Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Farias-Gonzalez: Identity Not Suppressible

In U.S. v. Farias-Gonzalez, No. 08-10508 (Feb. 3, 2009), the Court held that "identity-related evidence," i.e., evidence of who the defendant is, obtained after an unconstitutional search and seizure, is not suppressible in a criminal prosecution.
The Court assumed arguendo that a Fourth Amendment violation occurred when the defendant was told to lift his shirt, revealing identifying gang marks. The Court noted, however, that applying the cost-benefit analysis of the exclusionary rule, the exclusion of identity-related evidence is not justified, because the deterrence benefits do not outweigh the social costs.
Permitting a defendant to hide who he is would undermine the administration of the criminal justice system, and preclude sentence enhancements based on prior criminal history. Moreover, the deterrent effect of preclusion is minimal, because there is little point in deterring the police from asking a suspect to identify himself, and the identity evidence can be obtained by other means, that is, without implicating the Fourth Amendment. For the same reason, the Court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress his alien file.