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Name: People v. Superior Court (Corbett)
Case #: B276937
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 02/14/2017
Summary

The prosecution failed to establish that evidence found during a warrantless search based on invalid consent would inevitably have been discovered. When police began interrogating Corbett, an alleged stalker, he invoked his right to remain silent. Nevertheless, they continued interrogating him and he ultimately made admissions and gave police consent to search his residence for firearms. Police searched his home and found a number of illegal firearms and ammunition. After obtaining a search warrant, they conducted a second search of the home and found additional firearms. The trial court granted Corbett’s motion to suppress the evidence found during the first search. The People filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal seeking to vacate that order, arguing that the evidence would inevitably have been discovered. Held: Petition denied. Evidence that is obtained as a result of violations of the Fourth and Fifth amendments may still be admissible “[i]f the prosecution can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the information ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means . . . .” (Nix v. Williams (1984) 467 U.S. 431, 444.) Here, the People were unable to make the requisite showing. No evidence was presented that law enforcement was pursuing any lines of investigation that would have disclosed where Corbett lived or where he stored his firearms. Corbett’s interrogation was the only source for this information. Furthermore, the parties agreed that police had probable cause to obtain a warrant and the Ninth Circuit has held the inevitable discovery doctrine is inapplicable where officers have probable cause to obtain a warrant but fail to do so. (See United States v. Lundin (9th Cir. 2016) 817 F.3d 1151.)

The later search warrant application did not contain facts sufficient to establish independent probable cause to search defendant’s home and did not support the People’s inevitable discovery argument. Following the initial search, police obtained a search warrant. On appeal, the People argued that the search warrant was sought based on Corbett’s violation of an emergency protective order that prohibited him from possessing firearms. The People further argued that the evidence from the initial search should not have been suppressed because they obtained a validly issued warrant based on independent probable cause and it was inevitable that law enforcement would have lawfully obtained the firearms and ammunition. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Family Code section 6389, subdivision (f) provides that “[t]he restraining order requiring a person to relinquish a firearm . . . shall state on its face that the respondent is prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm while the protective order is in effect and that the firearm shall be relinquished to the local law enforcement agency for that jurisdiction or sold to a licensed gun dealer . . . .” Penal Code section 1524, subdivision (a)(11) authorizes the issuance of a search warrant when a person does not relinquish his firearms as required by section 6389. Here, the protective order did not include firearms relinquishment language and therefore failed to provide Corbett with the requisite notice. Moreover, Corbett was never given an opportunity to comply with the relinquishment/sale provisions because he was in custody, police prevented him from using the phone, and police told him that his only option was to consent to them entering his home to retrieve the firearms or else they would get a warrant. On these facts, section 1524, subdivision (a)(11) did not provide a valid basis for obtaining a warrant. After removing all the information derived from law enforcement’s unlawful conduct, there was no independent probable cause to support the search warrant.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B276937.PDF