In United States v. Maxi, No. 15-13182 (Apr. 5, 2018) (Martin, Jordan, Walker), the Court affirmed the defendants’ drug-trafficking convictions.
As to one defendant, the Court affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress the search of a duplex. The Court first concluded that the defendant had standing to challenge the search because, despite contradictory information and testimony, he paid rent, had a key, had been living there intermittently for three to six months, and kept some important papers there. Because he was effectively a subtenant, not merely an overnight guest, he had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The Court then accepted the defendant’s argument that the police impermissibly entered the curtilage of the home, because they did so with the tactical purpose of securing the duplex and detaining anyone inside, which exceeded the implied license granted to the public and that of a knock and talk. However, the Court concluded that the officer’s unconstitutional violation pertained only to the manner of their approach, not the actual entry into the curtilage, and it did not result in the production of evidence that would not have otherwise been discovered had an officer conduct a permissible knock and talk.
The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that he did not open the door voluntarily, because the district court found that he did not open the door in response to a show of authority.
The Court rejected his argument that the police committed another Fourth Amendment violation by breaking down the metal security gate and arresting him in his home without a warrant, because the arrest was supported by both probable cause and exigent circumstances: an officer saw a substantial quantity of drugs in the home and had received a tip that several guns were located there; and there was a risk that evidence would be destroyed if they left the duplex to get a warrant.
The Court next concluded that, even if the subsequent protective sweep and walk-through were illegal (which it noted was problematic because the home had already been secured), the evidence was nonetheless admissible under the independent source doctrine.
The Court then rejected the other defendant’s two arguments. First, it rejected his argument that there was no “necessity” for a wiretap because other investigative methods were available: the supporting affidavit stated that search warrants, confidential sources, pen registers, and visual surveillance had not allowed the police to track drug deliveries; undercover agents were unlikely to penetrate the group; and the conspirators were wary of surveillance. The Court also rejected the argument that the affidavit omitted material facts–namely, that the confidential source was a former lieutenant in a drug organization and a lessee on one of the stash houses–because the defendant failed to show that the omissions were intentional or reckless, or that their inclusion would have undermined a finding of probable cause.
Lastly, the Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support a flight instruction.