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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Barrera - 464 F.3d 496 (5th Cir. 2006)


Reasonable belief embodies the same standards of reasonableness as probable cause but allows an officer who has already been to a magistrate to secure an arrest warrant to determine that a suspect is probably within certain premises without an additional trip to the magistrate and without exigent circumstances. Furthermore, courts should review the reasonableness of an officer's judgment.


While executing an arrest warrant for defendant's brother, who was a drug trafficker known to carry a weapon, police officers knocked on the door of what they believed to be the brother's residence. In fact, it was defendant's home. When defendant answered, an officer heard an object fall from defendant's hand and seized from the floor the firearm that formed the basis for defendant's conviction. At a motion to suppress hearing, defendant argued that, because the officers did not exercise due diligence in determining where his brother lived, they lacked a reasonable belief that his brother could be found at defendant's home and, thus, the firearm seized inside should have been suppressed. The district court denied defendant's motion to suppress and sentenced him to 57 months' imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Defendant appealed from the district court’s judgment.


Did the federal district court err in denying defendant's motion to suppress the firearm seized within defendant’s home?




The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concurred with the district court and held that the officers reasonably believed that the brother lived at defendant's address because the brother had been arrested there before and had given its address as his place of residence to a bail bondsman; furthermore, several cars that the brother was known to drive were parked around the residence. Therefore, the Court held that the firearm in question was seized pursuant to a valid warrant and could be admitted as evidence against the defendant.

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