Court Explains Inevitable Discovery Doctrine in Florida Child Pornography Case

In prosecuting a defendant for an alleged sex crime, the State is only permitted to use evidence that was lawfully obtained. As such, any evidence that was obtained during an unlawful search should be suppressed. While there are exceptions to this exclusionary rule, such as the inevitable discovery doctrine, they only apply in limited circumstances.

A Florida appellate court recently discussed the standard for allowing evidence to be introduced via the inevitable discovery doctrine, in a case in which evidence of child pornography was found during an unlawful search. If you are charged with a sex crime in St. Petersburg, it is prudent to meet with a capable St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to discuss your case and available defenses.

Facts Regarding the Police Investigation

Reportedly, the police were conducting a child pornography investigation based on information that an individual was sharing child pornography via the Ares network from a specific IP address. The police got a search warrant to obtain the IP address information, which showed that the IP address was associated with a business which allowed users to connect to a wireless network. The police visited the business on several occasions. During one visit, the defendant was the only patron and logged on using a name similar to the name used to share child pornography.

Allegedly, the police visited the defendant at his home and attempted to speak with him. The defendant denied consent to search his home and asked to see a warrant. The police entered the defendant’s apartment without a warrant and observed the laptop the defendant had used at the business where he was observed by the police. After they were at the defendant’s residence for an hour, the police left to obtain a warrant. They returned with a warrant later that evening and seized the defendant’s laptop.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with 51 counts of possession of child pornography and 26 counts of felony video voyeurism. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized from his computer, arguing that the search was unlawful. The State argued that the search was lawful, but that if it was not, the evidence should be admitted via the inevitable discovery doctrine. The court denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant plead nolo contendere and appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion.

The Inevitable Discovery Doctrine

The court noted that the exclusionary rule typically suppresses evidence obtained during an unlawful search. The court stated, however, that the inevitable discovery doctrine is an exception to the exclusionary rule. Under the inevitable discovery doctrine, the prosecution must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the evidence obtained during an unlawful search would have ultimately been discovered via lawful methods. As held by the court, however, the inevitable discovery doctrine only applies where the police were actively seeking a search warrant prior to the unlawful search. Here, as there was no evidence the police sought a search warrant prior to entering the defendant’s home, the inevitable discovery doctrine did not apply. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced St. Petersburg Sex Crime Defense Attorney

If you live in St. Petersburg and are facing charges for a sex crime, it is important to retain a seasoned St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney who will fight to preclude any evidence that was obtained unlawfully. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a skilled St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney who will work tirelessly to help you seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 727-897-5413 or via the online form to set up a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Finds 1000 Year Sentence with Parole Eligibility Provides A Meaningful Chance for Release within the Offender’s Life, December 28, 2018, St. Petersburg Sex Crimes Lawyer Blog

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