United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
the Court are two Motions to Suppress filed by pro se
Defendant Lamar Fields: (1) a Motion to Suppress Evidence
Obtained on March 29, 2013 (Doc. No. 149); and (2) a Motion
to Suppress Blank Prescription Pads (Doc. No. 163).
first Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 149), Defendant asserts
that items obtained from a March 29, 2013 traffic stop of a
rental vehicle which Defendant was driving should be
suppressed because the evidence resulted from an unlawful
search and seizure of the vehicle. Defendant was not an
authorized driver listed on the rental agreement.
(Id. at 1.) In his second Motion to Suppress (Doc.
No. 163), Defendant moves to suppress blank prescription pads
seized by Philadelphia Detective Thomas DiLauro on March 29,
2013 during the execution of a search warrant for a room
occupied by Defendant at the North American Motor
Government filed two separate Responses in Opposition to both
Motions to Suppress. (Doc. Nos. 155, 167.) The Court held
hearings on the Motions on October 6, 16, and 30, 2017. For
reasons that follow, the Court finds that the seizure of
items from both March 29, 2013 searches were lawful.
Accordingly, Defendant's Motions to Suppress (Doc. Nos.
149, 163) will be denied.
Lamar Fields is charged with one count of conspiring to
knowingly and intentionally distribute oxycodone, six counts
of knowingly and intentionally distributing and aiding and
abetting the distribution of oxycodone,  and six counts of
knowingly and intentionally acquiring and aiding and abetting
the acquisition of oxycodone by fraud, in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a), and 842(a) and 18 U.S.C.
§ 2. (Doc. No. 134.) As part of its case-in-chief, the
Government sought to admit evidence obtained from the search
and seizure of a vehicle and motel on March 29, 2013. At the
hearings held on the Motions to Suppress, the Government
presented the testimony of Philadelphia Police Officers
Michael Haas and Kevin Palmer. In addition, Detective Thomas
DiLauro of the Philadelphia Police Department, Officer David
LaRosa of the Lower Merion Township Police Department, and
Detective Bryn Garner of the Lower Merion Police Department
March 29, 2013 Traffic Stop
Michael Haas testified that on March 29, 2013, at
approximately 11:15 a.m., he and Officer Kevin Palmer
observed a gray or silver Ford Taurus vehicle driving
southbound on 66th Street, approaching Lansdowne Avenue in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 206 at 17.) Both
officers testified that from their marked police vehicle,
they observed the Ford Taurus make a right-hand turn without
signaling before heading westbound on 6600 Lansdowne Avenue.
(Id. at 18.) When the Taurus entered the 6800 block
of Lansdowne Avenue, it crossed over the yellow lines on the
street, in violation of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §
3309(1). (Id.) At this point, the officers
turned on their car lights and siren to signal the Taurus to
stop. (Id.) The Taurus then stopped. (Id.
officers approached the vehicle, with Officer Haas going
toward the driver's side and Officer Palmer the
passenger's side. (Id.) Officer Haas testified
that Defendant was the only occupant of the vehicle.
(Id.) Officer Haas asked him for his driver's
license, registration, and insurance. (Id. at 20,
50.) Defendant gave him a driver's license with the name,
“Lamar Cooper, ” and car rental agreement from
Budget, a rental car company. (Id.) Defendant's
name was not listed on the rental agreement. (Id. at
21.) Meanwhile, Officer Palmer looked around the vehicle for
any suspicious items in plain view. (Id. at 50.)
Officer Haas then asked Defendant his date of birth or his
age. (Id. at 21.) Defendant's response, however,
did not match the date of birth listed on the driver's
license he produced. (Id. at 21, 51.) At this time,
both officers noticed that Defendant was nervous and shaking.
(Id. at 22, 52.) Defendant was also wearing
sunglasses, which he did not remove while speaking with
Officer Haas. (Id. at 22-23.)
reviewing the rental agreement, the officers notified Budget
that an unauthorized person was driving its rented vehicle.
(Id. at 23.) Budget requested that they seize the
vehicle so that a representative of the company could later
repossess it. (Id. at 25, 53.) For this reason, the
officers seized the vehicle. They also seized the car because
Defendant was an unauthorized driver of the vehicle pursuant
to 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1574(a). (Id. at 23, 25.) In
compliance with Philadelphia police procedures following such
a seizure, the officers conducted an inventory search of the
car to ensure there were no weapons or contraband inside.
(Id. at 23-24, 54-55.) Before the search commenced,
Defendant was frisked by Officer Haas, who did not find
anything on Defendant's person. (Doc. No. 206 at 32; Doc.
No. 207 at 128.) During the search of the Taurus, Defendant
remained either outside of the vehicle or in the police car.
the glove box of the vehicle, a large sum of money was
located by the officers. (Doc. No. 206 at 24.) The cash was
loosely contained inside a purple Crown Royal liquor bag.
(Id. at 28, 55.) There were no receipts or vouchers
accounting for, or otherwise accompanying, the money.
