Smith v. State

Decision Date21 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. S-6613,S-6613
PartiesDouglas Leon SMITH, Petitioner, v. STATE of Alaska, Respondent.
CourtAlaska Supreme Court

Walter Share, Seattle, David Loutrel, Anchorage, for Petitioner.

Nancy R. Simel, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General, Juneau, for Respondent.



COMPTON, Justice.


In this case we are called upon to decide whether evidence obtained illegally may be admissible under the "inevitable discovery" or "independent source" exceptions to the exclusionary rule. We hold that the "independent source" exception does not apply, and remand the case for consideration of the "inevitable discovery" exception, as formulated herein.


Undercover Police Officer Wilbur Hooks made arrangements to sell a kilogram of cocaine to Edwardo Aragon in an Anchorage parking lot. 1 Aragon inspected the cocaine and stated that his "money man" would have to see it before the sale could proceed. When Hooks refused to go to the "money man's" house, Aragon arranged to have the "money man" join them in the parking lot.

Following a call from Aragon, Douglas Leon Smith arrived at the parking lot in a truck. Hooks gave Aragon the cocaine, and Aragon joined Smith in the truck. A short time later, Aragon returned to Hooks bearing a brown paper bag which contained $26,000.

When Smith started to leave the parking lot, Anchorage police officers attempted to arrest him. Following a chase through city streets, the police captured Smith and recovered the cocaine from a snow berm on the side of the road down which Smith had fled.

Investigator Linda O'Brien, the officer in charge of the operation, questioned Smith at the police station in order to obtain basic booking information. After Smith provided his name and social security number, he asked if he was entitled to a phone call. O'Brien told Smith he could make a phone call when he arrived at the jail. She then asked Smith for his home address. When Smith asked if he was required to answer, O'Brien replied that he was, and stated that if he withheld this information she would ask the magistrate to require him to give his address as a condition of his release on bail. Smith then provided his address.

After questioning Smith, O'Brien sought to obtain a search warrant for Smith's residence. During the warrant hearing, O'Brien told the magistrate that she knew where Smith resided, because Smith had told her the location. O'Brien also stated that the residence was located at the address listed on Smith's driver's license. Based on this testimony, the magistrate issued the warrant. The police then searched the residence and recovered records of drug sales, guns, cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and $100,000 in cash.

At Smith's trial, the State sought to admit the evidence discovered in the search. Smith moved to suppress that evidence on the ground that O'Brien violated his right to make a telephone call immediately following his arrest, by refusing to permit him to make a telephone call until after he arrived at the jail. Smith also claimed that the warrant was tainted by the fact that O'Brien told the magistrate that she had corroborated Smith's statement revealing his address by referring to Smith's driver's license, which actually contained a different address.

In response to Smith's motion, O'Brien testified that initially she had obtained Smith's address from the Anchorage Police Department following a check on his license plate information. She testified that when Smith later told her his address, she remembered that this was the same address which she previously had obtained. She stated that this information was also corroborated by the fact that Aragon had given a general location for Smith's residence. She said she misspoke when she testified before the magistrate that she had confirmed Smith's address from his driver's license, and that she had meant to identify Smith's vehicle license as the source of that information.

The superior court denied Smith's motion to suppress. The court found that while O'Brien had violated Smith's right to make a telephone call under AS 12.25.150, O'Brien obtained Smith's address by checking his license plate number before she questioned him. The court also found that O'Brien questioned Smith concerning his name and address only to obtain booking information, rather than to learn his address so that she could obtain a warrant to search his residence. 2

Following the denial of his motion, Smith was convicted; he appealed. The court of appeals held that O'Brien violated Smith's right to make a phone call, and that any evidence resulting from this violation, including Smith's statement providing his address, had to be suppressed unless it fit within the independent source exception to the exclusionary rule. Smith v. State, Mem. Op. & J. No. 2641 at 6 (Alaska App., March 10, 1993). The court of appeals remanded to the superior court for a determination of this issue. Id. On remand the superior court found that O'Brien had sufficient evidence from independent, legal sources to determine Smith's address in the absence of Smith's statement. The court concluded that the evidence seized during the search of Smith's home was admissible. The court of appeals affirmed this decision. Smith v. State, Mem. Op. & J. No. 2956 (Alaska App., July 27, 1994).

Smith then petitioned this court for a hearing to review the decision of the court of appeals. We granted the petition, and ordered briefing of the following issue: 3

Does the inevitable discovery rule apply to this case, assuming Officer O'Brien could have readily retrieved Mr. Smith's address from a vehicle registration check? See State v. Hazelwood, 866 P.2d 827 (Alaska 1993). If so, should the inevitable discovery rule be adopted in Alaska? 4

A. The Independent Source Exception Does Not Apply.

The court of appeals held that the independent source exception to the exclusionary rule applied in this case and thus suppression was not required.

