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U.S. v. Hammons – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In U.S. v. Hammons, 152 F.3d 1025 (8th Cir. 1998), officers stopped a vehicle rented in Mrs. Hammons' name, and Mrs. Hammons, an occupant, consented to a search.

During the course of the search, the officer found a garment bag containing a manila envelope. By the time the officer was ready to open the envelope, he was aware that the bag belonged not to Mrs. Hammons, but to Mr. Hammons; thus, he could not reasonably believe that he had Mrs. Hammons consent to search the envelope, rather, he needed to obtain consent from Mr. Hammons.

After advising Mr. Hammons that he would call a drug dog to conduct a sniff test of the package, Mr. Hammons involuntarily consented to a search of the envelope. The officer then opened the envelope, which contained cocaine.

In holding that the inevitable discovery doctrine applied, the court concluded that "the only event that stopped the officer from calling the drug-canine unit before the officer opened the envelope was the defendant's consent . . . . We therefore find that a substantial, alternative line of investigation was underway which would have led to the inevitable discovery of the cocaine absent the police misconduct." Id. at 1030.