(Id. at 28.) When Officer Haas asked how much money
was inside the bag, Defendant replied that it was
approximately $7, 000. (Id.) Because of the
considerable value of cash involved, Officer Haas contacted
his supervisor, Sergeant Marlana Caprara, to come to the
scene in order to have an additional witness view the money
seized. (Id. at 24, 57-58; Doc. No. 207 at 116.)
the officers prepared a property receipt for the money which
stated the following:
Below recovered from Lamar Cooper during a vehicle
investigation at 6600 Landsdown [sic] Street, taken 20 $100
bills totaling $2, 000; six $50 bills totaling $300; 346 $20
bills totaling $6, 920; fourteen $10 bills totaling $140;
fourteen $5 bills totaling $70; and seven $1 bills totaling
$7 for a total of $9, 437.
(Id. at 28.)
Sergeant Caprara arrived at the scene, the officers continued
to search the vehicle. (Id. at 29.) In the trunk, they
discovered several items of designer clothing, all of which
appeared new. (Id. at 29, 31.) Officer Palmer
testified that some of the clothing still had tags on them.
(Id. at 56.) He prepared another property receipt to
catalog the clothing. (Id.) The receipt stated as
Eleven Nike shoe boxes, . . . one pair of Puma shoes with
box, . . . three Gucci shoes with box, two Addidas [sic]
shoes with box, three leather belts, one Gucci belt, five
True Religion shorts, seven multi-colored Polo shorts, four
cargo shorts and five pairs of Polo socks.
(Id. at 30.)
Palmer testified that Defendant had told the officers that
the money was from a stand he had on 52nd or 57th Street in
Philadelphia, and that the clothing items were for a friend
who owned a store. (Id. at 55.) Officers Haas and
Palmer also testified that Sergeant Caprara, speculating
about the source of the items, told the officers that there
were recent burglaries in Lower Merion Township,
Pennsylvania, which borders the district in which the
officers were assigned that day. (Id. at 31, 60-61.)
The burglaries involved high-end clothing and jewelry.
completing the search of the vehicle at approximately 12:30
p.m., Officer Haas told Defendant that the officers were
going to retain his money and take it back to the Nineteenth
District's station. (Id. at 33.) Officer Haas
further informed Defendant that if he wanted to receive his
money and the property receipt, he should come to the
station. (Id.) Defendant obliged and voluntarily
accompanied Officer Haas in the police vehicle back to the
station. (Id.; Doc. No. 207 at 121.) Meanwhile,
Officer Palmer drove the Taurus back to the station.
(Id.) Defendant was never handcuffed and was never
ordered to go to the police station. (Doc. No. 206 at 33, 35,
Events at the Nineteenth District Police Station
they arrived at the station, the officers counted the money
in front of Defendant in an open area. (Id. at
34-35.) Though the officers did not place Defendant under
arrest, Officer Haas instructed him to stay close to the
money to ensure that it was being counted accurately.
(Id. at 36.) Defendant complied. (Id. at
37.) As the officers counted the money, Defendant remained
quiet and kept his sunglasses on. (Id. at 36, 64.)
The officers typed up the property receipts they had prepared
at the scene, as well as a report of the vehicle search.
(Id. at 34.) The receipt then was signed by
Defendant as the person from whom the property was taken, by
Officer Haas as the preparer of the receipt, and by Officer
Palmer as a witness. (Id. at 38, 39.) Officer Haas
also testified that Defendant was told several times that he
could leave and pick up the receipt later. (Doc. No. 207 at
the officers contacted Detective Larry Fong of the forfeiture
unit because they had seized money without making an arrest.
(Doc. No. 206 at 34.) Sergeant Caprara also contacted the
Philadelphia Police Department's Major Crimes Unit to
have the clothing items found in the rental car examined.
(Id. at 31, 61.) The Major Crimes Unit then
contacted Lower Merion police to view the
David LaRosa of Lower Merion testified that he, along with
Detective Bryn Garner and Detective William Lane,
arrived at the Nineteenth District station in order to meet
Defendant to determine whether he “had any involvement
in the series of thefts in [Lower Merion] at the time.”
(Doc. No. 207 at 6-7.) Detectives LaRosa, Garner, and Lane
spoke with Defendant in a small office for approximately half
an hour. (Id. at 7, 16.) Defendant was not placed in
handcuffs nor was he ordered not to leave, and he never
attempted to do so. (Id. at 8.)
point, the detectives learned that Defendant was occupying a
room at the North American Motor Lodge. (Id. at 16.)
Detective LaRosa testified that he and the other detectives
believed that the room where Defendant was staying could be
used to store stolen merchandise from the thefts which had
taken place in Lower Merion Township. (Id. at 24.)
They relied on the information provided to them by the
Philadelphia police officers, who had stopped Defendant in
close proximity to the location where the thefts occurred and
had uncovered the large amounts of cash and brand new
clothing. (Id.) Detective LaRosa prepared and gave
to Defendant a “consent to search” form, which
I, Lamar Cooper, do hereby authorize Detectives LaRosa,
Garner, and Lane to conduct a complete search of my hotel
room, Room Number 317, located at North American Motor Lodge,
4444 City Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I have been informed of my constitutional rights not to have
these premises searched without a Search Warrant, and then my
right to refuse to consent to such a search. I nevertheless
authorize the police officer(s) named in Section A of this
consent form to conduct a complete search of the premise.
I hereby authorize the above-named police officer(s) to take
from my: Hotel room #317 @ 4444 City Ave, any letters,
papers, materials, or ...