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Law School Case Brief

People v. Superior Court (Corbett) - 8 Cal. App. 5th 670, 213 Cal. Rptr. 3d 735 (2017)

Rule:

The inevitable discovery doctrine does not apply when officers have probable cause to apply for a warrant but fail to do so.

Facts:

An unarmed alleged stalker was arrested inside the home of his victim and then questioned extensively despite his repeated invocation of his right to remain silent. The police, aware from a records search that he had eight firearms registered in his name, continued to question him until he disclosed his address and the location where the guns could be found, and signed a form consenting to the search of his home. It is undisputed in this proceeding that the suspect's assent to the search was not a meaningful or valid consent. The parties agreed that the police had probable cause to obtain a search warrant before they entered the suspect's home, and there was no dispute that officers had the opportunity to seek a warrant but elected not to do so. They searched the suspect's home and seized numerous firearms and ammunition, including seven of the eight weapons listed in the firearms registration record. The following day, relying upon information gathered from the interrogation of the suspect and facts learned from their earlier search of his home, they obtained a search warrant for the suspect's home, identifying two objects of the search: a gun safe they saw during their initial entry, and the eighth firearm known to be registered to the suspect but not located during the warrantless search the day before. The trial court suppressed the evidence collected in the initial search. The People sought a writ of mandate compelling the trial court to vacate its ruling and to deny the motion to suppress, arguing that because the police later obtained a warrant after the initial search, the evidence in the suspect's home would inevitably have been discovered. 

Issue:

If the police could have obtained but did not obtain a warrant to search a person's residence, and entered the person's residence illegally based on an invalid consent, does the fact that they could have obtained a warrant, or later obtained a warrant when they wanted to return to search the home again, excuse their failure to obtain a warrant before the initial entry?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeal denied the People's petition for writ of mandate, holding that a warrantless search of defendant's home and seizure of firearms and ammunition was not justified under the inevitable discovery doctrine, even if the police could have obtained a warrant and later did obtain a warrant when they wanted to return to the house; because the police obtained all their information about where the firearms registered to defendant could be found and what to seize from his home from their violations of defendant's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights during an interrogation and the search of the home, the trial court properly suppressed the evidence. The People did not establish that the warrant could properly have been issued on the independent basis of defendant's purported failure to comply with his obligation, as a restrained person, to relinquish his firearms because defendant did not have notice of the obligation or an opportunity to relinquish his firearms.

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