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Inevitable Discovery Doctrine

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Case:  State of Tennessee v. Samantha Grissom Scott

Facts:  Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the Defendant’s home to serve an arrest warrant on a man who did not live there but believed to be present. Upon arrival, the Deputies saw an unknown male enter Defendant’s residence and lock the door. The Deputies then surrounded the house and ordered the Defendant and the male outside. They eventually existed the house and were detained, and told Deputies the man they were looking for was not inside. The Defendant gave written consent to search the house. The Deputies did not find the man but did find drugs. The Defendant refused consent to search further, so the Deputies obtained a search warrant, reentered the house, and collected the drugs. Following the Defendant’s motion to suppress, the trial court held that because the Deputies believed the man to be the person they were looking for, they had authority to seize the property, so the Defendant’s subsequent consent to search was not rendered involuntary by the seizure. The Defendant pled guilty pursuant to a certified question of law.

Appellate Decision:  In a split decision, the intermediate upheld the denial of the suppression motion but on different grounds. The majority held “The deputies could have obtained and executed a search warrant without the Defendant’s consent in order to search the home for Mr. Dishman, and the drug-related evidence would have been inevitably discovered.” Judge McMullen dissented, writing that the inevitable discovery doctrine only applies where the evidence shows the evidence would have been discovered from a lawful means genuinely independent from the earlier, tainted one. Moreover, Judge McMullen wrote that the Deputies lacked probable cause or exigent circumstances to initially seize the residence, rendering the subsequent consent involuntary.

Review Granted:  June 4, 2020.

Prediction:  The Hot List will not issue a prediction because Ben is the attorney of record on this case.