(8) Some passengers and the bus driver identified defendant as the owner of the bag; no other passenger claimed the bag.
(9) No passengers were scheduled to end their trip at the Bestway Truckstop, or even during the rest of the route through Pennsylvania.
Succinctly stated, defendant became nervous when he saw the police, remained agitated while the police were on the bus, disappeared, could not be located when the bus reboarded, and did not return at any time prior to the departure of the bus. These circumstances certainly would lead a reasonable person to conclude that defendant had abandoned his bag.
Although not argued by defendant, a contention could be made that a passenger might simply have forgotten to pick up his bag. The circumstances in this case, however, do not lead to such a conclusion. The Bestway Truckstop was not a final destination for any passenger on the bus. Nor was the Truckstop a normal destination: it was simply a resting point in the middle of a long trip, located in a relatively remote, rural area of central Pennsylvania. Nor would such an area be a reasonable place for a passenger to simply wander off: there was nothing in the area to arouse particular interest.
Counsel for defendant also pointed out that the officers at the Truckstop did not have probable cause to arrest defendant until after they opened the bag. We agree. However, the officers did not engage in any activity for which probable cause was necessary. They searched a vehicle engaged in public transportation, an activity which is constitutionally permissible. Bostick, supra. They entered the areas of the Truckstop which are accessible to the public. They then reentered the bus and interviewed the passengers and bus driver. None of these activities constitutes an infringement of any interest protected by the Fourth Amendment, and no probable cause need be established before law enforcement officers may engage in any of these activities.
V. INVOLUNTARY ABANDONMENT
We have concluded, based upon the foregoing, that defendant abandoned his bag on the bus. Defendant argues, however, that the conduct of the troopers was so coercive as to have rendered his abandonment of the bag involuntary. To use defendant's terminology, he was "harassed" into abandoning the bag.
According to defendant, when the troopers searched the bus with the dog, then left the bus and entered the terminal, a reasonable person would conclude that they had found something. Since they had not found anything, their conduct must have been intended to convey this impression for the purpose of causing defendant to avoid returning to the bus.
Actually, law enforcement officers who search a bus eventually will leave the bus, whether they have found anything or not.
Moreover, there is no support for the contention that the officers would go inside the terminal only if some incriminating object had been found on the bus. There can be any number of reasons for officers to enter the terminal: to talk to a bus driver; to wait for the next bus to come along; as in this case, to wait for the passengers to reboard the bus, so that they can seek permission to search bags; to use the facilities themselves; etc. It simply is not reasonable to conclude that a Police officer who leaves a bus and enters a bus terminal necessarily has found incriminating evidence on the bus.
It should also be added that the attention of the troopers had not centered on the bag at that point in time. There is no indication that they were any more aware of defendant's bag than of any other bag on the bus. In fact, it was only after the other passengers had reboarded the bus that attention focussed on the unattended bag. In no way, then, can the troopers have intended to "harass" defendant into abandoning his bag. Nor, as discussed above, would a reasonable person have perceived the conduct of the troopers as harassment.
We reiterate that the standard is objective: Would a reasonable person have felt that he or she had no choice but to abandon the bag? A reasonable person would not feel the need to abandon a bag simply because law enforcement officers are present. Defendant's argument would substitute this objective standard with a "reasonable drug courier standard": Would a reasonable person with three kilos of cocaine in his or her bag have felt that he or she had no choice but to abandon the bag? Obviously, the conclusion would be different based upon this standard, but this standard does not apply.
This is not an instance in which, for example, a police officer attempted to make a warrantless arrest without probable cause and a chase of the suspect ensued. Obviously, if such a suspect dropped some sort of object during the chase, even intentionally, the object would be inadmissible due to the earlier Fourth Amendment violation. Here, however, there was no earlier violation, and defendant made a reasoned choice to abandon his bag, not due to any coercion, but due to the chance that he might be caught with the cocaine.
The conduct of the members of the Tactical Narcotics Team at the Bestway Truckstop was reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The areas searched initially were not subject to a cognizable privacy interest on the part of defendant. Based upon the facts and circumstances known to the troopers at the time that they reboarded the bus and interviewed the bus driver and other passengers, the troopers reasonably concluded that defendant had abandoned his bag. There was no coercive conduct on the part of the troopers which caused defendant to abandon his bag.
For all of these reasons, defendant's motion to suppress will be denied. An appropriate order shall issue.
James F. McClure, Jr.
United States District Judge
January 5, 1995
For the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum, IT IS ORDERED THAT defendant's motion (record document no. 24) to suppress certain evidence is denied.
James F. McClure, Jr.
United States District Judge
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