S.D.Tex.: Inevitable discovery applied to warrantless search of cell phone at immigration checkpoint

The fact the officers would have obtained a search warrant for defendant’s cell phone if one was sought here made the question of consent to search it moot. Inevitable discovery applies. This was at an immigration checkpoint. United States v. Reyes-Herrera, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91397 (S.D. Tex. May 13, 2021):

In the current matter, the Court finds that the inevitable discovery doctrine applies and renders unnecessary a consideration of the totality of the circumstances regarding Reyes’s signing of the Cell Phone Consent. Agent LaRock correctly informed Reyes that if needed, Agent LaRock could obtain a warrant to search the cell phones. Law enforcement took Reyes into custody after finding controlled substances in the tractor-trailer that he was driving, at a checkpoint where law enforcement routinely uncovers drug trafficking. Magistrate judges issue warrants to search cell phones if a law enforcement officer demonstrates, by oath or affirmation, that “a ‘fair probability’ or a ‘substantial chance’ that evidence relevant to [the] crime … will be found in each place to be searched: [] contacts, [] call logs, [] text messages, and [] photographs.” United States v. Morton, 984 F.3d 421, 427 (5th Cir. 2021). The facts in this case easily satisfy this standard. See id. (concluding a simple drug possession charge supported a search of contacts, call records, and text messages). In addition, when the agents at the checkpoint searched Reyes’s cell phones, they were actively investigating Reyes, were about to arrest him, and had stated an intention to obtain a search warrant if he did not sign the written consent. This conduct demonstrates active pursuit.

As a result, irrespective of whether Agent LaRock’s statements rendered Reyes’s signing of the Cell Phone Consent involuntary, the inevitable discovery doctrine nevertheless precludes suppression of the information that the Government obtained from the search of Reyes’s cell phones.

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