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.)


Kenco Celebrates 66th YearWwith Record Growth, Top Honors And Expanded Capabilities

Kenco Logistics is celebrating its 66th anniversary this month. The Chattanooga–based third party logistics provider (3PL) continued its growth throughout North America, exceeding $530 million in revenue and 5,000 employees for the first time in its history.   Significant new business with customers in the automotive parts, building supplies, flooring, food, and industrial ... (click for more)

Sequoyah Exercise Tests Coordination Of TVA, Federal, State And Local Agencies

Emergency responders from federal, state and local agencies will join TVA personnel in an emergency preparedness graded exercise involving the Sequoyah nuclear plant on Wednesday, Sept. 14.  The exercise is part of an ongoing series of training drills and exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure an effective and coordinated response to protect the ... (click for more)

2 Officers Testify That Miller Sped Toward Them In Vehicle; Woman Describes Frightening Carjacking

Two Chattanooga Police officers testified Tuesday that James Bryan Miller drove an SUV directly toward them, and both said they expected to be hit in an Aug. 1 incident in which Miller at one point drove north in the southbound lanes of I-75. Investigator Ty Cooper said he was bracing to have Miller ram into his police vehicle in reverse at a house on Watts Avenue, but he said ... (click for more)

Committee To Try To Reach Consensus On The Location Of The Planned Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center

In partnership with Chattanooga City Councilman Jerry Mitchell and Retired Major General Bill Raines, the Medal of Honor Heritage Center on Tuesday announced the formation of a special ad hoc committee that will develop a list of consensus recommendations for the proposed Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center. The committee, which is composed of local business ... (click for more)

Proud To Be A Conservative Conservationist

I was born and raised in Chattanooga and was brought up to be a Tennessee conservative. That means that my family conserved our spending, our resources, and yes, even our environment.  I think we were inspired to do so because Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places in the entire United States. We have stunning mountains, wild rivers and quiet backcountry. And many of ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why I Adore America

If Heather Cross weren’t married and didn’t have such a fine-looking family I’d swear I might propose. The dazzling lady just wrote a “By Gumbo! letter” to all the major news outlets in the world to inform them that half of the Pelican State is still submerged by “a 1,000-year flood” and where the heck are they with their cameras? She knows it is vital for the rest of America to ... (click for more)