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United States v. Humphrey

May 23, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. Lowe, United States Magistrate Judge


Defendant Jennifer A. Humphrey ("Defendant") has been charged by Information with knowingly or intentionally possessing marijuana. Dkt. No. 1. She has moved for suppression of the marijuana, claiming a Fourth Amendment violation of her rights. Dkt. No. 4. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied.


The following constitute my findings of fact, based upon Defendant's moving affidavit (Dtk. No. 6) and witness testimony and exhibits presented at an evidentiary hearing.

Defendant's husband was in the Army, and he was assigned for duty at Fort Drum. On June 19, 2005, Defendant, her husband, and their children checked into Room H144 at the Fort Drum Inn ("the Inn"), to await the availability of more permanent housing. According to Defendant's moving affidavit, they "left the room at The Inn at 11:00 A.M. on July 6, 2005, with all our bags and our three children" and they "left the keys in the room." Dkt. No. 6 ¶¶ 4, 6. Defendant's husband paid the lodging bill.

Sometime after 11:00 a.m. on July 6, 2005, the Inn's front desk notified the housekeeping staff that Room H144 had been vacated. A staff member entered Room H144 and performed housekeeping services. Upon completion of those services Deborah Bogenschutz, a housekeeping supervisor, inspected the room to ensure that it was clean and up to standards for the Inn's next guest. Among other things, she opened closets and drawers, to see if they were clean and if belongings had been left behind by a guest. These inspection activities are part of the Inn's standard procedures. Ms. Bogenschutz's duties have nothing to do with law enforcement.

While inspecting the room Ms. Bogenschutz observed a small purse in the bottom drawer of a dresser. The purse was not fully closed, and Ms. Bogenschutz saw a package of rolling papers that apparently had slid out of the purse. She also saw an identification card in the purse's first compartment. She picked up the purse and observed a clear baggie sticking out of the unzipped top. She opened the bag fully and saw that the baggie contained what she assumed to be marijuana. There were other items in the purse as well.

Ms. Bogenschutz promptly left the room, with the intention of taking the purse and its contents to the front desk, when she immediately came into contact with another of the Inn's supervisors, Randy Gillette. Because Mr. Gillette was more senior in tenure at the Inn, Ms. Bogenschutz told him what was in the purse and gave it to him, on the assumption that he would know better than she what to do with it.

Mr. Gillette decided to take the purse to Janet Hunter, the Inn's lodging manager, whose office was about a mile away. He drove there, reported to Ms. Hunter what had occurred, and she instructed him to call the MPs. He did so, advising them that a purse containing illegal paraphernalia had been found at the Inn. Neither Mr. Gillette nor Ms. Hunter opened the purse, and none of the contents of the purse were visible to them. The duties of Mr. Gillette and Ms. Hunter have nothing to do with law enforcement.

Police Officer Matthew Noyes and another law enforcement person arrived at Ms. Hunter's office shortly thereafter. Mr. Gillette took the purse from Ms. Hunter's office to his office, immediately adjacent to Hunter's. Mr. Gillette observed Officer Noyes open the purse, flip it over, and empty the contents onto a desk.

Officer Noyes testified that when he was given the purse by Mr. Gillette it was open and he saw a clear plastic baggie sticking out of the top of the purse. He stated he spread the baggie open, concluded that it contained marijuana, and called his supervisor to request that a "drug team" be made available. He testified that he then emptied the contents of the purse onto the desk. Officer Noyes stated that if the purse had been closed, and the baggie had not been in plain view, he would have been required to obtain a warrant to open the purse.

In response to Officer Noyes' request, Investigator Sean Keyes of the Criminal Investigation Division reported to Mr. Gillette's office. He conducted a field test on very minute amounts of the substances that were present in two baggies. The tests were positive, indicating that the substances were marijuana.

Finally, I find that the Inn's Standard Operating Procedure ("SOP") for "lost and found" items (Government's Ex.1)was not followed with respect to the purse and certain of the Humphreys' toiletries. However, it is not clear that this SOP would be applicable to contraband. In addition, based upon the evidence presented at the hearing, I find that the Inn's ...

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