The Court of Appeals of Virginia, in Bellamy v. Commonwealth, an opinion published on May 1, 2012, made a significant holding regarding the evolving Good Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule. In this opinion, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not require a trial court to suppress evidence discovered by police during a search incident to the arrest of a suspect, even though the police arrested the suspect based on erroneous information in a police dispatch. Bellamy was arrested after dispatch told a police officer that he had an outstanding arrest warrant. During the search incident to arrest, the officer found a bullet and some marijuana in Bellamy’s pocket. The officer then called dispatch back to confirm the warrant and have a copy of it faxed to his local precinct. At that time, dispatch informed the police officer that the warrant had actually already been served on Bellamy, and that there was no longer an outstanding warrant.
The trial court refused to suppress the evidence, holding that the officer’s arrest of Bellamy was done in good faith, even though it was based on incorrect information. The Court of Appeals agreed and ruled that evidence should be excluded only if the exclusion of the evidence would deter unreasonable and unconstitutional police conduct. Since the officer’s actions were reasonable based upon what he was told by dispatch, the Court concluded that the officer’s conduct would not and should be be deterred by excluding the evidence.