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Denver Criminal Defense Attorney: Overview of Connally v. Georgia – Detached and Neutral Requirement for Search Warrants

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Searches and seizures conducted without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.

If a search and seizure is conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the evidence obtained by conducting the search and seizure must be suppressed.

Connally v. Georgia Decision

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court decided Connally v. Georgia. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that no search warrant be issued except by a detached and neutral judicial officer.

A warrant issued by biased judicial officers is no better than having no warrant at all.

In Connally v. Georgia, the detached and neutral judicial officer requirement for the issuance of a search warrant came into play.

Judicial Officer in Connally v. Georgia Case

The Georgia justice of the peace was the judicial officer that issued warrants.

The justice of the peace was not salaried. Instead, he was paid a fee, prescribed by statute, of five dollars for each search warrant issued. He was paid nothing for denial of a search warrant.

Therefore, his livelihood was dependent entirely upon how many warrants he issued.

Tumey v. Ohio Decision

The Supreme Court of the United States cited to a previous United States Supreme Court decision fifty years earlier, Tumey v. Ohio, holding that it violated a defendant’s right to Due Process to subject the defendant to trial before a judge with a direct and personal pecuniary interest in convicting the defendant.

The Court recognized that the Tumey situation was not exactly the same as the situation in the Connally case. However, the Court said that the basic principle was the same and therefore the Tumey case was applicable to the Connally case.

Temptation to a Judicial Officer in Issuing a Search Warrant Invalidated Search Warrant

The United States Supreme Court said that in Connally v. Georgia the justice of the peace was offered temptation which might lead him not to keep his role.

This temptation was a direct and personal pecuniary interest in issuing a warrant.

Ultimately the United States Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment, holding that the issuance of the search warrant by the justice of the peace in this case was a violation of the protections afforded to the defendant by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

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