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United States v. Miles

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JEREMY MILES, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         These matters come before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress, Doc. 24, and Defendant's Motion to Disclose Confidential Witness, Doc. 25. The Court addressed these matters at a hearing held on April 11, 2019. The Court ruled from the bench and DENIED all the motions. The Court hereby issues this Opinion and Order to further explain its rulings.

         L INTRODUCTION

         Defendant moves to suppress:

1. All physical and tangible evidence, and all testimony related thereto, obtained from the March 1, 2017 arrest and search and seizure of evidence from 21422 Stonehouse Road, Onley, Virginia (the "March 2017 Arrest").[1]
2. All physical and tangible evidence, and all testimony related thereto, obtained from the June 28, 2017 warrantless stop of the silver Toyota, arrest and search and seizure of evidence from Jeremy Miles (the "June Traffic Stop").
3. All physical and tangible evidence, and all testimony related thereto, obtained from the July 19, 2017 arrest and search and seizure of evidence from 22453 Bayside Road in Onancock, Virginia (the "July 2017 Arrest").

Doc. 24 at 1. Defendant also moves this Court to hold a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) on his motion to suppress the evidence related to the March 2017 arrest. Doc. 24 at 2.

         Defendant is charged in an eight-count indictment with: Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. §846 ("Count One"); 2); Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of 21 U.S.C § 841 ("Counts Three, Four, and Five"); Possessing a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime pursuant to 18 USC § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Six"), and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon pursuant to 21 U.SC. § 922 ("Counts Two, [2] Seven, and Eight"). Doc. 1 ("Indictment"). The evidence that Defendant seeks to suppress supports the factual bases for Counts One through Eight of the Indictment.

         On April 11, 2019, this Court held a hearing on the motions. At that hearing, the Court heard arguments of counsel and testimony by Special Agent Wade of the Virginia State Police. Both parties examined Agent Wade on the June traffic stop and the July 2017 arrest.

         For reasons described herein and articulated from the bench, the Court:

1. DENIES Defendant's Motion to Suppress evidence related to the March 2017 Arrest AS MOOT;[3]
2. DENIES Defendant's Motion to Suppress evidence related to the June Traffic Stop;
3. DENIES Defendant's Motion to Suppress evidence related to the July 2017 Arrest;
4. DENIES Defendant's Motion for a Franks hearing; AND
5. DENIES Defendant's Motion to Compel the Government to Disclose the Identity of its Confidential Witness.

         IL MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS

         A. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Fourth Amendment guarantees "[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 Supreme Court of the United States recognizes an exception to this requirement for the search of vehicles. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153 (1925) (no warrant required "where it is not practicable to secure a warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.") (emphasis in original). An automobile stop is thus subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be unreasonable under the circumstances. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996) (citations omitted). So long as probable cause exists, police may search a car and containers found within it. California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580 (1991) ("The police may search an automobile and the containers within it where they have probable cause to believe contraband or evidence is contained.").

         Probable cause exists when "the known facts and circumstances are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable prudence in the belief that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found." Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 696 (1996). Additionally, probable cause "deals 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." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 241 (1983) (citation omitted). To determine whether a magistrate or an officer performing an automobile search has probable cause courts look to the totality of the circumstances and evaluate "whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before [the officer], including the "veracity" and "basis of knowledge" of persons supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Id. at 238. This same standard applies when reviewing whether an officer had probable cause to search a vehicle.

         When a warrant for a search has been obtained, courts still review the sufficiency of the warrants "to ensure that such an abdication of the magistrate's duty does not occur." Gates, 462 U.S. at 238.

         B. RELEVANT FACTS

         i. June 2017 Arrest

         According the Government's response, police had been investigating the drug dealing activities of the Defendant's brother and Defendant himself. Doc. 27 at 2; Doc. 24-1 ("Def.'s Ex. 1 at 1"). Cooperating witnesses previously informed the police that the Defendant and his brother frequently sold drugs on the Eastern Shore and possessed weapons that they used in connection to those selling activities. Id. One unnamed witness informed police that Defendant brandished a firearm, shot at, and missed the witness's head in an argument. Def.'s Ex. 1 at 1.

         Defendant's June 2017 arrest is more closely related to a June 2017 traffic stop preceding the instant stop, wherein police stopped a person who later became their confidential information ("CI"). On June 26, 2017, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of a 2004 Toyota four-door sedan. Doc. 24-4 ("Def. Ex. 4") at 1. The basis for the stop was that the car appeared to have tinted windows darker than the minimum thirty-five percent (35%) tint allowed under Virginia law. Id. The officer tested the rear driver door window, which measured twelve percent (12%) tint. Id. After detecting an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, officers searched the vehicle and found greenish flakes of plant matter, suspected crack cocaine and small tablets in the vehicle. Id. at 2. The driver was arrested and chose to waive the driver's rights and speak with law enforcement. Id. According to the Government's response, they were familiar with CI, as the CI had a prior history with drug distribution. Doc. 27 at 8.

         In the interview, the CI advised law enforcement of the following: (1) that the CI "had just got the five Percocet pills and crack cocaine . . . from a black male that [the CI] only knew as J-Rock;" (2) that "J-Rock was staying at the trailer with Ron-Ron and Keva and that they were selling cocaine and pills from the residence [and] making runs to make drug sales;" (3) that "J-Rock has a black handgun and was looking to buy another one;" (4) and that the CI "cleaned the residence and owed J-Rock $130.00 for the drugs and that he credited to the CI $25.00 for [the CI's] cleaning services." Def. Ex. 4. The CI also stated that "J-Rock had had approximately two ounces of cocaine, a large bag of pills and a black handgun" when the CI left the ...


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