United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Edgar Vazquez's Motion to Suppress
Evidence Discovered Pursuant to a Defective Warrant (Doc.
42), and the Government's opposition (Doc. 48). The Court
held oral argument on September 23, 2019, at which Vazquez
was present and represented by counsel. (Doc. 51). The Court
took the motion under advisement. For the following reasons,
the Court denies Vazquez's motion.
on the parties' filings and the record, the Court makes
these findings of fact material to Vazquez's motion:
September 13, 2018, Detective Gabriel Rose of the Lee County
Sheriff's Office (“LCSO”) was surveilling
Vazquez as part of a drug investigation. Detective Rose saw
Vazquez leave his home in the morning and drive away alone.
Soon thereafter, another detective stopped Vazquez for a
traffic infraction. During the stop, a canine officer alerted
to drugs inside Vazquez's car. Officers searched it and
found about 520 grams of cocaine in a vacuum-sealed bag under
the driver's seat.
that same morning, Detective Rose submitted an affidavit in
support of a search warrant for Vazquez's home. (Doc.
48-1). He believed Vazquez to have trafficked over 400 grams
of cocaine in violation of Florida law and to have evidence
of the crime in his house. (Doc. 48-1 at 1). Detective
Rose's affidavit is the subject of Vazquez's motion
and thus warrants more discussion.
affidavit says that Detective Rose had been working for
LCSO's Narcotics Unit for four years, was “involved
in a large amount of narcotics investigations, ” and
attended training courses on drug trafficking. (Doc. 48-1 at
3). As part of the Narcotics Unit, Detective Rose began
surveilling Vazquez as a possible drug trafficker. From
there, the affidavit detailed an incident early in the
1, 2018, Detective Rose and colleagues saw Vazquez drive
alone from his home. They followed Vazquez to a Home Depot
parking lot where he briefly met another car. After the cars
separated, Detectives quickly stopped the other car and found
an ounce of cocaine inside. LCSO detectives then continued to
watch Vazquez from May until September. They saw Vazquez
“on numerous occasions meet[ ] up with known drug
traffickers.” (Doc. 48-1 at 3). The affidavit also
detailed the traffic stop that prompted the application to
search Vazquez's home. Based on these collective facts, a
state court judge signed the search warrant. (Doc. 48-2).
LSCO executed the warrant, officers seized more than one-half
kilogram of cocaine, a loaded handgun, a vacuum sealer, a
money counter, and $1, 000 cash. Vazquez now faces a
three-count indictment for possessing cocaine with the intent
to distribute and possessing a firearm to further a drug
trafficking crime. (Doc. 21).
moves to suppress the evidence found in his home. (Doc. 42).
He argues Detective Rose's affidavit lacked probable
cause to reasonably suspect evidence of drug trafficking in
his house. He also argues that no law enforcement officer
could reasonably rely on Detective Rose's affidavit when
it was so lacking in probable cause.
cause to support a search warrant exists when the totality of
the circumstances allows the conclusion that there is a fair
probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be
found in a particular place.” United States v.
Kapordelis, 569 F.3d 1291, 1310 (11th Cir. 2009)
(quotations omitted). “A search warrant affidavit need
not allege that unlawful activity occurred at the place to be
searched; the affidavit need only establish a nexus between
the place and the criminal activity.” United States
v. McCown, 762 Fed.Appx. 732, 734 (11th Cir. 2019)
(citations omitted). A “nexus between the objects to be
seized and the premises searched can be established from the
particular circumstances involved and need not rest on direct
observation.” United States v. Jenkins, 901
F.2d 1075, 1080 (11th Cir. 1990) (quotations omitted). What
is more, “[e]vidence that the defendant is in
possession of contraband that is of the type that would
normally expect to be hidden at their residence will support
such a search.” United States v. Anton, 546
F.3d 1355, 1358 (11th Cir. 2008); see also
Kapordelis, 569 F.3d at 1310 (“Where
a warrant to search a residence is sought, the affidavit must
supply the authorizing magistrate with a reasonable basis for
concluding that Defendant might keep evidence of his crimes
at his home, i.e., a ‘safe yet accessible
place.'” (citation omitted)).
must read affidavits for search warrants “in a common
sense fashion” and give “great deference”
to the issuing judge's finding on probable cause.
United States v. Lockett, 674 F.2d 843, 845 (11th
Cir. 1982). “The duty of a reviewing court is
simply to ensure that the magistrate had a substantial basis
for concluding that probable cause existed.”
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238-39 (1983)
(quotation and alteration omitted); United States v.
Jiminez, 224 F.3d 1243, 1248 (11th Cir. 2000) (stating
courts “give due weight to inferences drawn from those
facts by resident judges and local law enforcement
Detective Rose's affidavit provided enough nexus between
the drugs in Vazquez's car and his home to establish a
fair probability that contraband or evidence of drug
trafficking would be found in Vazquez's house. Vazquez, a
suspected drug trafficker, was found in possession of a
substantial and distributable amount of cocaine shortly after
leaving his home. This is not a case in which LCSO detectives
randomly spotted Vazquez driving around Fort Myers and then
pulled him over. Rather, they saw him leave his home and then
get pulled over with a distributable amount of cocaine in his
car. And the affidavit details Detective Rose seeing Vazquez
exit his home, get into his car, and drive away. Before
Vazquez reached any destination, a LCSO detective stopped him
for a traffic violation. The stop resulted in detectives
finding 520 grams of vacuum-sealed cocaine-worth thousands of
dollars-under Vazquez's driver seat. See United
States v. Strong, No. 8:17-cr-480-T-36JSS, 2018 WL
1327092, at *5-6 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 15, 2018) (stating whether
the officer saw the defendant “carrying narcotics or
whether the cocaine and marijuana found in the vehicle
actually even came from the residence is ...