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United States v. Donahue

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 19, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSEPH P. DONAHUE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTOA, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are Defendant Joseph P. Donahue's ("Mr. Donahue") Motion to Suppress all Evidence Seized Pursuant to Search of Car Seized in Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights (Doc. 41) and his Supplemental Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained from Unlawful Search of Hotel Room, Unlawful Search and Seizure of Vehicle, and Unlawful Search of Closed Containers. (Doc. 98.) At the time Mr. Donahue was arrested, a warrant for his arrest had previously been issued based on his failure to surrender for service of a federal prison sentence after he was convicted of bank fraud, money laundering, unauthorized access device, and false statements. Because the warrant for Mr. Donahue's arrest was for his failure to surrender to commence service of his sentence of imprisonment on January 4, 2011, any search, and consequently, evidence seized, was without probable cause, and because the warrantless searches were not permissible under any exceptions to the warrant requirement and the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply in this case, Mr. Donahue's motions will be granted.

I. Relevant Factual Background

Defendant, Joseph P. Donahue, failed to surrender to commence service of his sentence of imprisonment on January 4, 2011. Instead, he drove across the country to New Mexico where he was arrested on January 20, 2011 by the United States Marshals Service in the parking lot of the Plaza Suites Hotel where he was a registered guest under the alias "Don Roberts."

Immediately prior to his arrest, Mr. Donahue was sitting in a 2002 Ford Mustang which belonged to his son. Mr. Donahue was summoned from the vehicle without incident and arrested. Upon arrest, Deputy U.S. Marshal Steven Archuleta conducted a search of Mr. Donahue, handcuffed him, and, after receiving direction from Deputy U.S. Marshal Sharon Summa of Scranton, Pennsylvania, seized the Ford Mustang. Deputy U.S. Marshal Archuleta searched the hotel room in which Mr. Donahue was staying, and seized the contents of two waste baskets. The Ford Mustang was then taken to the U.S. Marshals' facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the car was searched, pictures of the vehicle and its contents were taken, and the contents of the car were inventoried pursuant to the United States Marshals Service Policy Directives. The contents of the vehicle were removed and placed in a secure area. The closed containers found in the Ford Mustang, however, were not opened and inventoried. The vehicle was then released to Bradley's Garage and 24 Hour Towing, a public tow yard. This occurred on January 20, 2011.

The next day, January 21, 2011, Senior Supervisory Agent Amy Willeke of the FBI was contacted by a Special Agent in Scranton, Pennsylvania about retrieving the Ford Mustang. Senior Supervisory Agent Willeke then retrieved the Ford Mustang from Bradley's. Before leaving Bradley's, Senior Supervisory Agent Willeke moved the driver's seat forward. She then drove the Ford Mustang to the FBI garage in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Later that day, Senior Supervisory Agent Willeke returned to the Ford Mustang with a camera to photograph the interior of the vehicle. When she opened the driver's door, she noticed a Glock.40 caliber magazine with an extender in an area that had been covered by the seat before she had moved the seat forward.[1] In the vehicle was also paperwork and a C.D. over the passenger side visor. Thereafter, she had the Ford Mustang x-rayed to ensure that no other contraband had been concealed in the vehicle.

Senior Supervisory Agent Willeke subsequently instructed Special Agent Alfredo Viera to retrieve the items that the United States Marshals Service had seized, inventory those items, and facilitate having those items transferred to Scranton, Pennsylvania. On January 25, 2011, Deputy U.S. Marshal Archuleta and Special Agent Viera emptied the bags which had been removed from the Ford Mustang on January 20, 2011. In one of the bags, inside a rag inside a boot, a Glock semi-automatic pistol was found. The contents of the bags were inventoried by both Deputy U.S. Marshal Archuleta and Special Agent Viera. The United States Marshals Service Policy Directives does not address the emptying of closed containers during an inventory search, however, the FBI's Inventory Policy provides that any containers, whether locked or unlocked, should be promptly and thoroughly inventoried.

After the contents of the bags were inventoried, the FBI took custody of the evidence seized from the Ford Mustang by the United States Marshals Service.

Mr. Donahue was charged with knowingly failing to surrender for service of a federal sentence pursuant to a court order in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A)(i); knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2); being a fugitive from justice and knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GRB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(2) and 924(a)(2); and, knowingly possessing a stolen firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe the firearm was stolen in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(j) and 924(a)(2) as a result of the arrest and search noted above.

Mr. Donahue now moves to suppress the evidence seized, contending the searches of the hotel room, the Ford Mustang, and the containers found inside the Ford Mustang were unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. A suppression hearing was held on September 25, 2013, following which the parties were afforded time to file supplemental briefs. Mr. Donahue's suppression motions are now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

The Fourth Amendment guarantees that: "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and 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. Const. amend IV. "What is reasonable depends upon all of the circumstances surrounding the search or seizure and the nature of the search or seizure itself." United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 537, 105 S.Ct. 3304, 87 L.Ed.2d 381 (1985).

Mr. Donahue seeks suppression of evidence seized from his hotel room, vehicle, and the closed containers within his vehicle. The Government contends that Mr. Donahue lacks standing to challenge the searches of the hotel room and Ford Mustang. However, the Government argues that even if Mr. Donahue has standing to challenges these searches, they were permissible pursuant to the automobile or inventory exceptions to the warrant requirement. The Government also asserts that any unlawfully obtained evidence need not be suppressed pursuant to the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule.

A. Standing to Challenge the Searches

The threshold issue raised by the Government is whether Mr. Donahue has standing to challenge the searches of the hotel room and Ford Mustang. A defendant challenging a search and seizure based upon the Constitution's Fourth Amendment bears the burden of showing standing, i.e., establishing that the government violated his or her own rights. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 130 n. 1, 99 S.Ct. 421, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978). "Standing to challenge a search requires that the individual challenging the search have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the property searched, ... and that he manifests a subjective expectation of privacy in the property searched." United States v. Baker, 221 F.3d 438, 441 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations and internal citations omitted).

1. The Hotel Room

It is well-settled that "[f]rom the overnight guest's perspective, " the expectation of privacy in a hotel room is entitled to the same respect as afforded one's actual home under the Fourth Amendment. Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 99, 110 S.Ct. 1684, 109 L.Ed.2d 85 (1990). Accordingly, "[n]o less than a tenant of a house, or an occupant of a room in a boarding house, ... a guest in a hotel room is entitled to constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures." Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 490, 84 S.Ct. 889, 11 L.Ed.2d 856 (1964); see also United States v. McNeill, 285 F.App'x 975, 979 (3d Cir. 2008) ("a hotel room can clearly be the object of Fourth Amendment protection as much as a home or an office."); United States v. Coles, 437 F.3d 361, 365 (3d Cir. 2006) ("This Fourth Amendment protection extends to guests staying in hotel rooms.").

The Government contends, however, that Mr. Donahue lacks standing to challenge the search of his hotel room because he rented the room at the Plaza Suites Hotel under the alias "Don Roberts." The Government suggests that Mr. Donahue's "fraudulent use of the alias in renting the Plaza Suites hotel ...


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