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Wilder v. State, S10G1897, November 7, 2011: Search and Seizure of Locked Briefcase in home of another

Wilder v. State, S10G1897, November 7, 2011:Illegal Search of a Briefcase.  

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a Lincoln County Georgia Trial Court for child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child involving Wilder and a 15-year-old girl. The Georgia Supreme Court held that a person has to stand under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to challenge the seizure of his personal property, in this case, a locked briefcase, in the home of another.  The briefcase was illegally obtained from the home of the other person without a warrant and the consent of Defendant. Although he does not have to stand under the 4th Amendment to challenge the illegal search of another’s premises. He does have the standing to challenge the seizure of his locked briefcase.  This is the same right as a person’s right to challenge the illegal search of his luggage from the car of another. See, Mooney v. State, 243 Ga. 373 (1979).

As to the merits of the 4th Amendment challenge to the search of the briefcase, Wilder contended and the court agreed that the 4th Amendment protects from illegal “searches” and illegal “seizures.”  The State had obtained a search warrant to search the briefcase after it was illegally seized from the home of another. The District Attorney from Thompson, Georgia claimed that the independent source doctrine made the contents of the briefcase admissible.  The independent source doctrine makes illegally discovered evidence admissible when it was also obtained by legal means independently of the illegal search such as evidence discovered during an illegal search of a home which is later authorized to be searched by a proper warrant which was issued using evidence independent of the initial illegal search.  In this case, the illegal seizure made the legal search possible so there is no independent legal source for the seizure nor any possibility of inevitable discovery.  The Supreme Court found the seizure illegal, the evidence discovered inadmissibly, and reversed the conviction.

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