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United States v. Daniels

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 5, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LAZANDY DANIELS

         SECTION: “H” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Suppress adopted by Defendant Lazandy Daniels (Doc. 60) and a Motion to Suppress filed by Defendant Lazandy Daniels (Doc. 120). For the following reasons, these Motions are DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Lazandy Daniels was indicted on January 14, 2016, on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (“crack”), along with co-defendants Craig James and Leon Jackson.[1] He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to these charges on January 27, 2016. Subsequently, on April 28, 2016, he was charged via a superseding indictment with an additional count of distribution of cocaine base (“crack”). This indictment added Joppa Jackson as a codefendant. Daniels was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges of the superseding indictment on May 11, 2015.

         On March 28, 2016, Craig James filed Motion to Suppress Evidence obtained during a December 2, 2015 warrantless search of a motel room at the Super 8 Motel in New Orleans. Daniels subsequently adopted that Motion. He later filed his own Motion to Suppress, echoing many of the arguments contained in the original Motion. The Government opposes.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The pending Motions are directed at suppressing evidence and statements obtained in connection with the December 2, 2015 warrantless search of the motel room in which James was staying. In the original Motion, Craig James argued that (1) no exigent circumstances existed to justify the warrantless search and (2) that the GPS tracking of James's cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment. Daniel's later-filed Motion only raises arguments relative to the warrantless search of the motel room.

         As a preliminary matter this Court holds Daniels does not have standing to raise Fourth Amendment violations relative to James's cell phone, as such rights are strictly personal and may not be asserted vicariously.[2] It seems that Daniels does not contest this point as his sole arguments for relief are based upon the warrantless search of the motel room. Nevertheless, the Court harbors doubts as to whether Daniels has standing to challenge that search, as Daniels has presented no evidence that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the room. Following the evidentiary hearing on the Motion to Suppress, the Court ordered supplemental briefing on this issue. The Court will first address whether Daniels has standing to challenge the warrantless search of the hotel room. It will then consider the propriety of the warrantless search of the motel room under the Fourth Amendment.

         I. Standing

         The Court sua sponte raised the issue of Daniels's standing to challenge the warrantless search of the motel room, and the parties have provided supplemental briefing on this issue. “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.”[3] While an overnight guest in a home or hotel room may claim the protections of the Fourth Amendment, an individual who is merely “legitimately on the premises” may not.[4]

         Daniels urges the Court to apply the broader standing rules contained in the Louisiana Constitution, wherein standing to challenge a violation of Fourth Amendment rights is extended to “[a]ny person adversely affected” by an illegal search or seizure.[5] Defendant cites no authority in support of this proposition. “Whether the Fourth Amendment has been violated is determined solely by looking to federal law on the subject.”[6] Though the states are free to impose higher standards on searches and seizures than those required under federal law, “federal courts are not bound to apply these protections in a federal prosecution.”[7] Additionally, applicability of the exclusionary rule in federal court is governed exclusively by federal law.[8] Accordingly, Louisiana's broad standing rule is inapplicable in this federal prosecution.

         Defendant next argues that the Government has waived its right to challenge standing because it did not raise the argument in its initial briefing. This argument is without merit, as courts routinely sua sponte raise the issue of standing under the Fourth Amendment.[9]

         Finally, Defendant urges the Court to find that Daniels has standing because of “[t]he lack of any evidence that Mr. Daniels was not an overnight guest.” This double-negative argument ignores the burden of proof regarding Fourth Amendment standing. The evidence introduced at the hearing indicated that the motel room was registered to James and that only his suitcases were in the room. There was no evidence introduced giving any indication that Daniels intended to stay overnight in the room. The Government need not prove a negative; rather, “[t]he 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.”[10] Daniels has provided no ...


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