Unpublished Disposition, 895 F.2d 1418 (9th Cir. 1990)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 895 F.2d 1418 (9th Cir. 1990)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Michael BRET, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 89-10052.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Feb. 5, 1990.

Before SNEED, HUG, and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.


Michael Bret was charged with possessing approximately seventy-five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (1). Bret's identity, and ultimately his unlawful drug activities, were discovered after an unconstitutional entry into his room at Motel 6 to investigate an unrelated burglary.1 

Bret moved to suppress all evidence found as a result of the unconstitutional search, arguing that it was fruit of the poisonous tree. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963). The district court rejected Bret's motion to suppress. Bret entered a conditional guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute seventy-five kilograms of cocaine. This appeal followed. We affirm.

We review motions to suppress de novo. United States v. Andrade, 784 F.2d 1431, 1433 (9th Cir. 1986).

Motel 6

The police entered Bret's motel room in investigating a burglary of a nearby motel room occupied by Richard Park. The Government concedes that the police officers' unauthorized entry and search of Bret's room at Motel 6 violated Bret's Fourth Amendment rights. While conducting the search, the officers discovered a carbon copy of the motel registration slip identifying Bret as the occupant, as well as duffle bags belonging to Richard Park. The threshold question is whether the police would have lawfully identified Bret in the absence of their discovery of the slip and duffle bags in Bret's room at Motel 6.

Bret maintains that had the police not found the registration slip and the stolen bags after their unconstitutional entry into his motel room, they would not have pursued the investigation which ultimately led to his discovery and the discovery of the cocaine in his room at the Sequoia Motel. The Government, on the other hand, contends that the discovery of the cocaine was lawful, regardless of the unconstitutional search of Bret's room at Motel 6, because Bret's identity and the cocaine would have been inevitably discovered by the police during their routine investigation of the burglary of Park's motel room.

The inevitable discovery doctrine is an exception to the exclusionary rule. Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431 (1984). For the exception to apply, the prosecution must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the material seized would have been inevitably discovered by lawful means. Id. at 444. See also United States v. Merriweather, 777 F.2d 503, 506 (9th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1098 (1986). Here, a preponderance of the evidence indicates that the police officers would have inevitably discovered, by lawful means, Bret's identity and ultimately his presence and drug activities at the Sequoia Motel.

Shortly after the police officers arrived at Motel 6 at 3:40 a.m. to investigate the burglary of Park's room, they entered Bret's room. Statements by Park to the officers concerning a blond woman who was outside Bret's room led to a suspicion that the occupants of that room were involved in the burglary. This was the only lead they had and it led to their entry into Bret's room. This information did not justify the illegal entry.

However, Officer Rodriguez testified that had she not entered Bret's room, she would have requested the name of the room's occupant from the motel manager. Because Bret did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the motel registration slip in the manager's possession, United States v. Willis, 759 F.2d 1486, 1498 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 849 (1985), Bret's identity would have been lawfully discovered. Once Bret's identity was discovered, the police would reasonably have pursued their only lead in the same manner as they did after their unlawful entry into Bret's motel room. Thus, "the fact or likelihood that [made] the discovery [of the cocaine] inevitable [arose] from circumstances other than those disclosed by the illegal search itself." United States v. Boatwright, 822 F.2d 862, 864-65 (9th Cir. 1987).

The Sequoia Motel

The police officers did not have a search warrant when they entered the Sequoia Motel room in which Bret had been residing. "A warrantless entry into a hotel room must be justified by exigent circumstances." United States v. Andersson, 813 F.2d 1450, 1454 (9th Cir. 1987).

The district court cited a litany of factors that justified the police officers' warrantless entry into the Sequoia Motel room. The court noted that after knocking on the door and identifying themselves as police officers, the officers heard scuffling; that Bret opened the door in an agitated state with a syringe in one hand and a belt in the other; and that someone had just jumped out of the bathroom window. We agree with the district court that these are exigent circumstances which justified a warrantless entry into the Sequoia Motel room. See, e.g., United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1199 (9th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 824 (1984) (defining exigent circumstances as "those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry ... was necessary to prevent physical harm ... the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of the suspect ...").

Once inside the motel room, Officer Rodriquez saw cocaine on a mirror near a nightstand, and in a plastic bowl in a partially open dresser drawer. The Government claims that the warrantless seizure of this cocaine was proper because it was in plain view. See, e.g., United States v. Good, 780 F.2d 773, 775 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1111 (1986) (retrieval of revolver in truck lawful because in plain view). Although Bret contested the factual allegations in the district court, the court found Officer Rodriquez' testimony the most credible. Based on the record, this finding is not clearly erroneous. Thus, the seizure of this cocaine was proper under the plain view doctrine.

After viewing the cocaine, Officer Rodriguez testified that she placed Bret under arrest. The Government claims that Officer Rodriguez' subsequent warrantless search of a gym bag between the mattress and the box spring was lawful because it was incident to Bret's arrest. See Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969). We agree.

" [T]he critical inquiry in determining the propriety of a search incident to arrest is whether the search was properly limited to the area within the arrestee's immediate control." United States v. Vasey, 834 F.2d 782, 787 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing McConney, 728 F.2d at 1207). Here, both Officer Rodriguez and Officer Smith testified that Bret was arrested prior to the discovery of the gym bag underneath the mattress. Officer Rodriguez also testified that she searched under the bed because an agitated Bret refused to move from that area. She feared Bret was concealing weapons. This evidence supports the finding of the district judge that the warrantless search of the gym bag was proper. See, e.g., Andersson, 813 F.2d at 1455-56 (search of closed suitcase lawful as incident to arrest).

The Government also maintains that the warrantless search of the cereal box on the dresser was proper as incident to arrest. Officer Rodriguez testified that the cereal box was searched after Bret was arrested and escorted from the room. The box was therefore beyond Bret's immediate control. See, e.g., Vasey, 834 F.2d at 787 (search incident to arrest "does not allow the officers to presume that an arrestee is superhuman").

We nonetheless find this evidence admissible because it would have been inevitably discovered after the officers conducted a second search of the Sequoia Motel room with Bret's consent. See, e.g., Andrade, 784 F.2d at 1433 (evidence admissible because lawful inventory search likely) and discussion supra at pp. 3-4.

After being arrested and given his Miranda warnings, Bret made two confessions which led to the discovery of more cocaine. The district court found that Bret's confessions were neither coerced nor induced by the police. See United States v. Ceccolini, 435 U.S. 268 (1978). Bret does not challenge this finding on appeal. Rather, he argues that his confessions and the cocaine found as a result of the confessions were fruits of the unlawful search of his room at Motel 6. As we have noted, the discovery of Bret's identity following the burglary at the Motel 6 was inevitable. The later events followed from that identification. Because all events following the unconstitutional search of Bret's room at Motel 6 were constitutional, there is no basis for suppressing Bret's confessions and the cocaine found as a result of the confessions.



This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3


The district court found that the police officers' entry into Bret's room at Motel 6 violated Bret's Fourth Amendment rights. The Government concedes this point on appeal