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Evidence is not to be excluded if the connection between the illegal police conduct and the discovery and seizure of the evidence is so attenuated as to dissipate the taint. It is not to be excluded, for example, if police had an "independent source" for discovery of the evidence: the essence of a provision forbidding the acquisition of evidence in a certain way is that not merely evidence so acquired shall not be used before the court but that it shall not be used at all. Of course this does not mean that the facts thus obtained become sacred and inaccessible. If knowledge of them is gained from an independent source they may be proved like any others.
Acting on information that petitioners probably were trafficking in cocaine from their apartment, New York Drug Enforcement Task Force agents began a surveillance of petitioners. Thereafter, upon observing petitioner Colon deliver a bulky package to one Parra at a restaurant parking lot, while petitioner Segura and one Rivudalla-Vidal visited inside the restaurant, the agents followed Parra and Rivudalla-Vidal to their apartment and stopped them. Parra was found to possess cocaine, and she and Rivudalla-Vidal were immediately arrested. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Rivudalla-Vidal admitted that he had purchased the cocaine from petitioner Segura and confirmed that petitioner Colon had made the delivery at the restaurant. Task Force agents were then authorized by an Assistant United States Attorney to arrest petitioners, and were advised that a search warrant for petitioners' apartment probably could not be obtained until the following day but that the agent should secure the premises to prevent destruction of evidence. Later that same evening, the agents arrested petitioner Segura in the lobby of petitioners' apartment building, took him to the apartment, knocked on the door, and, when it was opened by petitioner Colon, entered the apartment without requesting or receiving permission. The agents then conducted a limited security check of the apartment and in the process observed, in plain view, various drug paraphernalia. Petitioner Colon was then arrested, and both petitioners were taken into custody. Two agents remained in the apartment awaiting the warrant but because of "administrative delay" the search warrant was not issued until some 19 hours after the initial entry into the apartment. In the search pursuant to the warrant, the agents discovered, inter alia, cocaine and records of narcotics transactions. These items were seized, together with those observed during the security check. The District Court granted petitioners' pretrial motion to suppress all the seized evidence. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence discovered in plain view on the initial entry, but not the evidence seized during the warrant search, must be suppressed. Petitioners were subsequently convicted of violating federal drug laws, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Were the cocaine, cash records, and ammunition that were recovered pursuant to a valid search warrant properly admitted into evidence?
The court held that notwithstanding the earlier illegal entry, the Fourth Amendment did not require suppression of the evidence seized later from the private residence pursuant to a valid search warrant because the warrant was issued on information obtained by the police before the initial entry. The exclusion of evidence as derivative or "fruit of the poisonous tree" was not warranted because there was an independent source for the warrant under which that evidence was seized.