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A Recent Murder Case in PA Focuses on Little Known Legal Doctrine

May 21, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Many people are aware that the police are not allowed to search most areas, with the exception of vehicles, without a warrant. It is a right that is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, as well as the Constitution of Pennsylvania. However, a recent murder case in Pennsylvania brings those rights into question and raises the issue of the inevitable discovery doctrine. So, what is this doctrine, and how does it apply to criminal cases in Pennsylvania?

The Recent Case

The Pennsylvania Superior Court is currently hearing the case of a man, who is being accused of killing his girlfriend. The prosecution is arguing that the man killed his girlfriend in her own apartment after she tried to break up with him. The prosecution also alleges that the man then went home and tried to kill himself.

The defense attorney in the case is arguing that the prosecution only knows about the failed suicide attempt due to an illegal search the police performed. Law enforcement entered his home as part of a wellness check and did not have a warrant to enter the home. Instead, law enforcement asked the landlord to open the door. In reaction to the defense’s argument, the prosecution is countering that saying that due to the inevitable discovery doctrine, the evidence should be admissible in court.

Illegal Search and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that everyone in the country should be free from unreasonable search and seizures of their person, house, papers, and personal effects. When police officers want to conduct a search, they must show probable cause for the search and obtain a warrant for that search. The exception, of course, is vehicles that have been pulled over during a traffic stop.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania largely mirrors the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 8 of the state Constitution also states that everyone has the right to be free from search and seizures unless law enforcement has obtained a search warrant.

Inevitable Discovery

Although everyone is free from illegal search and seizures, the inevitable discovery rule makes an exception for some searches that would otherwise be deemed illegal. This doctrine states that when evidence would have been discovered in a legal search, the evidence should be considered admissible. In the most recent case, the prosecution is arguing that the evidence of the man’s injuries and the suicide note would have been discovered even if law enforcement had legally searched the home.

Are You Facing Charges? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime is always frightening, but you do not have to go through it alone. If you have been charged, call our Allentown criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim. We know the defenses available, and will take law enforcement and the prosecution to task when they use illegal measures against those accused. When you need help, call us at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.



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