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United States v. Martin

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

October 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VETO OMAR MARTIN, Defendant

          ORDER

          MAX O.COGBURN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence and Incorporated Memorandum of Law. (Doc. No. 10). The motion has been fully briefed, oral argument has been held, and this matter is now ripe for review. For reasons set forth in this Order, Defendant's suppression motion is DENIED.

         I.FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On November 28, 2018, Detective Joshua Harris of the Asheville Police Department Drug Suppression Unit applied for a warrant to search a residence located at 144 Stewart Street in Asheville, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 10-1, at 6). To support the application, Detective Harris submitted an affidavit detailing his experience, as well as the factual circumstances giving rise to the warrant request. The following relevant facts are taken from the affidavit.

         Two months before the application, the Unit first spoke with a confidential informant who indicated “he/she could purchase crack [cocaine] and heroin from several females within the residence.” (Id. at 9). About one month later, the Unit gave the informant an “amount of money” and sent the informant to make “a controlled purchase of narcotics from the residence.” (Id.). Beforehand, the Unit ensured the informant did not have any contraband or other money. Detectives observed the informant entering the residence, “conversing with a female within the residence, ” and exiting. (Id.). Thereafter, the informant gave Detective Harris “a controlled substance consistent in the amount [of] money given for the purchase.” (Id.).

         Around seventy-two hours prior to application, Detective Harris sent another confidential informant to make “a controlled purchase of narcotics from the residence.” (Id.). This purchase was conducted in precisely the same manner; the informant was given an amount of money, and officers ensured the informant did not have any contraband or other money on hand. Again, the officers observed the informant enter the building, speak “with a female within the residence, ” and ultimately exit. And again, the informant gave Detective Harris “a controlled substance consistent in the amount to the money given for the purchase.” (Id. at 10).

         Detective Harris averred that this was not his first controlled purchase. As an officer in the Asheville Police Department, he has “investigated numerous narcotics incidents and [has] been a part of several search warrants resulting in the arrest of persons and the seizure of property as well as [the] successful prosecution of narcotics offenders.” (Id. at 7). And in the Drug Suppression Unit, he has “conducted operations encompassing multiple facets of drug investigations to include surveillance, undercover operations, execution of search warrants on residences, electronic devices and social media accounts, interviews, charging, case file preparation, arrests, property seizure, and evidence management.” (Id. at 8).

         Based on his experience, Detective Harris knew that “drug dealers maintain on hand large amounts of U.S. currency in order to maintain and finance their operations as an ongoing narcotics business” and they likewise “maintain books, ledgers, notes, money order and other records relating to the transportation, ordering, sell, and distribution of controlled substances.” (Id.). He also knew that dealers “conceal in or around their residence caches of drugs, U.S. currency, financial instruments, and evidence of financial transactions surrounding . . . an ongoing narcotics business.” (Id.). Dealers also conceal “paraphernalia” and “firearms” to further “illegal drug activity.” (Id. at 8-9). Finally, dealers maintain call records “within the storage systems of their phone in order to facilitate [drug] communication.” (Id. at 9).

         Based upon these circumstances, a Buncombe County magistrate found probable cause to believe there was evidence of unlawful trafficking in controlled substances within the residence. (Id. at 4). He thus issued a warrant directing officers to search the property within forty-eight hours. Specifically, officers were authorized to search the “residence or its curtilage, ” as well any “persons” or “vehicles” located there. (Id. at 5).

         Officers executed the warrant on the morning of November 30, 2018-before the deadline. During execution, Defendant sat in the driver seat of a vehicle parked in the residence driveway, which was paved and apparently connected to the home. (Doc. No. 13-1). Pursuant to the warrant, officers searched the vehicle and found heroin and crack cocaine inside. After receiving Miranda warnings, Defendant admitted that the drugs in the car belonged to him and that he used the residence to sell narcotics.

         II.DISCUSSION

         Contending that the magistrate's warrant was improperly issued, Defendant moves for the Court to suppress all evidence obtained thereby. (Doc. No. 10). According to Defendant, the warrant affidavit was “wholly lacking in sufficient facts to support a substantial showing of probable cause.” (Id. at 2). Because of this deficiency, Defendant argues it was “objectively unreasonable” for officers to rely on the warrant, and thus the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule should not apply. (Id. at 8-9). The Court rejects these arguments in turn.

         A. Probable Cause

         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. Ordinarily, this guarantee ensures that officers must obtain a valid warrant prior to conducting a search. See United States v. Lyles, 910 F.3d 787, 791 (4th Cir. 2018). Such warrants must be “issued by a neutral magistrate and ...


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