In an opinion published last week, (available here), the Court of Special Appeals decided whether a police department’s reliance on incorrect information provided by a third party should be subject to the exclusionary rule.
Previously, in State v. Ott, the Court of Appeals held that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply when police officers relied on incorrect internal records of their own department. In Ott, a Sheriff’s Department had kept inaccurate records on the status of warrants, and a police officer who relied on these records was prohibited from invoking the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The Court stated that knowledge of the validity of a department’s internal records is imputed to officers of the police department, and that without exclusion, a department may have less of an incentive to keep accurate records (or to actually falsify records).
In this case, police officers pulled the defendant over after running his license plate number through their MVA records database, and finding that the tag was invalid. In fact, the tag was not invalid (or so it seems from the sparse record alluded to on appeal). The defendant argued that the stop was illegal because, under Ott, the police relied on inaccurate records and could not rely on the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The state argued that Ott did not apply, and that two recent Supreme Court cases, Evans and Herring, were more on point.
The Court held that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule should apply to a police department’s reliance on inaccurate MVA records, because police departments have no control over the accuracy of these records, and the MVA has no conceivable interest in maintaining inaccurate records.