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United States v. Chatmon

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 2, 2020




         Defendant Demario Chatmon was stopped in his car at noon on May 15, 2017, in Jamestown, NY. While he was being held, Jamestown Police (“JPD”) applied for and received a search warrant for his apartment, based on testimony from a confidential informant. After a search of Defendant's apartment found drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a gun, Defendant, still in police custody, was arrested. A search of his person at the police station after his arrest found drugs and money. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence found pursuant to the search of his apartment and the search of his person. (Docket Nos. 17, 28, 36.) This Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge McCarthy. (Docket No. 7.) Before this court now are Defendant's (Docket No. 128) and the government's (Docket No. 127) objections to two Reports and Recommendations (Docket Nos. 95, 110) regarding multiple suppression issues. For the following reasons, Judge McCarthy's Recommendations are adopted in part, and remanded in part for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural History

         On August 29, 2018, the Honorable Jeremiah J. McCarthy, United States Magistrate Judge, filed an interim decision and order in which he found that (1) the vehicle stop pursuant to which police held Defendant was not justified by reasonable suspicion, and (2) that there was no probable cause for the warrant to search his apartment. (Docket No. 45.) Because he found no probable cause for the warrant, Judge McCarthy scheduled a hearing on whether evidence derived from the apartment search should be suppressed, pursuant to United States v. Leon. This hearing was held on September 24, 2018. (Docket No. 56.) At the close of the hearing, Defendant requested that the hearing be held open to allow him time to further question the government's witness, Detective Kent, the officer who had applied for the warrant, and to present his own evidence. (Id.) Judge McCarthy initially indicated that the hearing might be held open, to allow Defendant to present his arguments. But after a series of delays and possible misunderstandings among the parties, the parties were instructed to proceed by briefing, with Defendant “permitted” to make additional arguments about why additional evidence was necessary. (Docket Nos. 71, 78, 82.)

         After many extensions of time, requested by Defendant's attorney, the parties held oral argument on the good faith issue on June 12, 2019. (Docket No. 90.) Defendant again asked that the good faith hearing not be closed, in the event that Judge McCarthy finds that the government had established good faith. (FTR Recording of Status Conference, 6/12/2019, Docket No. 90). The government objected and stated that it considered the hearing officially closed. A text order on June 13, 2019, instructed Defendant to immediately raise all issues not related to suppression. (Docket No. 91.) On July 9, 2019, Defendant moved to request subpoenas to compel witness testimony and the production of documents related to the issuance of the warrant. (Docket No. 94).

         On July 10, 2019, Judge McCarthy issued a Report and Recommendation finding that: (1) the traffic stop was not justified by reasonable suspicion; (2) the search of Defendant's apartment was supported by good faith exception, so that evidence seized pursuant to the warrant was admissible, and (3) denying Defendant's motion for subpoenas. (Docket No. 95.) The government moved for clarification, because Judge McCarthy did not directly state whether the evidence seized from Defendant's person was also admissible. (Docket No. 96.) Defendant moved for reconsideration, arguing that he had never had a chance to fully present his arguments at the good faith hearing. (Docket No. 104.) Judge McCarthy then issued a second Report and Recommendation, in which he (1) recommended that the evidence found on Defendant at the JPD station be suppressed and (2) reiterated his denial of Defendant's request for subpoenas, stating that Defendant had a chance to raise arguments for additional witnesses and had not made those arguments. (Docket No. 110.)

         Both the government and Defendant, represented by new counsel, filed objections to Judge McCarthy's Reports and Recommendations. (Docket Nos. 127, 128.) Defendant responded to the government's objections on November 19, 2019. (Docket No. 131.) The government responded to Defendant's objections on November 30, 2019. (Docket No. 132.) This Court has carefully reviewed the Reports and Recommendations and the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, this Court adopts the Recommendations in part and remands in part for further consideration.

         II. Evidence from the station search must be suppressed because the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion, nor was the seizure of Defendant supported by probable cause.

