Bourassa v. Georgia

Jeffrey Bourassa was convicted of possessing more than one ounce of marijuana, conspiracy to commit that crime, and for violating the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) by using a telephone to arrange for the purchase of more than one ounce of marijuana from coindictee German Beltran. The evidence supporting these convictions was obtained during a police investigation of Beltran and others that included extensive surveillance and investigation warrants that authorized the interception of electronic and oral communications for several phone numbers, including Beltran’s. Neither Bourassa’s phone number nor any phone number allegedly used by him was listed as a target in the investigation warrants, and Bourassa’s phone number was not known to be associated with any of the phone numbers listed in the investigation warrants as targets. However, the following evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation led police to Bourassa. Bourassa moved to suppress the intercepted communications, arguing (among other things) that the investigation warrants that resulted in the interception of his phone conversations and text messages violated the laws of Georgia and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Bourassa did not testify at the hearing on the motion to suppress or stipulate that he was a party to those conversations and messages, and the State argued that he failed to prove standing. At the suppression hearing, the investigation warrants - including the applications and supporting affidavits—were admitted, and the affiant and sole witness, Sgt. Randy Folsom of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that neither Bourassa nor any phone number associated with him was specified as a target in the warrants. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erroneously concluded that Bourassa had to present his own evidence to prove standing and that circumstantial evidence could not suffice to meet that burden. As a result, the Court of Appeals did not properly evaluate Bourassa’s arguments about the evidentiary value of Sgt. Folsom’s testimony. Moreover, because the trial court did not make findings or credibility determinations about Sgt. Folsom’s testimony, the Court of Appeals had nothing to review on appeal in that regard. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to that court with direction to remand the case to the trial court for appropriate consideration of the evidence related to standing. View "Bourassa v. Georgia" on Justia Law