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Media Alerts - United States of America v. Dwayne Thompson - Third Circuit
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November 24, 2014
  United States of America v. Dwayne Thompson - Third Circuit
Headline: Delay in presenting a criminal defendant to a magistrate judge is unreasonable where the government exceeds the six-hour window if the government is in the pursuit of cooperation.

Area of Law: Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

Issues Presented: Whether a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop had reasonable, articulable suspicion to extend a traffic search if the defendant was acting suspicious according to an officer's previous experience? Whether the government can exceed the statutory six-hour period of presenting a criminal defendant in front of a magisterial judge if the government is in pursuit of cooperation with the defendant?

Brief Summary: On June 29, 2007, Dwayne Thompson ("Thompson") was stopped by an officer of the Texas Department of Public Safety for exceesive speed limit on I-40, known to the law enforcement community as a corridor for narcotics, weapons, and money. The officer, Livermore, believed Thompson to be nervous during the traffic stop, and called a K-9 detection team. The K-9 alerted the officers at first pass. The officer found a large amount of marijuana in the bed of Thompson's truck and later six-kilograms of cocaine and arrested Thompson. Thompson was charged locally for the drugs, posted bond, and was released.
A few weeks later, Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") agents executed a search warrant at Thompson's residence, where the DEA agents found two kilograms of cocaine. The DEA agents arrested Thompson. Nearly 12 hours after his arrest, the DEA agent presented Thompson with a written waiver of his right to prompt presentment in front of a magisterial federal judge, which Thompson signed. Thompson was delivered for presentment nearly 48 hours after his initial arrest. Thompson pled guilty but retained his right to appeal the denial of the motion to suppress evidence seized at the Texas traffic stop and the denial of the motion to suppress statements obtained following the execution of search warrants at his home due to the delay to in presentment.
The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling denying the motion to suppress the evidence from the Texas traffic stop. The Court reasoned that the officer had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to believe that Thompson was engaged in an illegal activity to extend Thompson's traffic stop due to the totality of the circumstances and the officer's previous experience with traffic stops. The Third Circuit vacated the district court's ruling denying the motion to suppress the confession. The Court explained that the government had plenty of time to give Thompson a waiver or present him in front of a magisterial judge after his arrest before the statutory limit of six hours, and the government seeking a criminal defendant to cooperate is an unreasonable delay according to the statute and the constitution.

Significance (if any):

Extended Summary: On June 29, 2007, Thompson was stopped by Trooper Livermore of the Texas Department of Public Safety for going over the speed limit on I-40, known to the law enforcement community as a corridor for narcotics, weapons, and money. Livermore believed Thompson to be nervous during the traffic stop, noticing lack of eye contact and a shaky voice, and asked to search the car. After Thompson refused, Livermore called a K-9 detection team. The K-9 alerted the officers at first pass. Livermore found a large amount of marijuana in the bed of Thompson's truck. Livermore arrested Thompson and later discovered six kilograms of cocaine in Thompson's truck. Thompson was charged locally for the drugs, posted bond, and was released.
A few weeks later, Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") agents executed a search warrant at Thompson's residence, where the DEA agents found two kilograms of cocaine. The DEA agents arrested Thompson, read him his Miranda rights, but did not have a separate Miranda waiver. At the end of the search, the DEA agents drove Thompson to the DEA field office in Los Angeles, which took approximately an hour and half. After processing, Thompson informed a DEA agent he was willing to cooperate. This was over six hours after his arrest. At this point, two DEA agents began interviewing Thompson about various cocaine sources and additionally tried to set up a reverse-buy-bust with Thompson's cooperation. Some 12 hours after his arrest, the DEA agent presented Thompson with a written waiver of his right to prompt presentment in front of a magisterial federal judge, which Thompson signed. Thompson was delivered for presentment nearly 48 hours after his initial arrest. Thompson pled guilty but retained his right to appeal the denial of the motion to suppress evidence seized at the Texas traffic stop and the denial of the motion to suppress statements obtained following the execution of search warrants at his home due to the delay to in presentment.
With respect to the motion to suppress the evidence at the Texas traffic stop, the Third Circuit determined that, in the light of Livermore's previous experience and the totality of the circumstances, he had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to believe that Thompson was engaged in an illegal activity to extend Thompson's traffic stop. In affirming the district court, the Third Circuit factored in the location of the stop in the Texas Drug Corridor and the nervous manner in which Thompson was acting.
The Third Circuit than examined whether the DEA's hold of Thompson for 12 hours before presenting him with a waiver of presentment, or in the alternative with presenting him in front of a magisterial judge after his arrest, was reasonable. The government argued it could not present Thompson to a judge because of the amount of time it took to search his residence, transport him to the DEA field office, and because the judge had a full docket. Additionally, the government maintained the delay in presentment was reasonable because it was for Thompson's cooperation in the reverse-buy-bust. The Third Circuit disagreed. The Third Circuit explained that the government could have put Thompson in front of a magisterial judge near his home, before processing him at the DEA field office, or shortly after the processing, or in the alternative had Thompson sign a waiver much earlier than 48 hours after his arrest. In addition, the Court declined to accept the government's argument with respect to the pursuit of cooperation, because there is almost no difference than the government in pursuit of cooperation and the government interrogating a suspect, and the difference would be solely the subjective intent of the officers. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's denial of the motion to suppress Thompson's confession.

To read the full opinion, please visit http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/131874p.pdf.

Panel (if known): McKee, Chief Judge, Fuentes, and Greenaway, Jr., Circuit Judges.

Argument Date: June 25, 2014

Argument Location: Philadelphia, PA

Date of Issued Opinion: November 19, 2014

Docket Number: No. 13-1874

Decided: Affirmed in part and Vacated and remanded in part.

Case Alert Author: Ilya Gomelsky

Counsel: Michael L. Ivory, Esq., Rebecca R. Haywood, Esq., and David J. Hickton, Esq. for Appellee; Sarah S. Gannett, Esq., Brett G. Sweitzer, Esq. and Leigh M. Skipper, Esq. for Appellant.

Author of Opinion: Greenway, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 11/24/2014 10:32 AM     3rd Circuit  

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