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A police officer requested warrants for the arrest of Brandon Hoffman for house stripping.  The request set forth the elements of the offense, name of suspect and location of offense, but contained no facts as to why officers suspected Hoffman of house stripping.  A Toledo Municipal Court magistrate issued the warrants based on the request alone, and never questioned police as to their reasons for suspecting the defendant.  The arrest warrants were executed and evidence possibly linking Hoffman to a murder was discovered in Hoffman’s home.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that arrest warrants issued by the Toledo Municipal Court were invalid under the U.S. and Ohio Constitution because the requests set forth no facts showing a probable cause that the suspect committed the offense, the magistrate had no other facts upon which to base probable cause, and the magistration never even made a determination as to probable cause.   However, the Ohio Supreme Court held that police officers reasonably relied on the arrest warrants, because they were executed under a procedure approved by the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.  State v. Hoffman, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-4795.

The majority opinion stated that Ohio Constitution Art. I, Sec. 14 uses identical language to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, so the Ohio Constitution offers the same protection as the U.S. Constitution.  (par. 11 of the opinion).  Justice Pfeiffer’s dissent states that he may have been persuaded that the Ohio Constitution affords more protection in a case such as this, but the defendant did not make an argument based on the Ohio Constitution.

The dissent believes however, that even under the U.S. Constitution and the case law interpreting it, the evidence gained from execution of the warrants had to be suppressed.   The police officers could not have had a good faith belief that the warrants were valid because no one ever asked the police officer requesting the warrants why she believed the suspect committed the crime.

Also see Court News Ohio, Courts Must Find Probable Cause Before Issuing Arrest Warrants

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