Inevitable Discovery: Is It Admissible?
In a criminal case, there are many laws and regulations surrounding the methods used by police officers and other officials and how they obtain and submit evidence. Therefore, the question often arises, “Is it admissible?” In many cases, the answer is no because the police did not follow the correct protocol. As a direct result, many cases need to be thrown out, no matter how much evidence was against a defendant. If the police attain the evidence illegally, it is not admissible in court. Yet, in a criminal defense case, the prosecution heavily relies on the “inevitable discovery exception."
What Is the Inevitable Discovery Exception?
First, in order to completely understand the term, you must understand the law that inevitable discovery is an exception of, known as the exclusionary rule, as well as your Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment is a portion of the United States Constitution that safeguards your home and your right to be arrested or searched without just cause. The Fourth Amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Then came about the “exclusionary rule” which further was to protect our rights and freedoms. In short, if police obtain evidence through an illegal manner, it cannot be used in a trial. With such a broad generalization, there will be exceptions. With this rule, there are several exceptions as to what officers can use in the event of an illegal seizure. One of these is the inevitable discovery exception. This explains that courts generally will not suppress evidence that has been seized illegally if the government can establish that the evidence inevitably would have been discovered lawfully. No evidence is required; simply the hypothetical reasoning that the evidence could have been found legally.
The Exception to the Exception
Attorneys and lawmakers strive on a daily basis to find the best possible laws in order to create harmony between laws that are easily followed and no laws at all. Of course, with that, lines get blurred and changed, and this is no exception. Here, we have another exception to the initial exclusion. In the case of People v. Chukwuemeka Ebelechukwu (2015), evidence was found and seized because the defendant opened his door wide enough for police to see the evidence inside, even though they were there for a warrant for the unit next door. Ultimately, police claimed that they would have found the evidence anyway under hypothetical other circumstances. The defense argued that two things must be true:
- The state must show not only that an independent line of investigation, untainted by illegal conduct, would have revealed the evidence; and
- The independent line of investigation “must have already begun when the evidence was discovered illegally.”
The defendant argued that an independent line of investigation had not already begun, and therefore when the police came into his home, they did so illegally. The defense ended up winning this case. Therefore, precedent has now been set that a second line of investigation must have already begun before evidence is admissible.
If you have a pending criminal defense case, contact our Addison criminal defense attorneys, serving clients in Maywood, Wheaton, Rolling Meadows, Bridgeview Cook County, and all surrounding Chicagoland areas. Stringini & Garvey, P.C. have more than 65 combined years of experience and will aggressively defend your rights. Call us today at 630-834-9595 for your free initial consultation.