United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
OPINION & ORDER
Coke Morgan, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
matter came before the Court upon Alexander Santiago's
(''Defendant's") Motion to Suppress, filed
April 14, 2017, wherein Defendant requests that the Court
suppress "all evidence recovered from searches of Mr.
Santiago's person, his phone, and his residences as such
statements and evidence were obtained in violation of the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Doc. 14. The Government filed a Response on April 20, 2017.
Doc. 17. On May 10, 2017, the Court convened a hearing, heard
evidence and argument on the Motion, and ruied from the
bench. The Court DENIED Defendant's
Motion and now issues this Opinion and Order setting forth
the reasons for its ruling in further detail.
Eric Kempf of Newport News, currently assigned to the Drug
Enforcement Administration ("DEA") task force in
Hampton, testified that he was the case agent for the
DEA's surveillance of Defendant, lie monitored phone
calls related to two (2) undercover buys of heroin from
Defendant and related to arranging a third buy. After the
first and second purchases, his informant arranged for a
delivery of eight (8) ounces of heroin to Williamsburg Outlet
Mall on January 5, 2017. Detective Kempf testified that the
task force arranged for a traffic stop on 1-64 on January 5,
2017, because they were unsure when Defendant would have the
heroin on him. They believed that once he was past 1-295 in
New Kent County, he was committed to heading toward
Williamsburg and likely had the heroin on him. Detective
Kempf testified that the purpose of using a traffic stop was
to ensure safety because Defendant was less likely to react
in an unsafe manner to a traffic stop on the highway.
Jeffrey Turlington and David Phillips of the same task force
testified regarding their surveillance of Defendant in
Richmond on January 5, 2017, including observing him leaving
Richmond as a passenger in a beige Chevy Tahoe. They briefed
Sergeant Mason Edwards ("Sergeant Edwards") and
Trooper Christopher Page ("Trooper Page") of the
Virginia State Police regarding Defendant's background,
including the prior purchases and the arranged third
purchase. Virginia State Police ("VSP") Trooper
Kyle Jackson ("Trooper Jackson") testified that
Sergeant Edwards relayed that information to him, Trooper
Page, Trooper Jamal Johnson ("Trooper Johnson"),
and Trooper Heath Miller. Trooper Page confirmed he was at
the task force briefing, and Trooper Johnson confirmed he was
at a later briefing.
Johnson stopped the beige Chevy Tahoe in which Defendant was
a passenger for a traffic infraction around mile marker 212
on 1-64 on January 5, 2017. The driver was a man named Andrew
Brydie ("Brydie"), and Defendant was a passenger.
Trooper Johnson was seeking to stop Defendant because he knew
about the two (2) prior sales and that Defendant was en route
to Williamsburg to sell heroin. He testified that he stopped
the vehicle when he saw it following a silver pick-up in
front of it too closely, in violation of Va. Code §
approached the vehicle, Trooper Johnson smelled marijuana in
the vehicle, and he asked Brydie to exit the vehicle and
accompany him back to the patrol car, which Brydie did. While
Trooper Johnson and Brydie were talking, Trooper Page brought
a narcotics dog to the vehicle, and the dog gave a positive
alert for drugs between the doors on the passenger's side
of the vehicle on the second pass. One of the troopers then
asked Defendant to exit the vehicle.
Jackson arrived on scene after Trooper Johnson had pulled the
vehicle over on the side of the road. He searched the vehicle
for any hidden compartments. After not finding any heroin but
knowing that Defendant intended to sell heroin, he decided to
search Defendant directly. He testified that he found a large
bulge between Defendant's two rear pockets. He shook
Defendant's waist band, at which point the bag fell lower
in the pants. Fearing that the heroin had fentanyl, he
decided to remove it right then before it could harm
Defendant or one of the officers involved. He obtained latex
gloves from one of the other troopers, unzipped
Defendant's pants, and reached in where he found a pocket
on the bottom of the underwear, underneath the genitalia
region of the underwear, that contained a large bag with
three smaller bags inside of it. He then gave the bags to
Detective Kempf. He testified that he did not perform a
cavity search, both because it would be improper on the side
of the road and because he did not need to perform such a
search after locating the drugs.
Jackson also testified that he performed an additional
search, which was not a strip search, of Defendant at a rest
stop subsequent to the initial search on the side of the
road. This additional search was a search for weapons before
taking Defendant to prison. He found nothing additional on
Warrantless Arrest and Probable Cause
is well-settled under Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that a
police officer may lawfully arrest an individual in a public
place without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to
believe that the individual has committed, is committing, or
is about to commit a crime." United States v.
Dickey-Bey. 393 F.3d 449, 453-54 (4th Cir. 2004)
(citations omitted). This extends to circumstances where an
officer has probable cause to believe that "even a very
minor criminal offense" was committed in his presence.
Atwater v. City of Laeo Vista 532 U.S. 318, 354
(2001) (finding sufficient probable cause to uphold
warrantless arrest for Defendant who failed to wear seatbelt,
as required by Texas law).
cause to justify an arrest exists where "facts and
circumstances within the officer's knowledge that are
sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable
caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the
suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit
an offense." Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S.
31, 37 (1979) (listing cases); see also Dickey-Bey,
393 F.3d at 453.