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United States v. Chatman

October 15, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TERRANCE CHATMAN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sánchez, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Terrance Chatman asks this Court to suppress evidence seized during a warrantless search of his residence on December 14, 2007, arguing the search was not supported by reasonable suspicion evidence of criminal activity would be present at the residence and was not reasonably related to a suspected parole violation by Chatman. Because the search was supported by reasonable suspicion, Chatman's motion will be denied.

FINDINGS OF FACT*fn1

1. In December 2007, Chatman was on parole following a conviction and prison term for the offense of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited from doing so. He previously had been convicted in Pennsylvania state court of firearms offenses, escape, and possession with intent to deliver cocaine.

2. When he was released on parole on August 17, 2007, Chatman was initially released to a halfway house in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole subsequently granted Chatman permission to move to his mother's residence at 401 West Fornance Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania 19401 (the approved residence), effective October 16, 2007, at which time he came under the supervision of parole agent Harry Gaab.

3. Gaab has been a parole agent with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole since December 1995 and has supervised between 800 and 1,000 parolees during his tenure. The vast majority of his caseload (about 75%) consists of individuals convicted of narcotics offenses. As a parole agent, he has received training on a variety of subjects, including the proper chain of custody for urinalysis samples and how to analyze the level of an illegal substance in such a sample.

4. When Chatman came under Gaab's supervision in October 2007, Gaab was aware of Chatman's prior criminal history, including his prior drug convictions.

5. When he was released on parole, Chatman signed a form entitled "Conditions Governing Parole/Reparole." Ex. G1. The form required Chatman to submit to urinalysis testing and to "abstain from the unlawful possession or sale of narcotics and dangerous drugs" as a condition of his parole. Id. It also prohibited him from having contact with persons who sell or use drugs outside a treatment setting; consuming or possessing alcohol; and having contact with certain individuals, including James Walters, who previously had been supervised by Agent Gaab's office for a drug offense and was known to the Norristown Police Department as drug dealer who sold cocaine.

6. Chatman was also required to obey a curfew, which required him to be at his approved residence between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

7. As a condition of his parole, Chatman was also required to comply with the provisions of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, which prohibits driving without a valid license. Ex. G1. Chatman was thus not permitted to drive while on parole because his Pennsylvania driver's license was suspended.

8. By signing the "Conditions Governing Parole" document on August 17, 2007, Chatman acknowledged the above restrictions, consented to the search of his "person, property and residence, without a warrant by agents of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole," and agreed "[a]ny items, in the possession of which constitutes a violation of parole/reparole shall be subject to seizure, and may be used as evidence in the parole revocation process." Ex. G1.

9. On November 1, 2007, Gaab shipped a urine sample from Chatman to Kroll Laboratory Specialists (Kroll) for analysis. On November 3, 2007, Gaab received Kroll's report reflecting that Chatman's sample tested positive for a low level of cocaine, 359 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ML). Ex. G3. This result concerned Gaab because in his experience, individuals who are abusing cocaine often test positive for relatively high levels of cocaine in their systems, while the urinalysis samples of individuals who handle or package cocaine often show only low levels of cocaine, between 150 and 400 ng/mL.

10. Chatman provided another urine sample a week later, on November 8, 2007. The Kroll report again reflected a low level of cocaine, 196 ng/mL. Ex. G4. This result again concerned Gaab, leading him to believe Chatman had handled or used cocaine a second time.

11. On November 19, 2007, Gaab conducted a curfew check of Chatman at his approved residence around 10:00 p.m. Chatman's mother answered the door, permitted Gaab to enter the home, and explained Chatman had gone to the pharmacy to pick up her medication. Chatman had not received permission to leave the approved residence past his curfew for this reason. Gaab entered the residence and went down to the basement where Chatman ...


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