United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE
the Court is Terry D. Spurlock's
(“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss Counts 1, 2, and
3 of the Indictment (Doc. 22) and Motion in Limine to Exclude
Evidence Regarding Prior Arrests and Opposition to United
States Notice of Intent to Introduce Rule 404(b) Evidence
Against Terry Spurlock (Doc. 20). The United States filed a
reply to both of Defendant's motions on January 11, 2019.
(Docs. 23, 24). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on this
matter on January 16, 2019 and February 19, 2019. No. further
oral argument is required. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the
Indictment (Doc. 22) is DENIED. Defendant's Motion in
Limine to Exclude Evidence Regarding Prior Arrests and
Opposition to United States Notice of Intent to Introduce
Rule 404(b) Evidence Against Terry Spurlock (Doc. 20) is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
Motion to Dismiss
was arrested at an apartment located at 8521 Rush Avenue,
apartment C, Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 7, 2018. (Doc.
22-1). The report provided by the Baton Rouge Police
Department (“BRPD”) sets forth that Detective
Dennis Smith (“Smith”) was working as an
interdiction officer while stationed at a Federal Express
(“FedEx”) location on Coursey Boulevard where he
observed a package that appeared to him to be
“suspect.” (Id. at p. 1). The report
also indicates that the package appeared suspicious to him
because it was a new box, it originated from California, and
the shipment was paid for in cash. (Id.). Smith
could not reach the sender by telephone and, after a brief
examination, allowed the package to continue on its course.
(Id.). Smith later notified a BRPD narcotics agent
of the suspicious package and its expected time of delivery.
Narcotics Division set up surveillance at the building to
which the package was ultimately delivered. (Id. at
p. 2). After the package was delivered, the officers knocked
on the door to the apartment, and Defendant answered.
(Id.). The officers identified themselves, and took
Defendant into custody. (Id.). Defendant made
statements concerning firearms and drugs on the premises and
signed a consent form allowing the officers to search the
property. (Id.). Police located the suspect package,
but did not open it until obtaining a search warrant.
(Id.). After receiving the warrant, the officers
opened the package and found marijuana. (Id.).
Motion in Limine
United States filed a Notice of Intent to Produce 404(b)
Evidence (“NOI”) on December 19, 2018. (Doc. 19).
The United States intends to introduce evidence of three
prior arrests, two of which resulted in guilty pleas: a June
10, 2015 arrest resulting in a guilty plea for illegal
carrying of a weapon, a February 17, 2015 incident report
concerning an arrest for possession with intent to distribute
17.2 grams of marijuana, and a March 31, 2009 arrest that
resulted in a guilty plea for attempted carrying of an
illegal firearm. (Doc. 20-1 at p. 2).
ARGUMENT AND ANALYSIS
Claims 1, 2, and 3 of the Indictment will not be Dismissed
nor Shall Evidence Gained from Examining the Package be
threshold matter, at the evidentiary hearing on January 16,
2019, the Court questioned defense counsel concerning whether
Defendant's motion to dismiss would be more appropriately
styled as a motion to suppress evidence. Defense counsel
conceded that as he was challenging the allegedly illegal
“seizure” of the package by Smith on the FedEx
conveyor belt when Smith stopped and photographed the
package, that his claim would more appropriately be
considered a motion to suppress evidence. However, defense
counsel did not withdraw his motion to dismiss at that time.
Therefore, the Court shall consider Defendant's motion as
both a motion to suppress evidence seeking to strike the
allegedly illegal seizure, and in the alternative, a motion
to dismiss counts 1, 2, and 3 of the indictment for failure
to establish probable cause for officers to arrest Defendant.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
evidentiary hearing Defendant argued that Smith unlawfully
seized the package when he stopped it and took a photo of it
for the purpose of conducting a further investigation.
Defendant claims that such an act violated his right to
privacy in his mail.
enforcement authorities must possess a reasonable suspicion
based on articulable facts that a package contains contraband
before they may detain the package for investigation.
United States v. Van Leeuwen, 397 U.S. 249, 252-53.
Reasonable suspicion exists when, based on the totality of
the circumstances, an officer possesses a particularized and
objective basis for suspecting that ...