CA11: No IAC; hypothetical motion to suppress would fail

Defense counsel wasn’t ineffective. The “hypothetical motion” to suppress would fail. Spriggs v. United States, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 17933 (11th Cir. June 29, 2022).* The rationale:

Spriggs contends that his hypothetical motion was “very likely to succeed.” Oral Arg. at 34:51-53. We disagree. Although the police did not possess a warrant for the RV specifically, the district court, like Rosen-Evans, determined that probable cause to search the RV existed before execution of the warrant. Spriggs’ trial attorney testified that she believed law enforcement had probable cause to search the RV before Det. Broughton’s erroneous statement that the warrant encompassed the RV.

In addition, three Fourth Amendment doctrines—curtilage, the automobile exception, and the good-faith exception—all cast doubt on the viability of a suppression motion. Ultimately, though, the district court was correct that we need not definitively resolve these Fourth Amendment issues.

As suggested in Chandler, in nearly every case, there is something that a trial lawyer might have done differently. 218 F.3d at 1313. “But, the issue is not what is possible or ‘what is prudent or appropriate, but only what is constitutionally compelled.'” Id. (quoting Burger v. Kemp, 483 U.S. 776, 794 (1987)). And we conclude that an objectively reasonable defense lawyer would have recognized the obstacles to succeeding on a suppression motion and having the evidence excluded and could very well have offered Spriggs the same advice. Here is why.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement from conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. A warrant is generally required before law enforcement is authorized to conduct a search of “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” See Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 176-78 (1984) (citations omitted). The government bears the burden to establish the reasonableness of a warrantless search and the application of “one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement, thereby rendering it reasonable within the meaning of the fourth amendment.” United States v. Freire, 710 F.2d 1515, 1519 (11th Cir. 1983).

Following remand, the government asserted that the warrantless search of the RV could have been upheld on multiple grounds and that a motion to suppress would have failed. As discussed below, the district court subsequently determined that there were viable arguments both for and against application of exceptions to the warrant requirement. We agree with the district court and conclude that Spriggs has failed to demonstrate that “no competent attorney would think a motion to suppress would have failed.” Premo, 562 U.S. at 124. We reach this conclusion primarily due to the good faith exception and law enforcement’s reasonable belief that the search warrant for 11501 authorized the search of the RV.

It was taken serious enough to get oral argument, at least.

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