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United States v. Deysie

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 7, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff,
David Peter Deysie, Jr., Defendant.

G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 17.) For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.


Defendant David Peter Deysie, Jr. was riding in the front passenger seat of a vehicle on April 6, 2014. His girlfriend, Kayla Amaro, was the driver and registered owner of the vehicle. Her seven-year-old son was in the back seat. U.S. Park Ranger Stephen Little stopped the vehicle inside of Grand Canyon Nation Park for failure to stop at a stop sign. He identified the vehicle's occupants and learned that both Deysie and Amaro had non-extraditable misdemeanor warrants.

Ranger Little recognized the odor of unburnt marijuana emanating from the vehicle and asked if there was any inside. Deysie confirmed that there was marijuana that belonged to him and he provided a medical marijuana card. At that point, Ranger Little called for backup. After backup arrived, Ranger Little again approached the vehicle and Deysie handed over a bag containing marijuana and paraphernalia to Ranger Little. Deysie did this voluntarily and without Ranger Little requesting it. Ranger Little placed the drugs on the top of the vehicle.

Ranger Little next asked if there were any weapons in the vehicle. Deysie looked toward the center console and then the driver's side floorboard and stated that there was a knife in the center console. Deysie pointed to the knife and began to reach toward it. At that point, Ranger Little had everyone step out of the vehicle for safety purposes. The vehicle occupants were moved away from the vehicle and watched by another officer. Initially a single officer and vehicle arrived as backup but at some point during the stop a total of four vehicles and five officers were present.

After everyone had exited the vehicle, Ranger Little continued to smell the odor of unburnt marijuana emanating from the vehicle. Ranger Little then searched the vehicle based on the belief that it contained additional marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He testified that this search was based on: the marijuana that was turned over, the continued presence of the odor of marijuana in the vehicle, the admission that there was a knife in the car, and the outstanding warrants. Ranger Little also testified that based on his training and experience, defendants will sometimes volunteer a small amount of drugs in the hopes of deterring the officers from searching for and finding additional drugs or paraphernalia. He testified that he has been involved in over one hundred drug stops but could not testify to a specific number of times that he had witnessed such behavior.

During the search, Ranger Little discovered a loaded.357 Smith and Wesson revolver under the driver's seat. Ranger Little informed Deysie that he was not under arrest but that Ranger Little was investigating his possession of the marijuana and firearm. Ranger Little read Deysie his Miranda rights. Deysie stated that he understood and was willing to speak with the Rangers. Deysie proceeded to admit ownership of the gun and explain how he purchased it. Deysie also told the rangers that he had spent six years in prison for aggravated DUI.

Amaro was upset and angry about the discovery of the revolver and informed the rangers that she was unaware of its presence. She stated that Deysie normally kept his guns in his own car and not in hers.

Officer Little also determined based on his interviews and search of the car that Deysie and Amaro had been in a relationship and living together for years. At the time of the stop, they were traveling together on a several-day vacation. There was luggage in the car which appeared to contain clothing and other personal items for all of the vehicle occupants.

Deysie now moves to suppress the gun and ammunition on two grounds. First, he argues that there was no probable cause to search the vehicle. Second, he argues that the search was not incident to arrest. The government argues that Deysie lacks standing to challenge the search and that there was probable cause supporting it. Although the government does not argue that the search was conducted incident to any arrest, it argues that it would also have been justified as a search incident to arrest if Deysie had in fact been placed under arrest. Deysie did not submit a reply. This Court held a hearing on this matter on July 23, 2014.


I. "Standing"

A defendant must have had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place that was searched in order to allege a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143 (1978); United States v. Pulliam, 405 F.3d 782, 786 (9th Cir. 2005). "A person who is aggrieved by an illegal search and seizure only through the introduction of damaging evidence secured by a search of a third person's premises or property has not had any of his Fourth Amendment rights infringed." Rakas, 439 U.S. at 134. Thus, a person seeking to exclude evidence allegedly obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment must have standing to challenge the illegal conduct that led to the discovery of the evidence. "[T]o say that a party lacks fourth amendment standing is to say that his reasonable ...

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