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Independent Source Doctrine and the Inevitable Discovery Rule (From Contemporary Criminal Procedure, P 403-411, 1990, Larry E Holtz -- See NCJ-127813)

NCJ Number
L E Holtz
Date Published
9 pages
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions and a New Jersey court decision examine the circumstances under which evidence from an illegal search may be admitted when it can be established that the evidence would have been eventually legally obtained from an independent source.
In Nix v. Williams (1984), the U.S. Supreme Court examined whether when police officers illegally elicit incriminating statements from a defendant in the absence of counsel, the fruits of such a violation must be suppressed when it can be shown that the evidence would have ultimately been discovered even if the incriminating statements had not been elicited. The Court ruled that if the prosecution can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the information would have inevitably been discovered by lawful means, then the evidence should be received. In State of New Jersey v. Sugar (1985), a New Jersey court considered whether that State recognizes the "inevitable discovery" exception to the exclusionary rule. The court held that New Jersey does recognize this exception, since it is a "logical extension of the long-standing rule that allows the admission of illegally obtained evidence if knowledge of the evidence was gained from an independent source." In Murray v. United States (1988), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a police officer's unlawful entry into a private premises does not require the exclusion of evidence subsequently discovered at those premises pursuant to an independently obtained search warrant that has been issued on the basis of information wholly unconnected with the prior illegal entry.