Discovering Outstanding Warrant After Police Stop Without Legal Justification

In United States v. Green, 111 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 1997), police officers stopped a vehicle without legal justification and, during the stop, discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for the passenger, Avery Green. 111 F.3d at 517. After they arrested Avery, the officers obtained permission from the driver, David Green, to search the car, whereby they found drugs and a gun, which in turn led to criminal charges against David Green. The trial court denied David Green's motion to suppress, and after he was convicted, he appealed this ruling. The Seventh Circuit accepted that the initial stop was not justified. Id. at 520. To determine whether the causal chain of events was sufficiently attenuated to dissipate the taint of the illegal stop, the court then applied the above three factors. First, the Green court found that only about five minutes had elapsed between the illegal stop of the Greens and the search of the car. Id. at 521. Thus, the court held that the first of the Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975) factors weighed against finding the search attenuated but that this factor was not dispositive. The court next considered the presence of intervening circumstances, which included an outstanding arrest warrant. The intervening circumstances of this case, because they are not outweighed by flagrant official misconduct, dissipate any taint caused by the illegal stop of the Greens. Specifically, after stopping the Green brothers, the officers discovered there was a warrant for Avery Green. Accordingly, the officers arrested Avery. With the right to arrest Avery came the right to conduct a search incident to an arrest. . . . . . . Because the arrest is lawful, a search incident to the arrest is also lawful. The lawful arrest of Avery constituted an intervening circumstance sufficient to dissipate any taint caused by the illegal automobile stop. (Green, 111 F.3d at 521.) As stated, the Green court weighed the third factor, "the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct," against the intervening circumstance. The court found that while the stop of the Green vehicle did not meet constitutional standards, there was no bad faith on the part of the police, and the police action was not flagrant. The court found important that the police did not "exploit the stop in order to search the automobile. Rather the search came only after they learned that Avery was wanted on a warrant and arrested him." Id. at 523.