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UNITED STATES v. COPELAND

March 16, 1989

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
COREY S. COPELAND, Defendant


June L. Green, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

JUNE L. GREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 This matter is before the Court upon defendant Corey S. Copeland's Motion to Suppress Tangible Evidence and Statements. At the suppression hearing, Detective Donald Zattau of the Metropolitan Police Department testified on behalf of the Government and defendant Copeland testified in support of his motion. For the reasons stated below, this Court denies defendant's motion to suppress tangible evidence, but grants in part his motion to suppress statements.

 I. Facts

 On January 6, 1989, at about 2:20 a.m., Detectives Donald Zattau and Edward Curley of the Metropolitan Police Department were at the Greyhound Bus Station on 1005 First Street, Northeast, when a bus arrived in Washington, D.C. from New York City. The detectives saw two passengers enter the station together, scan the station and walk toward the First Street exit. Detective Curley approached one passenger, David Smith, and spoke with him briefly. Defendant Copeland ignored Smith and left the station. After speaking with Detective Curley, Smith exited through the First Street door.

 Defendant was arrested and advised of his Miranda2 rights. He indicated that he did not wish to answer any questions. After advisement of his rights, however, defendant was asked what he was going to do with the drugs and he stated that "he was to meet someone and get $ 400.00 for bringing the drugs into Washington."

 II. Discussion

 A. Suppression of Tangible Evidence

 Defendant Copeland seeks suppression of the evidence seized from his person, claiming that it was obtained as a result of an unlawful search. He argues that Detective Zattau had neither probable cause to arrest him nor any articulable suspicion to stop him.

 Defendant claims he was under arrest and detention as soon as the detectives approached. The evidence, however, is to the contrary. "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." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (emphasis added). As the Court in Terry recognized, not all encounters between policeman and citizens involve "seizures" of persons. Id. To determine whether an encounter is a "seizure" or a mere "contact," the Court must ask whether a reasonable person would have thought he or she was free to leave the officer's presence. See Gomez v. Turner, 217 U.S. App. D.C. 281, 672 F.2d 134, 141 (D.C.Cir. 1982). See also United States v. Brady, 269 U.S. App. D.C. 18, 842 F.2d 1313, 1314-15 (D.C.Cir. 1988).

 Defendant faced none of the factors typically found to amount to intimidation or coercion. The detectives were in plain clothes, did not display any weapons, did not threaten defendant and did not physically intimidate him. The encounter occurred on a sidewalk of a public street where defendant was free to walk away.

 Furthermore, Detective Zattau received consent to search defendant. The detective asked if he objected to a search and defendant said he did not and raised his hands to facilitate the search. Although defendant claims that "consent" to search was not freely and voluntarily given, the Court concludes otherwise. The totality of the circumstances surrounding the search supports the Government's allegation that consent was freely given. There is no evidence of aggressive questioning, intimidating actions, or prolonged police presence. See Brady, 842 F.2d at 1315. Not only did defendant consent to the search, he also allowed Detective Zattau to retrieve the object found in his pants. The detective sought permission after defendant began to undo his belt on his own volition in order to retrieve the drugs.

 Although the Court concludes that no fourth amendment detention occurred, it also finds that the Government has shown that Detective Zattau possessed an articulable suspicion to believe that defendant was engaged in criminal activity at the time that he asked to search defendant. Defendant had just arrived on a bus from a source city (New York) in the early morning hours; he scanned the bus station carefully before leaving it; he appeared to ignore Smith when ...


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