After Daniel Van Linn was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, a sheriff’s deputy ordered his blood drawn for testing. This draw was illegal, and the circuit court excluded its fruit. After the suppression decision, the prosecutor applied for a subpoena to the hospital where Mr. Van Linn had been treated; the application included the results of the first, suppressed blood test. The court issued the subpoena and the hospital turned over evidence including the results of the blood alcohol test it had conducted. Was the state’s decision to seek this subpoena the fruit of its earlier, unlawful search, such that its results should have been suppressed?
This case asks a question about the independent-source exception to the fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree doctrine. That doctrine, as articulated in Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533, 542 (1988), permits the government to introduce evidence it obtained by legal means–even if it also obtained the evidence by an earlier Fourth Amendment violation. But Murray also says the later (warranted) search can’t be “a genuinely independent source” if either law enforcement’s decision to seek a warrant or a court’s decision to issue a warrant were affected by the earlier (unlawful) search. Here, the prosecutor did not seek Van Linn’s hospital blood-test results until the police blood-test results had been suppressed. Van Linn thus argues that the prosecutor’s decision to get those hospital results was prompted by the earlier search in two ways. First, the fact that the earlier search was illegal, leading to suppression, motivated the subpoena to the hospital: there would have been no need to get the hospital results if the police results hadn’t been suppressed. Second, what the prosecutor learned from the illegal search–Mr. Van Linn’s BAC–also influenced his decision; he wouldn’t have had any reason to seek confirmation of these results had they not been incriminating.