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Name: United States v. Peterson
Case #: 17-30084
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/04/2018

Firearm in defendant’s backpack inevitably would have been discovered in an inventory search when he was booked into jail because the arresting officer would have booked him on charges unrelated to the firearm. Peterson was arrested on outstanding misdemeanor warrants. During his arrest, he twice broke away and tried to escape. After he was detained, his backpack was removed, handcuffs were placed on him, and he was put into the back of a patrol car. Thereafter, his backpack was searched and a gun was found. The district court denied Peterson’s motion to suppress, finding the gun inevitably would have been discovered during an inventory search of the backpack during Peterson’s booking into jail. On appeal, Peterson argued the discovery of the gun was not inevitable because, but for the firearm illegally found, he would have posted bail on the misdemeanor warrants and, under Washington law, avoided the booking process altogether. Held: Affirmed. The exclusionary rule does not apply if the government establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the unlawfully obtained evidence would have ultimately or inevitably been discovered by lawful means. The Ninth Circuit agreed with Peterson that if he was only arrested on the misdemeanor warrants, then under Washington law he would have been able to avoid the booking process by posting the known amount of bail. However, the officer testified that if the gun had not been found, then he would have “absolutely” booked Peterson into jail on obstructing law enforcement and resisting arrest based on the “standard practice” of booking arrestees for only felony charges when both felony and misdemeanor charges were available. Because bail on those charges would not have been set, Peterson would have been taken into custody and an inventory search would have been conducted.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: