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United States v. Moody

decided: May 12, 1981.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARVALENE MOODY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT .



Appeal from judgment entered on a guilty plea by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Nickerson, J.) for importing and possessing heroin with the intent to distribute in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a), 960(a)(1) and 841(a)(1). Affirmed.

Before Lumbard and Newman, Circuit Judges, and Werker, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Werker

Appellant Marvalene Moody appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on a guilty plea in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Nickerson, J.) for importing and possessing heroin with the intent to distribute in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a), 960(a)(1) and 841(a)(1). Appellant's plea of guilty was entered pursuant to a court-approved agreement preserving her right to appeal the denial of her motion to suppress physical evidence seized from her by a United States Custom Patrol Officer and statements made by her during a border search. On this appeal, Moody challenges the denial of the suppression motion and Judge Nickerson's consideration of appellant's failure to cooperate with government authorities in determining her sentence.

FACTS

On August 27, 1980, Customs Patrol Officer Diane Hanson, while on duty at the International Arrivals Building at Kennedy Airport, was observing passengers arriving on a flight from Brussels. Officer Hanson first noticed Moody in line at the inspection belt waiting to be cleared. Hanson's suspicions were aroused when she observed that appellant appeared nervous while on line, "looking around and glancing all over the place." As appellant approached the inspection station, Officer Hanson noticed a bulky appearance around appellant's midriff. Officer Hanson noted that the "series of lines from one hip to the other" did not appear to be part of Moody's anatomy which was otherwise "very skinny." In addition, Hanson observed that Moody was only carrying two small pieces of luggage.

After appellant passed the inspection station, Officer Hanson approached her, identified herself as a Customs Officer and asked to see appellant's passport and Customs declaration. In response to Officer Hanson's questions, Moody stated that she was unemployed and had been vacationing in Brussels for two weeks. She also said that she did not have any friends or relatives in Brussels. Hanson then took appellant to a room in the Customs area where they were joined by Customs Officer Hardy. Hanson inspected the contents of Moody's luggage and inquired as to an item found in the luggage. Moody responded that a friend had given her the item in Brussels. Hanson also found a note in appellant's luggage reading "City, Antwerp, 258818, ask Vera or Hop."

While conducting a "patdown" of Moody, Hanson felt a rubbery thickness around her midriff. Appellant stated that she was wearing a girdle. Continuing the patdown, Hanson felt a powdery substance which she described as "caked talcum powder" in Moody's crotch. After further inquiry, Hanson told Moody that she wanted to see what she felt in the back between Moody's buttocks. After Moody pulled down her girdle, Hanson observed a plastic bag which she asked Moody to remove. Officer Hardy, who had been observing the patdown, asked Moody what the package was and Moody responded, "it is heroin." The contents of the plastic bag were field tested. Appellant was arrested and advised of her rights.

Appellant moved to suppress the physical evidence as well as her statements on the grounds that (1) there were insufficient grounds for a secondary search; (2) that the strip search was unreasonable; and (3) that appellant's statement should be suppressed absent Miranda warnings. After a hearing on appellant's motion, Judge Nickerson found that the Customs Officer had conducted a valid border search, and that in any event, there was "reasonable suspicion" to search Moody's person even if it were not considered a routine border search. With respect to appellant's motion to suppress her statement, Judge Nickerson ruled that it was admissible, analogizing the search to an investigative stop pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968).

Appellant's counsel submitted a sentence memorandum to the district court in which he stated that "Ms. Moody contends that her refusal to cooperate is based upon constitutional protection and morally defensible motives." Emphasizing his concern over appellant's failure to cooperate, Judge Nickerson sentenced Moody as a youth offender, noting that if she cooperated, a motion for reduction of sentence could be filed on her behalf.

On appeal, appellant argues that (1) her detention and search does not qualify as a valid border search; (2) the strip search was unreasonable; (3) her statement "it is heroin" is inadmissible under Miranda; and (4) the trial court erred in considering her failure to cooperate in determining her sentence.

Discussion

Border Search

The fourth amendment proscription against unreasonable searches is not violated by routine border searches. United States v. Nieves, 609 F.2d 642, 645 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1085, 100 S. Ct. 1044, 62 L. Ed. 2d 771 (1980). Moody contends that absent knowledge on the part of Officer Hanson that Moody was engaged in criminal behavior, Hanson was prohibited from initiating a secondary search, to wit, questioning her in the Customs area and the subsequent examination. In support of her contention, appellant relies upon language in Nieves and interprets that language as requiring "more than a combination of time and place in order to transform a secondary search into a valid border search." It is the element of knowledge, appellant argues, that is missing under these facts.

This contention must be rejected. Although imaginative, appellant's reliance upon Nieves is misplaced. The language quoted by appellant relates to extended border searches and this case clearly cannot be construed as such. Appellant was stopped in the Customs area immediately upon leaving the inspection belt. Under these circumstances, appellant's detention and subsequent search need not be analyzed in light of the factors relevant to the inquiry concerning the validity of an extended border search. Similarly, appellant's reliance upon investigative stop cases is unhelpful. As noted in Nieves, the law governing inspection of individuals ...


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