United States v. Lee Saint Fleur

The Federal Docket

March 10, 2019

United States v. Lee Saint Fleur, No. 18-11309 (February 20, 2019), UNPUBLISHED

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress based on the independent source doctrine. The officer’s affidavit in support of the application for a search warrant contained sufficient evidence to support probable cause based on his initial entry into the apartment even without the information or observations obtained during his second, illegal reentry.

Fourth Amendment/Search Warrants – Officer’s illegal reentry into apartment did not invalidate later search warrant since his affidavit was based on observations and information he obtained prior to the illegal reentry and were sufficient on their own to establish probable cause under the independent source doctrine.

Fourth Amendment/Search Warrants – Warrant was not invalid solely because the supporting affidavit incorrectly listed the defendant’s sister as a co-tenant and excluded her inconsistent statements and history of accusations, as this information was not material.

Lee Saint Fleur appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained during law enforcement’s search of his apartment, which led to charges of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon (§ 922(g), possession of unauthorized access devices (§ 1029(a), and aggravated identity theft (§ 1028A).

Law enforcement arrived at Saint Fleur’s apartment in response to a domestic disturbance involving Saint Fleur and his sister. Law enforcement initially entered the apartment with Saint Fleur to check the damage caused by his sister and noticed multiple gift cards and credit cards in plain view, which Saint Fleur claimed as his.

When the officer left the apartment to speak to Saint Fleur’s sister, she informed him that Saint Fleur “does credit card fraud” and described a card scanner he used to configure credit cards’ magnetic strips. Without Saint Fleur’s consent, the officer went back inside the apartment, where he saw more cards, a scanner used to swipe cards, and two embossing devices used to stamp numbers onto cards.

Based on his observations from both entries into the apartment, officers obtained a search warrant. Saint Fleur challenged the warrant as based on information obtained during an illegal reentry into his apartment.

On appeal, the Court held that the evidence was admissible under the independent source doctrine. The Court first excised all of the information gained from the officer’s unlawful re-entry from the affidavit supporting the warrant. In this case, that meant excising the credit cards the detective observed upon re-entry, the scanner, and the embossing devices.

The Court held that the remaining portions of the affidavit still supported a finding of probable causes. The remaining portions still detailed the cards the officer saw on his initial entry, Saint Fleur claiming the cards as his, the sister’s statements that Saint Fleur was engaged in credit card fraud, and the cards the sister provided. These facts, the Court held, were sufficient to establish probable cause supporting a search of Saint Fleur’s apartment.

The Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the warrant was invalid due to the affidavit’s error in describing the sister as a “co-tenant” and the affidavit’s omission of the sister’s inconsistent statements and prior accusations against Saint Fleur. The Court held that the statements were not material or necessary to establish probable cause and, though co-tenancy would have been material to the question of whether the sister could consent to the officer’s re-entry, the affidavit only focused on her residence as a basis for her knowledge regarding Saint Fleur’s credit cards, not her apparent consent to search.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida

Per Curiam Opinion by W. Pryor, Jordan, and Grant

TAGS: Fourth Amendment

Page Pate - Page Pate is an accomplished trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience in criminal defense, civil litigation, and whistleblower representation. Page is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Top 100 Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers, and named to the list of Super Lawyers for the past 15 consecutive years. Page is a frequent expert legal analyst for local and national media and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia Law School. Read Page's reviews on AVVO. Follow Page on Twitter @pagepate and on Linkedin.

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