretary Of Labor

President-Elect Donald Trump announced  on Thursday  he intends to nominate fast-food executive Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary. On Friday, Mr. Puzder released the following statement on American workers, immigration, and his plans for the Labor Department: "My job as a business person is to maximize profits for my company, employees and shareholders. ... (click for more)

Corker, Alexander Say Water Bill Will Strengthen Tennessee Infrastructure And Commerce

Senator Lamar Alexander said on Saturday the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act will help protect business and jobs across the country by authorizing funding to build, repair and maintain the country’s water infrastructure. "Improving locks, dams and other water infrastructure projects is one of the best ways the federal government can help protect ... (click for more)

Tennessee Members Of Congress Urge President To Approve Federal Disaster Assistance For Tennessee Counties

Members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation on Saturday urged President Obama to quickly approve Governor Haslam’s request for a major disaster declaration for the State of Tennessee to help five Tennessee counties impacted by wildfires and severe weather in November rebuild and recover. “Governor Bill Haslam has submitted a request for Public Assistance and Individual ... (click for more)

Grohn Says Integrity And Ethics Lacking In Berke Administration

Mayoral candidate Larry Grohn criticized controversies and instability coming from the mayor’s administration as a sign of unethical leadership and a lack of integrity. He said, "These scandals lay out the simple fact that it is time for new leadership which is accountable to the people." Councilman Grohn’s criticism comes after the independent auditor’s release of a memorandum ... (click for more)

New School Funding Ideas

After reading the article “County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding,” I could not help but think about how helpful it would be to have the millions of taxpayer dollars given the owners of Walnut Common apartments to build some new schools.   In case you did not know, since 2008 our elected officials have given away millions in taxpayer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Facebook Starlet

The Pants Store, a toney women’s boutique in Birmingham’s Mountain Book community, held its annual Holiday Open House about a week or so and, as usual, the popular store was full of customers and holiday cheer. It was a festive gathering, fun for all, but as store employees cleaned up for the next day, they happened across an empty designer-shoe box and a brassiere somebody had ... (click for more)