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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Failure to correctly identify the court and the name of the judge signing a search warrant a fatal defect


Failure to correctly identify the court and the name of the judge signing a search warrant a fatal defect
People v Gavazzi, 2012 NY Slip Op 08054, Court of Appeals

This LawBlog’s summary of Gusler v. City of Long Beach, USCA, Docket #11-4493-cv [see http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-failure-to-name-parties-appealing.html] noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, ruled that the failure to correctly name the parties appealing a federal district court’s ruling was a fatal jurisdictional defect.

In People v Gavazzi the defects challenged by Gavazzi involved the name of the jurisdiction, the name of the court and the name of the justice signing a search warrant.

The Court of Appeals, Justice Smith dissenting, held that a warrant to search Gavazzi’s residence in the Village of Greene, Chenango County, was defective as the result of the inadvertent typing of "Local Criminal Court, Town of Broome, Broome County" at the head of the warrant instead of "Local Criminal Court, Town of Greene, Chenango County." There is no municipality of Broome in either Broome County or Chenango County and the Village Justice signed the warrant without correcting the error.

Further, said the court, the Justice’s signature on a line marked "Signature of Judge or Justice” was illegible.

The Appellate Division had held that the warrant did not substantially comply with §690.45(1)* of the Criminal Procedure Law because it contained "no information from which the issuing court can be discerned" (see 84 AD3d 1427 at 1429). The Court of Appeals agreed with the Appellate Division's analysis, explaining that a search warrant must contain "[t]he name of the issuing court," again citing CPL §690.45 [1]).** Here, however, the Village Justice who signed the warrant included no designation of his court, his signature was illegible, there is no seal, and the caption referred to a nonexistent town.

In the words of the Appellate Division, "on its face the warrant appears to [have been] issued by an unidentified judge in a nonexistent court and town in a different county", concluding that the warrant did not substantially comply with CPL §690.45(1).

The bottom line: evidence sized under color of the warrant had to be suppressed.

* §690.45, in pertinent part, provides that “A search warrant must contain: 1. The name of the issuing court and, except where the search warrant has been obtained on an oral application, the subscription of the issuing judge;"

** The Court of Appeals noted that standard for adherence to the statutory requirement is "substantial — rather than literal — compliance."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_08054.htm

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