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Under the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule, evidence is admissible, even if it is the product of an unconstitutional search, if the government would have discovered the evidence through constitutional means had the unconstitutional search not occurred. The basic idea is what lawyers call the “but-for” principle of causation: If a constitutional violation did not cause the evidence to be discovered, the public should not be worse off (which they were by the suppression of useful evidence) simply because of the existence of a constitutional statute. A violation has occurred.

Last week’s decision from the 10th Circuit in United States v. Streetett It examines whether the inevitable discovery exception applies when the government obtains a defective injunction — in this case, an order based on an affidavit that lacks probable cause. The government argued that inevitable discovery applied because they would have done better the second time had the investigating judge pointed out their error. The government said that if the judge had discovered the error in the arrest warrant affidavit, investigators would have corrected the error and filed an appropriate affidavit. In this case, the agents would have obtained a constitutional warrant and the search would have been constitutional. Since the investigators would have responded to the district judge’s indication of the defect by filing an appropriate motion, the inevitable discovery exception should apply.

The Tenth Circuit agreed with the government’s argument, rejecting the defendant’s three arguments that the inevitable discovery exception did not apply in these circumstances:

Mr. Street presents three basic arguments against applying the doctrine of inevitable discovery to defective search warrant cases. He first asserts that this ruling would defeat the probable cause requirement. This is unpersuasive because in determining the applicability of the doctrine of inevitable discovery, courts must take into account “the strength of the showing of probable cause at the time the search was conducted.” United States v. Souza, 223 F.3d 1197, 1204 (10th Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. Capasa, 62 F.3d 470, 473–74 (2d Cir. 1995)). Without the government showing that the officer had probable cause at the time the warrant request was made, the government could not prove that it would have been necessary to issue a properly obtained substitute warrant.

Mr Street then claims that this ruling would reduce the incentive for officers to draft a proper affidavit in the first place. We see nothing in our ruling that would intentionally give the officer an incentive to provide insufficient preliminary testimony to support a search warrant. Stabile, 633 F.3d at 246. Officers would still be better served by including all material facts in initial arrest requests.

Finally, Mr. Street says applying the doctrine of inevitable discovery in defective arrest warrant cases will require a lot of hypothetical thinking, as courts will have to consider whether a proper arrest warrant would be issued after an improper arrest warrant is rejected. But hypothetical reasoning is required when it comes to the doctrine of inevitable discovery. For example, in United States v. Christie, we determined that the officer there was likely to obtain a search warrant in a hypothetical world because he had strong probable cause and was appointed to obtain state and federal search warrants—even though he had made a decision “no There are steps to obtain a warrant” when conducting an inspection. 739 F.3d at 543. This case involves no more hypothetical reasoning than Christie.

In the street In that case, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the government would have obtained the appropriate warrant if the magistrate judge had denied the initial warrant request. The government could have discovered why the affidavit was flawed, and could have easily corrected the flaw:

In a hypothetical world where the warrant request was denied [the ground that probable cause was lacking]However, Hartsock only had to add one sentence to his affidavit to make it fit. Instead of saying “who lives in Bernalillo County,” the affidavit could have established probable cause if it had simply added something to the effect of “who, according to T-Mobile records, resides at 4260 Plume Rd. NW, Albuquerque, NM.” . This would have been an easy solution and Hartsock already had all the information to add that privacy. Since the warrant affidavit led to the issuance of the search warrant even though it ultimately failed to establish probable cause, it is likely that the more detailed amended affidavit would have warranted a warrant as well. Therefore, we conclude that the third factor favors the government because it is likely that an appropriate injunction would have been obtained had the original request been denied.

I think this analysis is wrong, even though the defendant did not report it for some reason. It seems to me that StreetitHer reasoning conflicts with the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Lyon (1984), regarding another exception to the exclusionary rule – the so-called “good faith exception”. Here the question was in LeonAs stated in its opening paragraph:

This case raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule should be modified so as not to bar the use of key evidence in the prosecution’s case obtained by officers acting in reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a separate, impartial judge but ultimately found. Be unsupported by probable cause. To resolve this issue, we must consider again the tension between the sometimes competing goals of deterring official misconduct and removing incentives for unreasonable invasions of privacy, on the one hand, and establishing procedures whereby criminal defendants are acquitted or prosecuted, on the other. Convicting him on the basis of all evidence revealing the truth.

Leon Reasoning that if the government files a flawed application for an injunction, it is usually the judge’s fault if the judge signs it and issues the order. After all, the government is just making the request; It is a court order if the court signs. On the other hand, if the error is egregious, it is the government’s fault for doing so and relying on search warrant materials that are clearly flawed.

under LeonUnder the “exclusion” framework, the exclusionary rule applies if the government obtains a court order that has major defects but only minor defects. The first is the government’s fault, the second is not a mistake. There is a rule limiting the scope of the exclusionary rule when affidavits lack probable cause: a defect of probable cause in an arrest warrant application does not trigger suppression unless the affidavit is “so lacking in evidence of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence wholly unreasonable.”

As I see it, the Tenth Circuit’s analysis in street It goes against logic Leon. Holding in Streetit It doesn’t matter unless Leon do not apply. This means that it only matters when the potential cause of the defect is egregious. In those cases, Streetit It relies on a very different picture of the officer’s guilt than it does Leon.

according to LeonIf the error is significant, the government, which is responsible for enforcing the search warrant, should be deterred. but Streetet Replace it with a new image. instead of LeonBlaming the government for submitting and relying on a clearly flawed memorandum, Streetet He imagines the judge discovering the error, patiently explaining it to the government, and then the government correcting the error so that no constitutional violation occurs. In this view, the culpable action of the police is effectively erased. Instead of officers being reckless about violating the Fourth Amendment, they were now careful supervisors of the Fourth Amendment — if only the judge had informed them of their inadvertent error earlier.

To be clear, I’m not saying the end result is in Streetet It must be different. If the error is easy to correct StreetetThis is supposed to be a good faith exception Leon Should apply. The government argued this point StreetetBut the Tenth Circuit did not reach the good faith exception issue because it ruled in favor of the government on deterministic discovery grounds. But I think Streetet It should have been identified as a good faith exception, rather than an inevitable discovery case. The outcome may not matter Streetet. But it will be important in the next case where Leon Doesn’t apply and Street gives the government a way around the Supreme Court’s framework Leon.

By the way, I realize that some readers have strong opinions for and against the exception rule. To some, the exclusion rule is stupid. For others, exceptions are stupid. This is a long-standing debate that many will disagree on. But I see this post outside of that. I’m just making a narrow-minded point about legal doctrine, for a bunch of interested law nerds: Whatever you think of the exclusionary rule or its exceptions in general, I don’t think the trial court should hold the inevitable discovery exception to this extent in light of Leon.

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