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United States v. Hernandez

July 6, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAVIER "JAVY" HERNANDEZ AND COURTNEY "C-NOTE" MORRIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Courtney Morris's ("Morris") Motion to Quash Arrest and Suppress Evidence and Statements [Doc. #13]; and the Government's Response [Doc. #14]. For the reasons that follow, Morris's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

On or about June 8, 2005, at approximately 1:43 p.m. in Peoria, Illinois, Morris was arrested by agents of the F.B.I. and Peoria Police Department and his automobile was confiscated, although no arrest warrant had been issued. Following his arrest, Morris made statements against his penal interest.

At approximately 3:45 p.m. on the same day, State Court Judge Collier issued warrants to search two residences located in Peoria, Illinois: (1) 1020 W. Gift, and (2) 2307 W. Virginia. At the residence located at 1020 W. Gift, an off-white, rock-like substance alleged to be crack cocaine, as well as three digital scales, were found. At the residence located at 237 W. Virginia, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, a shotgun, and over $120,000.00 in U.S. currency were found.

Both search warrants were based on sworn affidavits signed by Sgt. J.W. Adams and Officer John P. Couve of the Peoria Police Department, and both affidavits were essentially the same. The affidavits describe surveillance conducted by the Peoria Police Department on June 8, 2005, during which officers observed Morris leave from his listed address at 237 W. Virginia, "carrying a bag." See [Docs. #13-2, 13-4] (emphasis added). Morris then parked in the alley behind 1020 W. Gift, exited his vehicle and "carried a bag" into the residence. Id. (emphasis added). Several minutes later, Morris returned to his vehicle, and re-entered the residence "carrying a bag." Id. (emphasis added). He remained at 1020 W. Gift for approximately 30 minutes, then drove to a BP gas station.

Morris entered the gas station, then returned to his vehicle and backed the vehicle up to a dumpster. A D.E.A. agent next observed Morris go on foot to the dumpster and "place a gray bag like item inside the dumpster." Id. (emphasis added). Morris then returned to his vehicle and left the gas station. Immediately thereafter, officers searched the dumpster and recovered a package containing 1 kilo of powder cocaine. No one went to the dumpster between the time Morris was there and the officers recovered the cocaine.

In addition to the above, the affidavits state that surveillance had been conducted on Morris over the previous 90 days. On one occasion, Morris was observed leaving 1020 W. Gift to get into a vehicle with an individual. Morris and the individual drove around the block, and then Morris returned to 1020 W. Gift. Shortly thereafter, the individual was arrested and 29.3 grams of crack cocaine was seized.

ANALYSIS

I. There Was Probable Cause To Arrest

Defendant Morris argues his arrest was made without a warrant or probable cause, and is therefore illegal. He further argues any statements made following his arrest are fruits of the poisonous tree and must be excluded.

Whether probable cause exists depends upon the reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of the arrest. Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003). Here, the arresting officers observed Morris back his vehicle up to the dumpster and place a gray bag like item inside the dumpster. Immediately thereafter, the officers searched the dumpster, before anyone else approached, and recovered from the dumpster a package containing 1 kilo of powder cocaine. Thus, this Court is satisfied that there was probable cause to justify Morris' arrest. As a result, statements made by Morris following his arrest and Miranda warnings, were properly obtained.

II. There Was No Probable Cause To Issue Search Warrants

Morris also argues that the seizure of evidence from both residences was illegal because the facts presented to the state court in both affidavits did not contain ...


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