Fourth Amendment

United States v. Reginald Gibbs (11th Cir. March 2019)

The Court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress finding that the traffic stop leading to the search and seizure of the defendant’s firearm was reasonable despite the officers arriving with their guns drawn and the fact that the defendant was not the driver or otherwise suspected of any criminal activity. The defendant’s brief detention was reasonable given his proximity to the car and driver, and the officers drawing their guns did not affect the legality of the stop.

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United States v. Lee Saint Fleur

United States v. Lee Saint Fleur, No. 18-11309 (February 20, 2019), UNPUBLISHED

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress based on the independent source doctrine. The officer’s affidavit in support of the application for a search warrant contained sufficient evidence to support probable cause based on his initial entry into the apartment even without the information or observations obtained during his second, illegal reentry.

Fourth Amendment/Search Warrants – Officer’s illegal reentry into apartment did not invalidate later search warrant since his affidavit was based on observations and information he obtained prior to the illegal reentry and were sufficient on their own to establish probable cause under the independent source doctrine.

Fourth Amendment/Search Warrants – Warrant was not invalid solely because the supporting affidavit incorrectly listed the defendant’s sister as a co-tenant and excluded her inconsistent statements and history of accusations, as this information was not material.

Lee Saint Fleur appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained during law enforcement’s search of his apartment, which led to charges of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon (§ 922(g), possession of unauthorized access devices (§ 1029(a), and aggravated identity theft (§ 1028A).

Law enforcement arrived at Saint Fleur’s apartment in response to a domestic disturbance involving Saint Fleur and his sister. Law enforcement initially entered the apartment with Saint Fleur to check the damage caused by his sister and noticed multiple gift cards and credit cards in plain view, which Saint Fleur claimed as his.

When the officer left the apartment to speak to Saint Fleur’s sister, she informed him that Saint Fleur “does credit card fraud” and described a card scanner he used to configure credit cards’ magnetic strips. Without Saint Fleur’s consent, the officer went back inside the apartment, where he saw more cards, a scanner used to swipe cards, and two embossing devices used to stamp numbers onto cards.

Based on his observations from both entries into the apartment, officers obtained a search warrant. Saint Fleur challenged the warrant as based on information obtained during an illegal reentry into his apartment.

On appeal, the Court held that the evidence was admissible under the independent source doctrine. The Court first excised all of the information gained from the officer’s unlawful re-entry from the affidavit supporting the warrant. In this case, that meant excising the credit cards the detective observed upon re-entry, the scanner, and the embossing devices.

The Court held that the remaining portions of the affidavit still supported a finding of probable causes. The remaining portions still detailed the cards the officer saw on his initial entry, Saint Fleur claiming the cards as his, the sister’s statements that Saint Fleur was engaged in credit card fraud, and the cards the sister provided. These facts, the Court held, were sufficient to establish probable cause supporting a search of Saint Fleur’s apartment.

The Court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the warrant was invalid due to the affidavit’s error in describing the sister as a “co-tenant” and the affidavit’s omission of the sister’s inconsistent statements and prior accusations against Saint Fleur. The Court held that the statements were not material or necessary to establish probable cause and, though co-tenancy would have been material to the question of whether the sister could consent to the officer’s re-entry, the affidavit only focused on her residence as a basis for her knowledge regarding Saint Fleur’s credit cards, not her apparent consent to search.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida

Per Curiam Opinion by W. Pryor, Jordan, and Grant

TAGS: Fourth Amendment

United States v. Leonardo Triana (11th Cir. 2019) (Unpublished)

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress, holding that the traffic stop at issue was not unlawfully prolonged but rather became a consensual encounter. The Court held that a reasonable person would have felt free to leave based on the circumstances, which included the patrolman issuing the defendant a written warning and the defendant subsequently asking questions about where to fix his vehicle after receiving the warning.

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United States v. Erickson Campbell (11th Cir. January 2019)

The Court overruled its prior “overall reasonableness” standard for prolonged stops and held that officer’s traffic stop was unreasonably prolonged by the officer asking questions unrelated to the stop. The Court further held that the good faith exception made suppression unwarranted despite the government waiving this issue on appeal.

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