Man’s 10-year cocaine sentence upheld by 7th Circuit

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s argument that the drugs seized at his home with a warrant following his arrest should have been excluded from determining his sentence after the District judge ruled the warrant was invalid.

Tyler Sanders pleaded guilty to possessing more than 50 grams of cocaine base with the intent to distribute. At sentencing, the District judge found he possessed more than 500 grams of cocaine or cocaine base and sentenced him to 120 months. Most of that cocaine considered in sentencing was based on drugs seized from his house. There was a warrant, but the judge invalidated it and ruled the evidence seized from the house could not be used against him at trial because some information was recklessly omitted.

Sanders argued in United States of America v. Tyler Sanders, 13-1301, that the judge should have prohibited use of that evidence at sentencing, too. But the 7th Circuit disagreed, pointing to its decision in United States v. Brimah, 214 F.3d 854 (7th Circ. 2000), in which the court held the exclusionary rule does not apply at criminal sentencing.

Sanders keyed in on a footnote in that ruling that remarked the appeal did not present the question whether an “egregious” violation of the Fourth Amendment might justify suppressing at sentencing. Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote that for Sanders to succeed on appeal, he must persuade the court to create an “egregious violation” exception to the doctrine that the exclusionary rule does not apply to sentencing.

Easterbrook then laid out the reasons why that won’t work, including that the Supreme Court has held that the exclusionary rule does not apply to evidence obtained by officers who reasonably rely on a warrant or make certain kinds of negligent errors, Easterbrook wrote.

He also pointed out that an “egregious violation” exception is not necessary to deter officers from violating the Fourth Amendment – and deterrence is the goal of the exclusionary rule.

“The district judge did not err in following §3661 and considering the evidence found during the search of Sanders’s home,” he wrote.


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