         Addressing first the issue of the evidence found on Defendant's person at the JPD station, this Court accepts Judge McCarthy's recommendation that it be suppressed. The government argues that probable cause to arrest Defendant arose after the informant gave the tip to Detective Kent, or after the informant's sworn in camera testimony, or after the search of Defendant's apartment. (Docket No. 127 at 27.) The government argues that the search was therefore a permissible search incident to a lawful arrest. In the alternative, the government argues that the search was a lawful “inventory” search, or that the evidence from the search is admissible as an “inevitable discovery” resulting from the traffic stop. (Id. at 27-28.)

         “The temporary detention of an individual during a traffic stop is subject to limitation under the Fourth Amendment as a ‘seizure' of the person.... The Fourth Amendment requires that an officer making such a stop have probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the person stopped has committed a traffic violation or is otherwise engaged in or about to be engaged in criminal activity.” United States v. Olavarria, No. 09 CR. 870 PGG, 2011 WL 1529190, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2011) (citing Holeman v. City of New London, 425 F.3d 184, 189 (2d Cir.2005)). “A stop based on reasonable suspicion must not detain a person longer than necessary to achieve the purpose of the stop.” Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614, 191 L.Ed.2d 492 (2015). Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are-or reasonably should have been-completed. Id.

         Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop may be based upon information from a confidential informant so long as the tip bears sufficient indicia of reliability. United States v. Elmore, 482 F.3d 172, 179 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 1924, 32 L.Ed.2d 612 (1972)).

         Unlike a brief traffic stop, where only reasonable suspicion is required, an arrest in public requires probable cause. United States v. Valentine, 539 F.3d 88, 93 (2d Cir. 2008); see also Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 370, 124 S.Ct. 795, 799, 157 L.Ed.2d 769 (2003) (“A warrantless arrest of an individual in a public place for a felony, or a misdemeanor committed in the officer's presence, is consistent with the Fourth Amendment if the arrest is supported by probable cause.”)

         An arrest occurs when, “in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 1877, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980)

         Probable cause for an arrest can arise from an informant's tip, but only if the tip possesses sufficient indicia of reliability, considering the totality of the circumstances. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 242, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 2334, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983). Reliability can be found through independent corroboration, police familiarity with the informant, the informant's track record, and his incentive in providing the tip. Id.

         It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for police to transport a person from a place where he is entitled to be, without a warrant or probable cause, to a police station, where he is detained for investigative purposes. Hayes v. Fla., 470 U.S. 811, 816, 105 S.Ct. 1643, 1647, 84 L.Ed.2d 705 (1985). (holding that fingerprint evidence resulting from involuntary transport of suspect to police station should be suppressed). See also Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721, 89 S.Ct. 1394, 22 L.Ed.2d 676 (1969).

         A warrantless search may be conducted incident to a lawful arrest but such a search may only include the arrestee's person and the area within his immediate control. Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 339, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 1716, 173 L.Ed.2d 485 (2009) (internal citations omitted). This limitation ensures that the scope of the search matches its purpose: protecting arresting officers and safeguarding any evidence of the offense of arrest that an arrestee might conceal or destroy. Id.

         A search as part of nondiscretionary booking procedures after a lawful arrest-a so-called “inventory search”-is another exception to the warrant requirement. See South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 96 S.Ct. 3092, 49 L.Ed.2d 1000 (1976). An inventory search does not require a warrant or probable cause because it is not done to detect crime or to serve criminal prosecutions, but rather “(1) to protect the owner's property while it is in police custody; (2) to protect the police against spurious claims of lost or stolen property; and (3) to protect the police from potential danger.” United States v. Lopez, 547 F.3d 364, 369-70 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Opperman, 428 U.S. at 369).

         Even when evidence is seized unlawfully, it can still be admitted if the government can show that the evidence would inevitably have been discovered lawfully. Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 444 (1984); see also U.S. v. Heath, 455 F.3d 52, 55 (2d Cir. 2006). The proof of the inevitable discovery “involves no speculative elements, ” and must focus on demonstrated historical facts. U.S. v. Eng, 971 F.2d 854, 859 (2d Cir. 1992).

         Here, the confidential informant spoke with Detective Kent sometime on the morning of May 15, 2017, and told him he had seen Defendant in possession of cocaine. Defendant was stopped in his car and detained between 12 and 1 PM on May 15, 2017. A search warrant of his apartment issued at 1:18 PM and the search of his apartment was completed at 3:10 PM. (Docket No. 17-1 at 29.) After the search revealed a firearm, ammunition, controlled ...

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