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Law School Case Brief

Maryland v. Garrison - 480 U.S. 79, 107 S. Ct. 1013 (1987)


The validity of a search warrant must be assessed on the basis of the information that the requesting officers disclose, or have a duty to discover and to disclose, to the issuing magistrate; the constitutionality of the officers' conduct must be judged in light of the information available to them at the time they request the warrant; those items of evidence that emerge after the warrant is issued have no bearing on whether a warrant was validly issued.


Defendant Harold Garrison was convicted in Maryland state court of violating Maryland's Controlled Substances Act after marijuana and related paraphernalia were discovered in his apartment. The evidence had been seized in a search conducted pursuant to a warrant that specified a location of "the premises known as 2036 Park Avenue third floor apartment." The police officers reasonably believed that there was only one apartment on the premises described in the warrant. However, there were two apartments on the third floor. Before the officers executing the warrant became aware that they were in a separate apartment occupied by defendant, they had discovered the contraband that provided the basis for defendant's conviction. At trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence on the ground that the search and seizure violated the Fourth Amendment. The motion was denied. The state court of special appeals affirmed, but the Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed and remanded with instructions to remand the case for a new trial. The State was granted a writ of certiorari.


Was the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure violated when the officers execute a search warrant in an apartment that was not occupied by the person named in the warrant?




The Supreme Court pf the United States reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Maryland and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court held that execution of a valid search warrant by police officers was consistent with a reasonable effort to ascertain and identify the place intended to be searched, within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, even though the apartment they search was not the one occupied by the person named in the warrant. The scope of a lawful search was defined by the object of the search and the places in which there was probable cause to believe that it may be found. The Court further ruled that the objective facts available to the officers suggested no distinction between defendant's apartment and the third-floor premises specified in the search warrant.

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