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United States v. Correa

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 21, 2015


For Jason Correa, Defendant: Timothy R. Roellig, LEAD ATTORNEY, Novelle & Roellig LLC, Chicago, IL; Kent R. Carlson, Kent R. Carlson & Associates P.C., Chicago, IL.

For Saul Melero, Defendant: Robert A. Novelle, Sr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Novelle & Roellig LLC, Chicago, IL.

For USA, Plaintiff: AUSA, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL; Pretrial Services; Probation Department; Anthony P Garcia, U.S. Attorney's Office, Chicago, IL; Matthew Francis Madden, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL.


Robert M. Dow, Jr., United States District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants Jason Correa's and Saul Melero's joint renewed motion to reconsider [149] the Court's October 17, 2013 and March 14, 2014 Opinions and Orders [110, 137] denying Defendants' joint motion to suppress evidence [74, 75]. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion [149] is denied.

I. Background

The Court extensively discussed the facts of this case in its previous opinions [110, 137]. Most relevant here are the following facts: In October 2011, DEA agents arrested Correa and searched his car, seizing four garage door openers and three sets of keys inside. They drove to 1717 South Prairie, a building that they believed to be associated with the suspected drug activity, and attempted to activate the garage there using Correa's garage door openers. When the garage failed to open, they tested the openers on nearby garages and eventually found a match. Using one of the key fobs, they entered the lobby of that building. They tested a key from Correa's car on the residents' mailboxes and discovered that it matched the mailbox of unit 702. Believing that unit to be Correa's home, the agents sought and received Correa's consent to search it. Inside the apartment, they discovered drugs, weapons, and documentation belonging to Melero, another resident of the unit, whom they subsequently arrested.

Defendants moved to suppress the evidence from unit 702. The Court ruled that the garage-testing, the entry into the lobby using the fob, and the mailbox-testing were permissible under United States v. Concepcion, 942 F.2d 1170 (7th Cir. 1991), and United States v. Flores-Lopez, 670 F.3d 803 (7th Cir. 2012). In their renewed motion to reconsider, Defendants argue that neither precedent applies following the Supreme Court's decision in Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473, 189 L.Ed.2d 430 (2014). They contend that Riley effectively overrules Flores-Lopez in its entirety and limits Concepcion to searches involving non-electronic devices. They further argue that Riley affirmatively required the agents to obtain a warrant before using the garage openers or key fobs.

In response, the Government argues that Riley 's holding is immaterial to this motion. According to the Government, even if Riley rendered the search unconstitutional, the exclusionary remedy would be unavailable under Davis v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2419, 2434, 180 L.Ed.2d 285 (2011). Davis creates a good faith exception, providing that " when the police conduct a search in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent, the exclusionary rule does not apply." Davis, 131 S.Ct. at 2434. Accord United States v. Taylor, No. 14-1981, at *5 (7th Cir. Jan. 14, 2015) (describing Davis as holding " that the exclusionary rule does not apply 'when the police conduct a search in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent'"). The Government argues that the agents conducted themselves in objectively reasonable reliance on Concepcion, which was binding Seventh Circuit precedent at the time of the law enforcement activity at issue here, and that this case therefore falls squarely within Davis 's good faith exception.[1] In reply, Defendants concede that if Davis applies, the exclusionary remedy is unavailable, but they argue that the garage-testing in particular falls outside the good faith exception. At issue here, therefore, is whether the agents tested the garages in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent.

II. Analysis

The Fourth Amendment protects " the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." A search occurs when the government invades a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1984), or physically intrudes into a constitutionally protected area in order to obtain information, United States v. Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945, 951, 181 L.Ed.2d 911 (2012). To compel respect for the Fourth Amendment's guaranty, the Supreme Court created the exclusionary rule. Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 217, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960). The rule's sole purpose is to deter police misconduct. Davis, 131 S.Ct. 2426. It is not to remedy a personal right or redress a constitutional injury. Id.

Exclusion is a " last resort" because it frequently " suppress[es] the truth and set[s] the criminal loose in the community without punishment." Davis, 131 S.Ct. at 2427 (citation omitted). The Supreme Court therefore permits exclusion only when the benefit of deterrence outweighs these costs. Id. (citation omitted). The benefits of deterrence vary with the " flagrancy of the police misconduct at issue." United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). When the police act with " an objectively 'reasonable good-faith belief'" that their conduct is constitutional, exclusion is unwarranted because the costs of exclusion outweigh the deterrence benefits. Davis, 131 S.Ct. at 2427 (quoting Leon, 468 U.S. at 909 (finding exclusion unavailable when the police conducted a search in objectively reasonable reliance on a subsequently invalidated search warrant)). When the police act with " deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring or systemic negligence, " exclusion is warranted because its deterrent value outweighs the costs. Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135, 144, 129 S.Ct. 695, 172 L.Ed.2d 496 (2009) (finding exclusion unwarranted where the police arrested the defendant pursuant to an arrest warrant that was subsequently recalled due to isolated, negligent recordkeeping); see Davis, 131 S.Ct. at 2427.

Davis extended Leon 's and Herring 's good faith exception to scenarios involving retroactive changes in law. See United States v. Martin, 712 F.3d 1080, 1082 (7th Cir. 2013). Davis addressed a scenario that began with a routine traffic stop and the defendant's subsequent arrest. While Davis was handcuffed in the back of the patrol car, the police searched his car and found a gun. At the time, the Eleventh Circuit, like many other circuits, had interpreted New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 101 S.Ct. 2860, 69 L.Ed.2d 768 (1981), to create a bright-line rule authorizing car searches incident to the arrest of the car's occupant. More specifically, the Eleventh Circuit had interpreted Belton to authorize a car search incident to arrest where the defendant was " quickly pulled from the vehicle, handcuffed, laid on the ground, and placed under arrest." United States v. Gonzalez, 71 F.3d 819, 822 (11th Cir. 1996).

While Davis's appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 173 L.Ed.2d 485 (2009), which held that " police may search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest." Gant, 556 U.S. at 351. Applied retroactively to Davis's search, Gant rendered Davis's search unconstitutional. The question before the Supreme Court was whether this constitutional injury entitled Davis to the exclusionary remedy. The Court answered no, finding that " searches conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent are not subject to the exclusionary rule." Davis, 131 S.Ct. at ...

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