We first recognized the independent source exception to the exclusionary rule in Erickson v. State, 507 P.2d 508 (Alaska 1973). Erickson illustrates how the exception is intended to work. Erickson discussed in the presence of a witness drug sales which he was about to make. That witness later saw Erickson load a suitcase with drugs and lock it. The witness took the suitcase to the police. The police, acting without a warrant, opened the locked suitcase and discovered the drugs. They then arrested Erickson, and discovered a small quantity of marijuana on his person. We held that the opening of the suitcase without a warrant was an unconstitutional search, and that the drugs found in the suitcase had to be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Id. at 516. However, Erickson's conviction of possession of marijuana was based on the marijuana found on his person at the time of his arrest. This conviction was upheld because at the time of the arrest, the police had sufficient evidence to detain Erickson independent of the evidence gleaned through the illegal search of the suitcase. In reaching this conclusion we stated It is well settled that the exclusionary rule renders inadmissible evidence obtained indirectly as a result of an unlawful search or seizure as well as evidence directly obtained thereby. [Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963).] The question for determination is "whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint." Id. at 488 . Once a causal connection is established between the proffered evidence and the primary illegality, the evidence must be excluded unless it falls within the "independent source," "attenuated connection," or "inevitable discovery" limitations.

Erickson, 507 P.2d at 516 (footnote omitted). We also noted:

The fact that the suitcase was subject to an illegal search should not taint the evidence of the second search. Again the test posed by [Wong Sun] was whether the evidence objected to was obtained by the "exploitation" of the initial illegality or means "sufficiently distinguishable" to be "purged of the primary taint." The arrest could have been based on the "independent source" of the conversations with [the witness].... [T]here was enough probable cause to arrest defendant before the search, based on the first hand reports of [the witness]. The fact that the intervening search of the suitcase was illegal should not relate back and taint the basis for probable cause existing before the search.

Id. at 519.

We also applied the independent source exception in Cruse v. State, 584 P.2d 1141 (Alaska 1978). In Cruse, a drive-in theater was robbed by the occupants of a white Mercury automobile. A witness wrote down the automobile's license number as it left the scene and immediately reported the robbery to the police. Shortly thereafter the Mercury was stopped and its occupants were arrested. A state trooper opened the trunk in order to inventory its contents. A city policeman arrived just as the trooper was opening the trunk and observed a long barreled revolver and a brown paper bag in the trunk. The city policeman advised the trooper that the city police would take the car for evidence and closed the trunk until he could get a warrant. The warrant application did not mention that the trunk had been opened or a description of its contents. A warrant was issued and the trunk was then searched, revealing the proceeds of the robbery. The defendant moved to suppress the items found in the trunk. His motion was denied in the superior court. On appeal we affirmed. We assumed arguendo that the original trunk opening was an illegal...

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4 cases
  • State v. Jackson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • 1 Julio 2016
    ......Rev. 137, 160 (1976)). In her brief, Jackson cites cases from other jurisdictions that have adopted rules precluding application of the exception when the prosecution fails to prove the absence of bad faith. See Smith" v. State, 948 P.2d 473, 481 (Alaska 1997) ; Commonwealth v. Sbordone, 424 Mass. 802, 678 N.E.2d 1184, 1190 (1997) ; State v. Holly, 833 N.W.2d 15, 33 (N.D.2013). ¶ 69 It gives us pause to consider the possibility that officers could intentionally violate constitutional rights as a “shortcut\xE2"......
  • State v. Holly
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • 18 Julio 2013
    ......        [¶ 57] Similarly, other jurisdictions adopting the bad-faith requirement to the inevitable discovery doctrine have held the inevitable discovery doctrine should not apply when law enforcement knowingly or intentionally violate the accused's rights. See Smith v. State, 948 P.2d 473, 481 (Alaska 1997). In State v. Williams, 285 N.W.2d 248, 259 (Iowa 1979), the Iowa Supreme Court stated that “bad faith means something more than just acting unlawfully ..” and cited to Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 605, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 45 L.Ed.2d 416 (1975) ......
  • State v. Gilberto L.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 23 Junio 2009
  • State v. Jackson
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • 12 Mayo 2015
    ......No additional remedy is required. ¶ 46 Jackson cites cases from other jurisdictions that have concluded the inevitable discovery doctrine does not apply to evidence discovered as a result of intentional constitutional violations. See State v. Holly, 833 N.W.2d 15, 31–33 (N.D.2013) ; Smith v. State, 948 P.2d 473, 481 (Alaska 1997) ; Commonwealth v. Sbordone, 424 Mass. 802, 678 N.E.2d 1184, 1190 (1997). However, not all courts have embraced that view. The Sixth Circuit, for example, has rejected the argument that a court must “consider the severity and intentionality of the ......

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