grams or more of cocaine base. Her case is scheduled for a jury trial on June 28, 1988. The case is now before the Court on the defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The Court held a hearing on the motion on June 20, 1988, during which one witness, Detective Edward Curley, testified. The Court then took the motion under advisement.
After giving careful consideration to the motion, the opposition thereto, the arguments of counsel and the record in this case, the Court concludes that the motion should be denied.
The facts are as follows: On April 7, 1988, Detective Curley was one of two or more officers of the Metropolitan Police Department who were located at Union Station in the District of Columbia for the purpose of intercepting the illicit transportation of illegal drugs into the District of Columbia area. At approximately 2:45 p.m. he was standing near Gate K so that he could observe persons entering the station from a train that had just arrived at the station. The train had either originated or had stopped in New York City.
Curley testified that his attention was called to the defendant because she walked from the train and through the station at a fast pace, although he conceded that some of the other passengers were walking at the same pace. He had never seen or had any connection with the defendant, and he had no information that the defendant, or for that matter, anyone exiting the train in District of Columbia would be transporting illegal drugs. Nor was there anything unusual about the defendant's dress, her looks, or her actions.
The officer was dressed in casual clothes, as was another officer who served as his backup. The two officers kept apart from one another and, although both were armed, their weapons were hidden from view. In short, the officers appeared to be regular patrons of the station.
Curley followed the defendant through the station proper to a walkway leading to Massachusetts Avenue which is located in front of the original station.
He approached the defendant and asked whether he could speak with her. She consented and he asked whether she would mind showing him her train ticket.
When he saw that her ticket was from New York City to the District of Columbia, he continued to ask her questions. He asked her how long she expected to be in the District, where she was staying and why she was visiting the city. She responded that she expected to be in the area for approximately one week, that she would be staying with an uncle, although she did not have his address, and that she came to the District of Columbia to have her hair done at Iverson Mall.
He also asked for identification and she produced, among other identification, a "street corner identification."
At this point in time, Curley advised her that he was part of a narcotics interdiction team and asked whether he could look into her bag.
The officer testified that, without hesitation, she responded that he could search the bag. She reached inside the bag to open it and the officer noticed that she seem to be moving a paper bag located in the travel bag from view. He asked her what was in the paper bag and she replied that it contained coffee. It was about this time that she attempted to close her bag with his hand inside. He stated that he asked her whether he could look in the brown bag and she again consented and opened the bag. Upon searching the paper bag, the officer saw another bag which appeared to contain a plastic bag or bags. He also noted that the substance inside did not appear to be coffee because it was not dark in color. Further search revealed that the substance was cocaine base.
In all, the officer found 133 small plastic bags of cocaine base. At this point, the defendant was placed under arrest.
Under questioning by the Court, Curley testified that he was attracted to the defendant because she was walking briskly, she was carrying a small bag and she had a ticket reflecting that she boarded the train in New York City. As to these three observations, the Court finds that, although she was walking at a brisk pace, she was not out in front of the other passengers from the train and that she was one of perhaps the first ten people from the train to enter the station. Further, the Court finds that the officer does not know whether other passengers were carrying similar bags and single bags. Finally, the officer did not know, prior to asking her questions, whether she boarded the train in New York City, or Philadelphia, or Baltimore, or at any of the other stops between Washington and New York.
The officer also advised the Court in response to its questions that the defendant did not fit any profile.
The officer readily concedes that he did not have a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was carrying drugs, or that she was committing a crime or about to commit a crime, and that he merely stopped her on a hunch. He stated that, as a part of the drug interdiction program, he stops citizens to ask them questions. He stated, however, that as in the case of the present stop, he speaks quietly and pleasantly, is not overbearing, does not act forcefully and always seeks the consent of the person stopped. He noted that if they do not desire to talk with him, they are free to walk away, since he has no grounds to stop them or to seize them. He does not select the persons he approaches based on their age, race or sex.
The defendant contends that she was the victim of an illegal search and seizure by Detective Curley and that, accordingly, the evidence obtained as the result of the search should be suppressed. She argues that the detective violated her Fourth Amendment rights when he seized her without articulable suspicion or probable cause and she alleges that she never voluntarily consented to the search of her bag.
The facts in this case are undisputed.
Under those facts, three questions are raised. First, whether Detective Curley "seized" her when he asked to speak with her. Second, whether she voluntarily consented to the search of her bag. Third, whether, based upon her answers to the detective' questions, he had probable cause to search her bag.
A leading case on the issue of "contacts" by police officers with citizens is United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 100 S. Ct. 1870, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497 (1980). In that case, the Supreme Court explained that:
The Fourth Amendment's requirement that searches and seizures be founded upon objective justification, governs all seizures of the person, "including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest . . ." Accordingly, if the respondent was 'seized' when the DEA agents approached her on the concourse and asked questions of her, the agents' conduct in doing so was constitutional only if they reasonably suspected the respondent of wrongdoing. But "obviously, not all personal intercourse between policemen and citizens involves 'seizures' of persons. Only when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen may we conclude that a 'seizure' has occurred."