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United States v. Bulgier

decided: April 8, 1980.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SANDRA BULGIER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 79 CR 185 -- Joel M. Flaum, Judge .

Before Sprecher, Tone and Wood, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sprecher

In this appeal we uphold the validity of a warrantless search and seizure accomplished through a controlled delivery of narcotics.

I

The facts are recited substantially as found by the district court. On March 16, 1979, defendant arrived at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on a Continental Airlines flight from Los Angeles, California. She was unable to locate her luggage, and so she filed a Delayed Baggage Report with Continental. Thereupon, defendant left the airport.

The next day, Continental employees located the missing luggage, consisting of two suitcases and a golf bag. After an unsuccessful attempt to have the luggage delivered to the address listed in the report, followed by an equally abortive effort to contact defendant at the telephone number set forth therein,*fn1 the employees opened the smaller suitcase in the hope of finding some further means of contacting the defendant. In so doing, they were following what seems to have been Continental's normal operating procedure in such cases.*fn2

In the course of searching the bag for identification, the Continental employees found 90.83 grams of cocaine inside several clear plastic bags contained in a manila envelope. When Continental's baggage service agent, Shava Judy Spector, arrived at work on March 18, she was informed that the bag had been searched and that drugs were found in it. She then examined the plastic bags herself and, believing them to contain heroin, she called the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In response to her call, Special Agent Thomas L. Thompson contacted her. When apprised of the facts, Thompson went to meet Spector at the airport.*fn3 Spector showed him the open suitcase, with the manila envelope lying on top. Thompson removed the plastic bags therefrom and, upon visual inspection, concluded that they contained cocaine. Beyond noticing the fact that the open suitcase also contained some type of clothing, Thompson had no personal knowledge of what else was in the open suitcase. In Thompson's presence another search of the defendant's three pieces of luggage was conducted by airline personnel.

Subsequently, someone called Spector's office regarding defendant's luggage. When informed that it had been found, the caller stated that he would come and pick it up.

After listening, with Spector's consent, to that call, Thompson summoned Special Agent Michael Hillebrand to the scene. By the time Hillebrand arrived at Spector's office, the smaller suitcase had been closed, with the substance tentatively identified as cocaine inside. Hillebrand had no personal knowledge of what that suitcase contained. However, Thompson and Spector had told him what they knew about the situation.

A few hours later, the defendant and a male companion arrived and claimed the luggage. The defendant signed for it, and picked up the smaller suitcase. Her companion took the other two pieces of her baggage. They then took different escalators down to the lower level of the terminal. When the defendant exited from the lower level and headed towards her companion's automobile, Hillebrand placed her under arrest and seized the luggage.

From the time the defendant informed the Continental employee working at the ticket counter that she was there to pick up her baggage until the moment of her arrest, she was under Hillebrand's continual surveillance. He observed that she did not open the suitcase during that time period.

Immediately after placing the defendant under arrest, Hillebrand conducted a quick weapons search of her purse and found none. Based upon the nature of defendant's clothing, he was satisfied that no pat-down of her person would be necessary. He did not feel it necessary to search the smaller suitcase for weapons at that time, as he had seized it at the same instant that he arrested the defendant.

Having concluded that defendant was unarmed and not dangerous, Hillebrand took her to the airport DEA office. Once there, he opened the smaller suitcase and subjected it, along with her purse, to a thorough search. During this search, he found the cocaine and a "coke spoon" in the suitcase and another "coke spoon" in her ...


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