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Second Circuit — Probable Cause: United States v. Stokes

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circui

Probable Cause

Inevitable Discovery — Contingencies Precluding Probable Cause

United States v. Stokes
Judges Winter, Hall and Lynch

Background: The defendant appealed from a judgment convicting him of one count of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and one count of possession of a machine gun. The defendant argued that the court erred in denying his suppression motion when it concluded that the firearms would have been inevitably discovered even if law enforcement officers had not illegally entered the defendant’s motel room.

Ruling: The Second Circuit vacated and remanded.  The court found that the district court failed to adequately consider other plausible contingencies that might not have resulted in the guns’ discovery. The district court had erroneously believed that the guns would have been discovered when the defendant checked out of his motel room. However, the defendant was not the only guest registered to the motel room. Further, the defendant may have left the motel room without the guns, thereby negating any probable cause to search the room.

Barry D. Leiwant for the defendant-appellant; Benjamin Allee, assistant United States attorney, for the appellee