TN: Cell phone warrantless search led to SW for phone; it was all unreasonable, yet harmless from other overwhelming proof

In a homicide case with plenty of other proof of motive, defendants’ cell phones were illegally searched, and then the decision was made by the police to get a warrant. The search was unreasonable. “It was only after the confirmatory search was performed, and the results of that search were shared with General Jones, that the decision to get a search warrant was made. The evidence at the suppression hearing established that the “decision to seek the warrant was prompted by what [Agent Utterback] had seen during the initial” illegal searches of the cell phones. See Murray, 487 U.S. at 542. As such, the independent source doctrine does not prevent the exclusion of the evidence recovered from the Defendants’ cell phones. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying the Defendants’ motions to suppress on this basis.” Moreover, the 2016 adoption of the good faith exception in Tennessee does not apply to this search because the officers could not articulate why they thought they could search a cell phone without a warrant. On this record, however, the content of the cell phone was harmless error to the strength of the state’s case. State v. Patel, 2017 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 767 (Aug. 25, 2017).*

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