case requires us to consider the "independent source
doctrine, " which is a recognized exception to the
exclusionary rule under article I, section 7 of the
Washington State Constitution. The superior court admitted
into evidence Ray Betancourth's cell phone records, which
were initially obtained under a jurisdictionally invalid
district court warrant. Though a valid superior court warrant
was subsequently issued for the same records, police did not
physically return and reseize the evidence. In upholding
admission of the cell phone records, the Court of Appeals
fashioned what it deemed an "invalidity correction
corollary" to the independent source doctrine. State
v. Betancourth, No. 32683-7-III, slip op. at 43-44
(Wash.Ct.App. Dec. 8, 2016) (unpublished), http://
Betancourth argues that this corollary improperly interjects
reasonableness or good faith considerations that are
incompatible with our state constitutional privacy rights.
affirm the Court of Appeals. While we do not embrace the
notion of an "invalidity correction corollary, " we
agree with the lower courts that the exclusionary rule does
not apply in this case. We hold that Betancourth's cell
phone records were admissible under our existing independent
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 19, 2012, Betancourth assembled a group of friends
to look for Terrance Frank, whom Betancourth suspected of
breaking his car windows a few days earlier. 8 Verbatim
Report of Proceedings (VRP) (June 20, 2014) at 1211-12.
Betancourth drove the group around in his pickup truck until
they located Frank walking down the sidewalk with two other
men, Jordan Lemus and Jose Rodriguez. Betancourth's group
exited the truck and chased after Frank, Lemus, and
Rodriguez. Betancourth turned back after realizing he had
left his truck running, while his friends chased Lemus and
Rodriguez into an alley. Betancourth's friend, Marco
Cardenas, pulled out a pistol and fired twice, killing
Rodriguez. 6 VRP (June 18, 2014) at 919.
September 21, 2012, Toppenish police seized Betancourth's
truck after witnesses identified the vehicle as having been
used by Rodriguez's attackers. 1 VRP (Feb. 10, 2014) at
32-33. Betancourth arrived at the police station with his
father and consented to an interview with Toppenish
detectives. After the interview, Toppenish police obtained
Betancourth's cell phone number. Later that afternoon,
Detective Damon Dunsmore sent a preservation letter to
Verizon Wireless to preserve records from September 19th to
September 25th associated with Betancourth's number.
Verizon preserved the phone records as requested.
September 25, 2012, the Yakima County District Court granted
a search warrant ordering Cellco Partnership, d/b/a Verizon
Wireless, to provide Betancourth's cell phone records,
including text messages, from September 19 to September 25,
2012. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 215, 9-14. Detective
Dunsmore faxed the warrant to Verizon's custodian of
records in New Jersey, and Verizon provided the requested
phone records to Detective Dunsmore in pdf format via e-mail.
Id. at 9, 69.
October 9, 2012, Toppenish police called Betancourth back in
for questioning. Betancourth denied any involvement in the
crime. 8 VRP (June 20, 2014) at 1172. Police then showed
Betancourth text messages from his cell, including a text
message exchange with his girlfriend, Nancy Arriaga, where
Betancourth told Arriaga he wanted to '"beat the
shit [out of] them."' 7 VRP (June 19, 2014) at 1122.
Toppenish police also played Betancourth an audio recording
of Arriaga's statement. As the audio played, Betancourth
stated, '"Guess you know what happened
then.'" 8 VTP (June 20, 2018) at 1179. Toppenish
police arrested Betancourth the following day.
September 2013, almost a year after Betancourth's arrest,
a Yakima County Superior Court judge ruled in a separate case
that RCW 10.96.060 authorizes only superior courts to issue
warrants for the records of out-of-state
companies. Based on this ruling, Deputy Prosecuting
Attorney David Soukup, who was assigned to Betancourth's
case, contacted Toppenish Police Department Detective Jaban
Brownell and requested that he obtain a new warrant for the
Verizon phone records from a superior court judge. Soukup
requested that Detective Brownell use exactly the same
information he had used in obtaining the search warrant from
the district court judge. Essentially, the new warrant was
intended to cure a jurisdictional defect in the prior
October 9, 2013, Detective Brownell presented an affidavit
for probable cause to Yakima County Superior Court Judge
Susan Hahn. The affidavit was essentially identical to the
affidavit used in September 2012. The only information
Detective Brownell added was that the district court had
granted a search warrant on the same information, and that he
had been requested by the prosecutor's office to reapply
for the warrant from a superior court judge. Id.
Judge Hahn authorized the search warrant that day.
October 15, 2013, Detective Dunsmore faxed the new warrant to
the custodian of records at Verizon Legal Compliance located
in Texas. The facsimile face page stated, '"These
records were requested by a district court warrant
previously. Based on [a] recent court ruling they need to be
based on a superior court warrant.'" CP at 216. The
warrant did not request any additional information or records
from Verizon. Verizon did not produce any records in response
to the 2013 warrant because, as Verizon's executive
relations analyst later testified, "[i]t would have been
for the same information we had already provided."
Id.; 2 VRP (June 2, 2014) at 147.
trial, Betancourth moved to suppress the Verizon cell phone
records. Betancourth argued that the records were obtained as
a result of an unlawful search and seizure because the 2012
district court warrant was invalid and Toppenish police
failed to obtain a second set of records pursuant to the 2013
superior court warrant. The trial court denied
Betancourth's motion to suppress the text messages. 2 VRP
(June 2, 2014) at 185-87. Without expressly mentioning the
independent source doctrine in its ruling, the trial court
stated that producing the records again would be fruitless
and any violation of the statute was technical in nature.
Id. at 186-87. Betancourth was ultimately found
guilty of second degree felony murder and first degree
Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling
allowing admission of the Verizon phone
records. Although the appellate court agreed with
Betancourth that the independent source doctrine did not
apply, at least not in its classic form, the court held that
the records were admissible under a corollary to the
independent source doctrine, which it called the
"invalidity correction corollary."
Betancourth, slip op. at 43-44. Under this
corollary, "[e]vidence seized through an invalid search
warrant need not be returned and reseized once the State
garners a later valid search warrant as long as the invalid
warrant does not taint the valid warrant." Id.
at 42 (italics omitted). Finding that the phone records were
properly admitted at trial, the Court of ...