Brief Fact Summary. Two agents trailing the petitioner forced entry into a warehouse containing the petitioner’s vehicle. They discovered marijuana. Subsequently, they returned with a warrant.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The independent source doctrine “applies . . . to evidence initially discovered during, or as a consequence of, an unlawful search, but later obtained independently from activities untainted by the initial illegality.”
In that case, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit stated: Tangible objects are susceptible to seizure and once seized cannot be cleanly reseized without returning the objects to private control.View Full Point of Law
Issue. “Whether, . . . assuming evidence obtained pursuant to an independently obtained search warrant, the portion of such evidence that been observed in plain view at the time of a prior illegal entry must be suppressed.”
Held. No. The court applied the “independent source” rule formulated in Segura, permitting evidence found “independently”, despite an improper search. In the present case, “knowledge that the marijuana was in the warehouse was assuredly acquired at the time of the unlawful entry. But it was also acquired at the time of entry pursuant to the warrant, and if the later acquisition was not the result of the earlier entry, there is no reason why the independent source doctrine should not apply.” This was applied to the “tangible evidence”: the bales. However, the court was uncertain as to whether “the search pursuant to the warrant was in fact a genuinely independent source of the information and tangible evidence at issue here.” The agents did not reveal the original search to the magistrate issuing the warrant. Thus, they remanded to the Court of Appeals “with instructions that it remand to the District Court for determination whether the warrant-authorized search of the warehou
se was an independent source of the challenged evidence in the sense [the court] described.”
Dissent. The dissenting justices were concerned that by applying the independent source rule to the facts of this case, the court “loses sight of the practical moorings of the independent source exception and creates an affirmative incentive for unconstitutional searches.”
Discussion. “The independent source doctrine . . . rest[s] upon the policy that, while the government should not profit from its illegal activity, neither should it be placed in a worse position than it would otherwise have occupied.”