When the State Can (and Cannot) Use ‘Inevitable Discovery’ to Get Evidence from a Warrantless Search Admitted in Your Florida Trial

When you’ve been accused of a particularly salacious crime, yours can be an especially difficult uphill battle. Sometimes, people may want to look more closely at the nature of the charges against you, as opposed to the actual, admissible evidence against you. Fortunately, in this state and country, you are entitled to a fair trial(regardless of the charges asserted) consisting of only that evidence that was obtained in a manner that did not violate your constitutional rights, including your right to be free from most warrantless searches and seizures. To make sure you get the fair trial and the vigorous defense you deserve, be sure you’ve contacted and retained a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney.

A.P. was a man who found himself in the type of scenario laid out above. He was on trial for 15 counts of video voyeurism. According to the state, A.P. had installed a camera in a bedroom wall in his home and used it to maintain a live video feed of the woman who lived in the room, including capturing her in “various states of undress.” The case was extremely serious for A.P., because the Florida legislature had recently upgraded the crime of video voyeurism to a felony, and the accused man faced as much as 380 years in prison if he was convicted on all charges.

The state believed it had strong evidence, as it had multiple videos taken from A.P.’s computer that appeared to depict exactly the sort of secret surveillance that the state alleged. The state, however, had one major problem, which the defense was ultimately able to use in its favor: the police didn’t have a warrant, and they also didn’t have valid consent, when they searched the computer and seized the video files.

When the police initially responded to the home, the man’s wife gave permission for the police to seize and search the computer. The problem with that was, however, that the computer belonged solely to the husband, which meant that the wife did not have the authority to grant permission to search and/or seize the computer.

At trial, the circuit court judge allowed the state to use the video evidence, concluding that it was admissible based on something called the “inevitable discovery” rule. The trial judge’s reasoning was that, but for bad advice from a lawyer in the state’s attorney’s office, the police would have requested a warrant, would have received a warrant, would have seized the computer and would have found the video files.

The inevitable discovery rule requires active pursuit of a warrant

As the appeals court ruled, though, the reasoning used by the trial judge to allow the video into evidence is not how the inevitable discovery rule works. Florida law requires that the prosecution show that a valid search warrant “was being actively pursued prior to the illegal search” in order to utilize an inevitable discovery argument. The facts in A.P.’s case showed that the police, while at the ready to pursue a search warrant, had foregone any pro-active steps toward obtaining a warrant after receiving the bad advice from the prosecutor’s office. With no activity underway toward securing a search warrant, the exception didn’t apply, the search of the computer was an illegal search and the video evidence should have been excluded in A.P.’s case.

All that meant that A.P. was entitled to a new trial where that video evidence was suppressed, which would likely reduce the chances of another outcome as unfavorable to A.P. as the first one.

Whatever you might think of A.P., the reality is that, someday, you may find yourself accused of a crime and find yourself needing to assert your innocence. If that happens, you’ll be thankful to have laws that protect your rights and you’ll want skilled defense counsel who knows how to assert those protections. If you or a loved are facing criminal charges, reach out to the experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. Our attorneys have been helping the accused and their families for many years. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the information you need.

More blog posts:

Glitter on the Cash and Police Bodycam Footage: All the Proof that Went in Two South Florida Defendants’ Successes in Court, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, July 20, 2018

Florida Detective Didn’t Have Grounds for Doing a Protective Sweep, Making Warrantless Search Illegal, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Feb. 1, 2017

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