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United States v. James

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

January 22, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Eric James, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Defendant Eric James is charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence (ECF No. 21). The Defendant argues that ammunition recovered from the scene of his arrest should be suppressed because he was illegally seized without a warrant or probable cause.

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on the Defendant's motion on January 22, 2018. At the hearing, the Court heard the testimony of Government witness Derek Carseni, who is a detective at the City of Lauderhill Police Department. The Court also reviewed the ammunition seized and the police report. After considering the credible evidence and testimony and the relevant legal authorities, and for the reasons more particularly set forth below, the motion to suppress (ECF No. 21) is denied.

         1. Summary of testimony

         A. Derek Carseni

         Detective Carseni has been employed by City of Lauderhill since 2015. He is currently assigned to deaths and homicides. He has participated in proactive sweeping when the police make contact with members of the community to address criminal activity.

         In March 2017, he participated in a sweep with Detective Iwaskewycz and came in contact with the Defendant. Carseni was wearing clothing which clearly depicted him as a police officer.

         Carseni observed two males and a female outside a store. The Defendant was one of the two males. Carseni and Iwaskewycz stopped and exited their vehicles and approached the three individuals. His intent was to conduct a consensual encounter.

         From approximately 20 feet away, Carseni detected the smell of burning marijuana. Carseni has been trained in the detection of burnt marijuana both at the academy and in his work as a police detective.

         Iwaskewycz spoke to the three individuals and Carseni stayed in the background to provide safety for the officer. He does not recall what was said, but noticed James was acting nervously and looked around. At one point, James lifted his hands around his waistband and Carseni approached to conduct a pat down of the Defendant. He felt a hard metal object in Defendant's rear pocket which felt like ammunition. He reached into Defendant's pocket and removed a purple latex glove which contained eleven (11) rounds of ammunition.

         An FCIC check was conducted and it was learned that the Defendant was a convicted felon, which led to the charge in this case.

         Carseni observed a burnt marijuana cigarette on the street near the three individuals but did not impound or take pictures of the marijuana cigarette.

         2. Analysis

         “The proponent of a motion to suppress has the burden of establishing that his own Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the challenged search or seizure.” Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 132 n.1 (1978) (citations omitted). However, if a defendant provides evidence of a “warrantless search and seizure, the burden of proof as to the reasonableness of the search rests with the prosecution. The Government must demonstrate that the challenged action falls within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement, thereby rendering it reasonable within the meaning of the fourth amendment.” United States v. Freire, 710 F.2d 1515, 1519 (11th Cir. 1983) (emphasis in original) (internal citation omitted). “When an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range ...


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