Contact Us

Second Circuit Clarifies Inevitable Discovery Doctrine: Lauria (Molina)

The inevitable discovery doctrine requires that the means by which the evidence would inevitably be discovered is independent from the means by which the evidence was actually discovered.

Moilina's Motion to Suppress

Molina was tried and convicted of conspiracy to commit substantive Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm in connection with a crime of violence. Prior to trial, Molina moved to suppress evidence obtained from several warrants authorizing collection of cell-site location information (CSLI). He argued that the affidavits used to support these warrants contained material misrepresentations. In response, the government conceded that there were misstatements in the warrant affidavits, but argued that the doctrine of inevitable discovery and corrected affidavit doctrine allowed it to avoid suppression.

The first warrant affidavit contained numerous misstatements, only one of which was corrected in the subsequent warrant affidavit. The warrant affidavits incorrectly reported that electronic records had linked Molina to a robbery when there was no basis for that assertion. The district court found these misstatements to be necessary to the issuing judge’s probable cause findings. Nonetheless, the court denied Molina’s suppression motion, finding that the evidence would have be inevitably obtained because the government would have been able to remedy their acknowledged mistake independently and submit an amended affidavit establishing probable cause.

On appeal, Molina argued that the district court erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence obtained through the warrants supported by materially false information, and that the court erred in relying on the inevitable discovery doctrine to deny his motion to suppress. The Second Circuit agreed that the doctrine was inapplicable.

The Inevitable Discovery Doctrine

The appellate court held that the doctrine requires that the means by which the evidence would inevitably be discovered is independent from the means by which the evidence was actually, but unlawfully, discovered. The investigation supporting a claim of inevitable discovery cannot itself have occurred only because the misconduct resulting in actual discovery was exposed. In other words, the inevitable discovery doctrine does not apply simply because a reasonable officer could have lawfully discovered the evidence. Rather, it applies where the record establishes a sufficiently high degree of certainty that a reasonable officer would have lawfully discovered the evidence regardless of the disclosure of any legal defect in the actual discovery of the evidence.

Application of the Inevitable Discovery Doctrine

The Second Circuit found that the district court erred in resting its reasoning on the assumption that the government could have corrected the warrant affidavit after it was alerted to the defects in the affidavit. Absent the defense’s exposure of the misstatements, the government would have had no reason to pursue alternative lawful means to procure the evidence at issue. Moreover, nothing in the record indicated that the government took any steps to correct the affidavits prior to the defense’s suppression motion.

Finding that there were material misstatements in the warrant affidavits, those misstatements were material in a finding of probable cause, and the inevitable discovery doctrine did not apply, the Second Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Molina’s motion to suppress and remanded to the district court to conduct a hearing consistent with Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).

If anything here applies to you, contact us today.

At The Law Office of Jeremy Gordon, we fight aggressively for our clients. We are experienced, and know what it takes to present a successful defense in a federal criminal case. For prompt, courteous and skilled representation as your federal criminal defense attorney, contact us today to schedule a free phone consultation.
Contact Us