United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
RAYMOND A, JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Darryl Seay's Motion to Suppress.
Defendant moves this Court to suppress all physical evidence
seized as a result of what he alleges was an unconstitutional
search and seizure of a bag, and, specifically, a firearm
that law enforcement discovered. ECF No. 17. He also seeks to
suppress all statements made following the alleged illegal
October 16, 2017, Defendant was indicted on one count for
being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). ECF No.l. Defendant filed this
Motion to Suppress on November 29, 2017. The Government filed
a response in opposition, ECF No. 18, and the Defendant filed
a reply, ECF No. 20. On January 10, 2018, the Court held a
hearing on this matter and ruled on the motion from the bench
ECF No. 30. For the reasons stated on the record and
discussed below, Defendant's Motion to Suppress is
DENIED IN PART AND GRANTED IN PART. The
firearm is admissible, but any statements Defendant made
subsequent to discovery of the firearm are inadmissible.
October 27, 2016, officers of the Hampton Police Department
were dispatched to the Spring Hill Suites in Hampton,
Virginia in response to a trespassing complaint. Upon
arriving at the .hotel, hotel staff informed officers that
Devin Bracey ("Ms. Bracey") was no longer welcomed
on the premises because she repeatedly switched rooms and had
behaved in an aggressive and confrontational manner towards
staff members. Officers went to Ms. Bracey's room to
escort her from the room and premises. When officers arrived
at the room, the occupants refused to open the door for
approximately six minutes. Officers advised Ms. Bracey and
Defendant that they had been asked to leave the premises and
no longer had rights to the room. Ms. Bracey and Defendant
packed their belongings and exited the room. Defendant left
the room with a clear, plastic bag. After leaving the room,
officers began to search the room and recovered a glass
smoking device/crack pipe and gun ammunition in the toilet.
Upon finding these items, officers ordered Defendant and Ms.
Bracey back into the room and officers continued to search
the room. Officers recovered additional contraband items,
including four "push pods" and a metal spoon with
burn marks and apparent cocaine residue.
separated Defendant and Ms. Bracey, read them
Miranda rights, and individually interviewed them in
the hotel bathroom. An officer began searching the bags that
Defendant and Ms. Bracey had placed on the beds while
Defendant was in the bathroom for his interview with
officers. Inside the plastic bag, officers removed a red
jacket and discovered a handgun that matched the ammunition
found in the hotel toilet. After the search, both suspects
were placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station.
Subsequent to Defendant's arrest, Defendant made several
statements to the officers about the firearm found in the
plastic bag and his knowledge about the possession of the
February 24, 2017, a Special Agent of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, examined the firearm
recovered from the bag, and determined it had been
manufactured in Utah and had travelled in interstate commerce
to Virginia. Additionally, a criminal history check revealed
that Defendant had previously been convicted of a felony.
deciding a motion to suppress, the district court is
empowered to make findings of fact, and conclusions of law.
United States v. Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 541 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). "At a hearing on a
motion to suppress, the credibility of the witness and the
weight to be given the evidence, together with the
inferences, deductions and conclusions to be drawn from the
evidence, are all matters to be determined by the trial
judge." United States v. McKneely, 6 F.3d 1447,
1452-53 (10th Cir. 1993); see United States v.
Massey, 257 Fed.Appx. 662, 664 (4th Cir. 2007);
Columbus-Am. Discovery Group v. Atl Mut. Ins. Co.,
56 F.3d 556, 567 (4th Cir. 1995). As a general rule, the
burden of proof is on the defendant who seeks to suppress the
evidence. United States v. Dickerson, 655 F.2d 559,
561 (4th Cir. 1981). Once the defendant establishes a basis
for his suppression motion, the burden shifts to the
government. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164,
177-78 n.14 (1974).
Whether The Search And Seizure Of Defendant's Bag
Violated The Fourth Amendment
first contention is that law enforcement seized and searched
his bag without a warrant, and therefore violated the Fourth
Amendment. See ECF No. 17. As a result, Defendant
argues the firearm should be suppressed because police
officers discovered the firearm based on an illegal seizure
and search. Id. In opposition, the Government argues
that at the time of the search, there was probable cause to
arrest Defendant, and the subsequent search of the bag was
therefore conducted incident to a lawful arrest. ECF No. 18
at 4. Finally, the Government argues in the alternative that
the search was justified as a safety precaution pursuant to
an investigatory stop of Defendant. Id. at 8. Having
reviewed the parties' filings and arguments, the Court
finds that the search and seizure of Defendant's bag
violated the Fourth Amendment.
Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const,
amend. IV. The United States Supreme Court ("Supreme
Court") has held that "the Fourth Amendment
protects people, not places." Katz v. United
States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967). Accordingly, a search
under the Fourth Amendment occurs when the government invades
a person's "constitutionally protected reasonable
expectation of privacy." Id. at 360-61,
(Harlan, J., concurring). A warrantless search and seizure is
"per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment subject
only to a few specifically established and well-delineated
exceptions" to the warrant requirement. Id. at
357. In examining a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search
claim, the Court must first determine whether there is a
reasonable expectation of privacy in the area searched, and
if so, whether the search is reasonable. See United
States v. Rusher, 966 F.2d 868, 873-74 (4th Cir. 1992).
Defendant Had No Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy In Hotel
Court finds Defendant had no reasonable expectation of
privacy in the hotel room at the time Hampton police officers
entered because the hotel terminated the occupancy.
Generally, a guest in a hotel room has a reasonable
expectation of privacy. Stoner v. California, 376
U.S. 483, 490 (1964). However, this expectation is not
unlimited. On the contrary, a guest does not have a
reasonable expectation of privacy in his hotel room after his
rental period has terminated. United States v.
Jackson, 585 F.2d 653, 658 (4th Cir.1978); see also
United States v. Rahme, 813 F.2d 31, 34 (2d Cir.1987)
("[W]hen a hotel guest's rental period has expired
or been lawfully terminated, the guest does not have a
legitimate expectation of privacy in the hotel room.").
the hotel staff terminated Defendant's occupancy of the
room, and therefore his expectation of privacy also
terminated when officers entered. See Hr'g Tr.
Police Officers Had Probable Cause To Arrest Ms. Bracey And
Court also finds that officers had probable cause to arrest
Ms. Bracey and the Defendant.
cause is an "objective standard" and analyzes the
"totality-of-the circumstances." See Illinois
v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230 (1983); United States v.
Gray, 137 F.3d 765, 769 (4th Cir. 1998). "In
dealing with probable cause, ... as the very name implies, we
deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are
the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on
which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians,
act." Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160,
175 (1949). Thus, seemingly innocent activity, though not
conclusive of probable cause, "may 'provide the
basis for a showing of probable cause' when considered in
the context of all of the surrounding circumstances."
United States v. Thomas, 913 F.2d 1111, 1116 (4th
Cir.1990) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213,
244 n. 13 (1983)). An officer has probable cause for arrest
when, at the time the arrest occurs, the facts and
circumstances within the officer's knowledge would
warrant the belief of a prudent person that the arrestee had
committed or was committing an offense. Beck v.
Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964).
case, there was probable cause to arrest Ms. Bracey for
possession of narcotics. Officers discovered drug
paraphernalia that included a glass pipe with suspected
cocaine residue, and push rods and metal spoons wrapped in
women's underwear. See Hr'g Tr. at 28, 38,
115-16. Moreover, officers verified with hotel management
that the room had been cleaned, and that the Defendant and
Ms. Bracey were the first to occupy the room following this
cleaning. Id. at 45. The Court also heard testimony
that the occupants delayed answering the door and took an
estimated five to six minutes to open the door for officers.
Id. at 9. Considering these facts and the
"totality of the circumstances, " the Court finds
there was probable cause to arrest Ms. Bracey for possession
the Court also finds there was probable cause to arrest
Defendant for possession of ammunition. At the hearing,
the Court heard testimony that upon entering the room,
officers observed the Defendant leaving the bathroom with a
clear plastic bag. Id. at 55-56, 75. Shortly after,
officers observed ammunition in the toilet. Id.
19-21, 26. Officers learned that Defendant was a convicted
felon having served seven to eight years for drug related
offenses. Id. at 31. Considering the totality of the
circumstances and the facts present, the Court finds there
was probable cause to arrest Defendant for being a convicted
felon in possession of ammunition. See Va. Code Ann.