FL: Inevitable discovery requires prosecution to prove warrant was actually being sought, not just thought about

Bondsmen looking for a fugitive saw a grow operation at defendant’s house. They told the police who came and conducted a warrantless search by coerced consent. Falling back to inevitable discovery, the prosecution is required to prove they were getting a search warrant, not just that they planned to. Otherwise, this exception to the warrant requirement would take over. Rodriguez v. State, 2015 Fla. LEXIS 2754 (Dec. 10, 2015), rev’g 129 So. 3d 1135 (Fla. 3d DCA 2013):

The question before this Court is whether the inevitable discovery rule requires the prosecution to demonstrate that the police were in the process of obtaining a warrant prior to the misconduct or whether the prosecution need only establish that a warrant could have been obtained with the information available prior to the misconduct. We conclude that permitting warrantless searches without the prosecution demonstrating that the police were in pursuit of a warrant is not a proper application of the inevitable discovery rule. The rule cannot function to apply simply when police could have obtained a search warrant if they had taken the opportunity to pursue one, but can only apply if they actually were in pursuit of one. Within the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule there is no room for probable cause to obviate the requirement to pursue a search warrant, for this would eliminate the role of the magistrate and replace judicial reasoning with the current sense impression of police officers.

Further, this case involves the sanctity of the home—a bedrock of the Fourth Amendment and an area where a person should enjoy the highest reasonable expectation of privacy. The constitutional guarantee to freedom from warrantless searches is not an inconvenience to be dismissed in favor of claims for police and prosecutorial efficiency. While it is true that here the police were already in possession of the information leading to the evidence before the misconduct, they failed to pursue a legal means to attain this evidence. The police attempted to gain consent from Rodriguez to enter his home, but his consent was found to be coerced and invalid. With no valid consent, and no pursuit of a search warrant, there are no legal means present that would have led to the evidence. In this way, the discovery was not inevitable notwithstanding the police misconduct, and the rule cannot be applied.

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