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UNITED STATES v. MARTINEZ-ZAYAS

March 10, 1987

United States of America
v.
Angelita Martinez-Zayas



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 Newcomer, J.

 I have before me a motion by the defendant to suppress evidence found in defendant's home during a search of the premises. The search was conducted after the law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant. Defendant claims that the search was made without probable cause, and violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment. For the reasons explained below, defendant's suppression motion will be denied.

 I. Facts

 Defendant was arrested on November 3, 1986, and charged with possession of 13 kilograms of cocaine, a schedule II narcotic, with the intent to distribute. At the time of her arrest, defendant was in her residence at 517 West Butler Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On that date, agents of the federal government and the Philadelphia Police Department entered defendant's home under the authority of a search warrant which had been duly obtained from a bail commissioner in Philadelphia. *fn1"

 Defendant seeks to suppress the evidence found during the search because, she alleges, the search warrant issued without probable cause. The warrant was issued upon the affidavit of Officer McCue. The information contained in the affidavit appears to have been supplied by a cooperating confidential informant. The cooperating informant was previously involved in trafficking cocaine in Philadelphia. The affidavit indicates that the informant has supplied information to the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") since March 1986. Much of the information supplied by the informant in the past has been corroborated, and two prior arrests and seizures of cocaine and cash have resulted from his tips.

 According to information given by the informant to the DEA on November 3, 1986:

 
A Hispanic male known as Eddie LNU would transport approx. 20 kilograms of cocaine from New York to Philadelphia on 11/2/86. This C/I received this allegation from an individual that is unknown to the DEA agents. Further that Eddie LNU is acting as a courier and warehouse man for Angel and Jose Hernandez, two well documented cocaine traffickers previously arrested by DEA and Philadelphia P.D. The unknown source of the allegation further advised that Eddie LNU would warehouse the cocaine at 517 W. Butler St. On 11/2/86, based on that information the C/I established surveillance of 517 W. Butler Street. The C/I observed the Hispanic male remove a large bag from an orange Buick parked in the 500 block of W. Butler Street. The license # of that car was MYD318. The unknown source had previously advised the C/I of that tag # as being involved. The C/I observed the hispanic male carry the large bag into 517 W. Butler Street. According to the unidentified source the cache of cocaine remain (sic) at 517 W. Butler Street on the 2nd floor in the rear room hidden in the ceiling. Access to the cache in the ceiling is effected by moving a lighting fixture on the ceiling.

 Defendant argues that the affidavit is insufficient to support a finding of probable cause, on several grounds. First, defendant contends that the statement of the informant's reliability is insufficient to allow an independent assessment by the bail commissioner. Second, the information supplied by the informant, although corroborated in part by the informant himself, was not corroborated by any law enforcement agents. And third, the informant himself obtained his information from an anonymous source, without any indication of reliability. "The warrant is devoid of any explanation of how the information was obtained in the first place." Defendant's Memorandum of Law at 2.

 II. Legal Analysis

 In recent years, the circumstances in which evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant should be suppressed have been significantly narrowed. In Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 76 L. Ed. 2d 527, 103 S. Ct. 2317 (1983), the Supreme Court excised many of the hypertechnical restraints on finding probable cause for the issuance of a warrant. And in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 82 L. Ed. 2d 677, 104 S. Ct. 3405 (1984), the Court held that the exclusionary rule does not prohibit the government from using evidence obtained by officers acting in reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate, but ultimately found to be unsupported by probable cause.

 A. Probable Cause

 The Fourth Amendment provides in part that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 4. In Gates, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment's requirement of probable cause is to be assessed not according to any rigid formulation, *fn2" but rather in light of the "totality of the circumstances" known to the magistrate. 462 U.S. at 230-31. The Gates Court described the probable cause standard as a "practical, non-technical conception," id. at 231; Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, ...


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