United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before me is a Motion to Suppress filed by Defendant
Christopher Bereznak (“Bereznak”). (Doc. 15.)
Bereznak seeks to suppress text messages allegedly sent by
him to AG, to whom he prescribed certain medications, on the
grounds that the search of AG's phone violated his Fourth
Amendment rights and that the text messages have not been
authenticated. Bereznak also seeks to suppress data obtained
from the Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
(“PDMP”) on Fourth Amendment grounds. Because
Bereznak's Fourth Amendment rights have not been
violated, and because issues relating to the authentication
of the text messages are premature at this stage,
Bereznak's Motion to Suppress will be denied.
grand jury Indictment filed on February 6, 2018, charges
Bereznak with nine counts of Unlawful Distribution and
Dispensing of a Controlled Substance under 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) (the Controlled Substances Act
(“CSA”)). (Doc. 1.) All of the alleged violations
took place in June or July 2016. Id. The Indictment
alleges that, in or about May 2017, Bereznak began a personal
relationship with AG via Craigslist that continued until the
time of AG's death on or about July 20, 2016.
Id. The Indictment further alleges that Bereznak
made the alleged distributions of controlled substances to AG
outside the usual course of a professional practice and not
for a legitimate medical purpose. Id. Bereznak was a
licensed Pennsylvania dentist at all relevant times (Doc. 1.)
March 1, 2018, Bereznak filed the instant Motion to Suppress
(Doc. 15), which includes the following factual assertions.
On or about July 21, 2016, AG's parents contacted the
Olyphant Police Department about text messages they found on
AG's phone. Id. at ¶ 5. AG's parents
turned the phone over to the police to investigate a
“romantic relationship” between Bereznak and AG.
(Id.; Doc. 6, Ex. 1.) Sometime between AG's
death on or about July 20, 2016, and Bereznak's arrest on
August 7, 2016, police allegedly forensically extracted 999
text messages from AG's cell phone without a warrant.
Id. at ¶¶ 6-7. “The fruit of this
warrantless search was directed solely at” Bereznak.
Id. at ¶ 7. In addition, Bereznak has received
no corroborating evidence beyond the extraction report to
confirm that he or AG is the sender or recipient of the text
messages, and (1) there was no lock on the phone allegedly
belonging to AG; (2) AG's parents found the phone at
least one day after her death; (3) no one witnessed AG or
Bereznak sending the alleged text messages; and (4) an
individual named Tim Rodney was with AG before, during, and
after AG died and had full access to her phone. Id.
at ¶¶ 10-15.
addition, the PDMP database was queried pursuant to a
Lackawanna County court order. (Doc. 15 at ¶ 9.) Soma
(carisoprodol), one of the controlled substances Bereznak
allegedly prescribed, was on the federal controlled
substances list but not the Pennsylvania controlled
substances list at the time Bereznak prescribed it.
Id. at ¶ 4. By the time the court order was
issued on March 17, 2017, Soma had been added to the
Pennsylvania controlled substances list. Id. at
¶ 9. The search results included Bereznak's
prescriptions for Soma. Id. at ¶ 11.
March 12, 2018, the Government filed its Brief in Opposition
(Doc. 18), and on March 14, 2018, Bereznak filed a Reply.
(Doc. 21.) This Motion is therefore now ripe for disposition.
Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” 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
seeks suppression of evidence seized from AG's cell phone
after her parents turned it over to police, as well as
records obtained from the PDMP pursuant to a Lackawanna
County court order. The Government contends that Bereznak
lacks standing to challenge either type of evidence. The
proponent of a motion to suppress bears the burden of
establishing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 130 n. 2 (1978).
The applicable burden of proof is by a preponderance of the
evidence. United States v. Mastronardo, 987
F.Supp.2d 565, 575 (E.D.Pa. 2013)(citing United States v.
Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 178 n. 14 (1974)).
contends that the text messages obtained from AG's phone
should be suppressed because (1) the warrantless search
violated his Fourth Amendment constitutional rights and (2)
the text messages have not been authenticated.
Fourth Amendment Violation
Bereznak argues that the search violated his Fourth Amendment
rights because it was “directed at” him. (Doc.
16, p. 11.) This theory was explicitly rejected by the
Supreme Court in Rakas. See 439 U.S. at
132-33 (“Adoption of the so-called ‘target'
theory advanced by petitioners [under which any criminal
defendant at whom a search was ‘directed' could
contest the search] would in effect permit a defendant to
assert that a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of a
third party entitled him to have evidence suppressed at his
trial. We decline to extend the rule of standing in Fourth
Amendment cases in the manner suggested by
petitioners.”). “For nearly forty years, the Supreme
Court has unwaveringly required the proponent of a motion to
suppress to ‘assert his own legal rights and interest
rather than basing his claim for relief upon the rights of
third parties.' This is black-letter law.”
United States v. Stearn, 597 F.3d 540, 552 (3d Cir.
2010)(quoting Rakas, 439 U.S. at 140). “Fourth
Amendment rights are personal rights, which, like some other
constitutional rights, may not be vicariously
asserted.” Rakas, 439 U.S. at 133-34 (quoting
Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165, 174
(1969)). “A person who is aggrieved by an illegal
search and ...