Law School Case Brief
Baker v. State - 277 Ga. App. 520, 627 S.E.2d 145 (2006)
The exclusionary rule bars the admission of evidence obtained as the result of an illegal search because it is fruit of the poisonous tree. Evidence is not fruit of the poisonous tree simply because it would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police. Rather, the inquiry in such a case is whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint. Even if evidence would not have been discovered but for the illegal police conduct, if the derivative evidence has only an attenuated link to the illegality, it need not be suppressed. The relevant factors include the temporal proximity of an illegal seizure and consent, intervening circumstances, and the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct. The question of whether consent is the product of free will or the preceding illegality must be answered under the facts of each case; no single fact is dispositive.
A narcotics agent with the Henry County Police Department received a tip from a confidential informant regarding a future drug transaction. The informant described the physical appearance of the subject, stated that he would be driving a black or green Dodge truck or Jeep in a particular area near some fast food restaurants and that he would be in possession of ecstacy. Defendants, Bryan Baker and Sherri Drescher were boyfriend and girlfriend. While Baker was driving a black Dodge pickup truck he was stopped in the general area. He consented to a search of his vehicle and cocaine and marijuana were discovered. The police asked Baker if he had more drugs at his house and he said that he had some marijuana. Drescher was also arrested after the police found more drugs at her house. Thereafter, a judge, sitting without a jury, found Baker guilty of possession of cocaine and driving with a suspended license. The judge also found Drescher guilty of possession of marijuana and possession of methamphetamine. Baker and Drescher each filed their respective motions to suppress the evidence based on the exclusionary rule, which were denied by the trial court.
Did the trial court err in its decision to deny the respective motions to suppress filed by Baker and Drescher?
The judgments in both cases were reversed by the Court of Appeals of Georgia. The court agreed that the stop of Baker’s vehicle was not justified since the State failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the confidential informant's tip and their own observations were sufficient to support the stop. According to the court, the State presented no evidence regarding the source of the information nor that the tip was reliable since the vehicle was different and the tip did not include any prediction as to the time at which the transaction was to occur. Drescher's consent to search was the product of Baker’s illegal detention by the police, and the taint of the unreasonable stop was not sufficiently attenuated. The trial court erred in denying Drescher's motion to suppress evidence taken during a search of her home.
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