The scenario as set out in the question is one that has to be looked into keenly, critically identifying and isolating the various relevant events that directly or indirectly impact on the relevance and admissibility of evidence discovered and/or obtained at a crime scene. This paper intends to identify the relevant events with regards to the collection and/or obtaining of evidence relevant to the scenario and state whether each piece of evidence obtained is admissible or inadmissible; and backing up the various arguments with the relevant provisions of the United States Constitution, case law and statutory positions on the subject matter.
The summary of the scenario as set out, put into context the various pieces of evidence as were discovered is as follows; Abby and bobby are outside their house and appear to be in a domestic fight. Abby has a stream of blood trickling down her forehead and Bobby appears to have scratch marks all over his face, his breath fast paced and his eyes red. Officers Christina and David were already at the Crime scene but seemed to be overcome by the situation prompting them to call for backup. As Edward, who had encountered the couple before because of being in trouble for breaking the law before, speaks to them, a bong and baggie of marijuana is discovered and the discovery of the bong and baggie of marijuana leads to a subsequent discovery of a shotgun hidden under couch. Concurrently, outside the house, Bobby pulls a gun at Abby and threatens to finish what he had started. Bobby is arrested and Abby makes a statement to the effect that she would bail out Bobby after getting profits from the ‘goods’ and she is subsequently arrested. Christina and David remained behind at the scene to secure it.
Immediately before delving into the exact questions that this paper is to address there are issues that arise. The bong and baggie of marijuana were discovered inside the couple’s house without their permission to get into their house and/or a search warrant allowing a search inside their house. A shotgun was also discovered subsequent to the discovery of the bong and baggie of marijuana without a search warrant of their house and the same situation extents to the subsequent discovery of an incriminating statement by Abby which would otherwise not have been deciphered had the bong and baggie of the marijuana not been discovered. Therefore the admissibility of these pieces of evidence obtained without a search warrant or obtained subsequent to the evidence obtained without a search warrant is put to question.
The discovery of the bong and baggie of marijuana without a search warrant is in breach of Abby and Bobby’s fundamental rights and liberties as conferred upon them by the United States Constitution . The Fourth Amendment protects the citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures and demands that before any search can be conducted that a search warrant is duly obtained in accordance with the law; signed by a judge . Precedent in such a matter was set in Weeks v. United States where police officers entered into Weeks’ house and took documents which were later turned over to the US Marshal and returned to his house later again without a warrant and took some letters. The United States Supreme Court unanimously decided that items obtained from a private resident without a search warrant was in contravention of the Fourth Amendment rights and amounted to a breach of privacy.
A similar holding that extended the same position to the states was in Mapp v. Ohio where police officers were tipped off that a bombing suspect and a betting machine were in Mapp’s house and they went to her house brandishing a fake search warrant which they did not exactly allow her to read and they handcuffed her for being ‘belligerent’. The police officers neither found the bombing suspect nor the betting machine but chanced upon a pornographic material in her bedside trunk. She was then charged for being in possession of pornographic material and was convicted. The United States Supreme Court overturned her conviction in a 6-3 decision as they were forced to exclude the evidence obtained in contravention of the 4th Amendment. Going by this precedent, bong and baggie of marijuana cannot be used as evidence against Abby and Bobby. Nonetheless the bong and baggie of marihuana could still be seized upon obtaining a search warrant has to be obtained before they can be taken for examination by forensics experts to confirm that they are actually marijuana.
The shotgun that was discovered subsequent to the discovery of the bong and baggie of marijuana also raises the issue of admissibility on two main grounds . The first ground is that the shotgun was discovered and obtained without a search warrant and the second ground is that the shotgun was only discovered upon a search instigated after the discovery of a bong and baggie of marijuana that was made without a search warrant. The same can be said to be in contravention to the Fourth Amendment rights. Further, the doctrine of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree applies in the discovery of the shotgun. This doctrine owes its origin to Silverthorne Lumber Co. v United States where Federal agents illegally seized the company’s tax documents and made copies of them. The United States Supreme Court declared the illegally obtained evidence inadmissible and extended the exclusion to the copies of the documents already excluded from evidence. The doctrine is an extension of the exclusionary rule to illegally obtained evidence (evidence obtained without a search warrant or evidence obtained in contravention of the Fourth Amendment rights. This doctrine extends the exclusion of evidence to evidence discovered subsequent to the illegally obtained evidence/evidence obtained without a search warrant or evidence obtained in contravention of the Fourth Amendment Rights. Nonetheless the shotgun could still be seized upon obtaining a search warrant has to be obtained before the gun can be seized for examination by a ballistic expert.
Abby’s statement to the effect that she would go and bail Bobby out after selling the goods can also not be used against her because the same statement could only be deciphered after the discovery of the bong and baggie of marijuana. Without the discovery of the same, the statement could not have been deemed incriminatory and as such the doctrine of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree extends the exclusion to Abby’s statement mainly because her statement could only be given meaning in connection to the bong and baggie of marijuana which were illegally obtained and/or obtained upon contravention of the Fourth Amendment Rights of Abby. Silverthorne Lumber Co. v United States can also be relied on to explain the application of the doctrine in this circumstance . Unlike the bong and baggie of marijuana and the shotgun which may still have a chance of fighting in court if seized upon obtaining a search warrant, Abby’s statement cannot be used against her at all.
That notwithstanding, there is probable cause to arrest Abby to be charged, Abby can be charged with Affray and other related charges that involve causing disturbances. Abby can also be arrested and charged with assault on Bobby. In order to secure a search warrant it must identify the person/persons or property to be searched, identify any person/persons or property to be seized, and the magistrate or judge to whom it must be returned. The scope of the warrant would only be to the extent of searching both Abby and Bobby in person and their house for drugs and firearms based on the fact that Bobby pulled a gun on Abby and had bloodshot eyes; for those reasons they could also be searched upon arrival at the precinct.
In the circumstance, Both Bobby and Abby could be searched in person because Bobby pulled a firearm and it was possible that Abby could have also possessed a firearm to defend herself. The legal ground for this search without a warrant is both in case law and Statute which both give an array of circumstances under which a police officer can conduct a search without obtaining a warrant. The other officers Act of not getting into the house and looking for evidence was in order with the general practice and their act of calling for backup was also in order since they alone could not contain the situation.
In conclusion, there was probable cause for arresting Abby on grounds of causing public disturbance, assault and/or affray and/or being in possession of marijuana. Bobby can be arrested for causing public disturbance, assault and/or affray and/or being in possession of marijuana and being in possession of firearms in addition to attempted murder of Abby all of which can only achieve a conviction if a search warrant is properly and duly obtained.
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