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October 4, 1991


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN


 This case is before the Court on defendant, Pedro Prandy-Binnet's ("Prandy"), motion to suppress physical evidence and other "fruits" obtained on May 22, 1991 by officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. Because the procedures used by the police in this case violated the defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment, the motion to suppress is granted.


 On August 28, 1991, the Court held a hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress. Testimony was taken from the defendant, the two arresting officers, Detective John Centrella and Detective Jeffrey Huffman, and Pretrial Services officer Lisa Camprise. In addition, the government was permitted to introduce expert testimony from Officer David Stroud of the Metropolitan Police Department. From this testimony, the following sequence of events emerges.

 On May 22, 1991, Detectives Centrella and Huffman, members of the District of Columbia Police Department's Drug Interdiction Unit, were stationed at Union Station. At 5:45 p.m., the defendant, Mr. Prandy, exited from a train arriving from New York and proceeded up the escalator, the only available exit from the platform. Mr. Prandy is a young Hispanic male. The officers observed the defendant leave the escalator. They testified that he passed them walking quickly and that he made eye-contact with the officers as he went by.

 At that point the officers approached Mr. Prandy, identified themselves, and began questioning him. *fn1" Detective Centrella testified that he asked Mr. Prandy several questions about where he had come from and his destination. Mr. Prandy told the detective that he worked in New Jersey and lived in Washington. Mr. Prandy also produced a Maryland driver's license and a one-way train ticket from New York when asked to do so by the police. Officer Centrella asked the defendant if he was carrying any guns or drugs, and Mr. Prandy responded that he was not. The police then asked the defendant if they could search his small tote bag. The defendant set the bag on the floor, knelt down with detective Centrella beside him, and opened it.

 As the defendant was shifting the items inside the bag, Detective Centrella noticed a purple Elizabeth Taylor's Perfume shopping bag. The defendant told the detective that the bag contained a gift, but the detective's attention was drawn to the bag. Transcript of Motion To Suppress at 17. Officer Centrella testified that as the defendant went through the other contents of the bag "a portion of what was in the shopping bag" was "squeezed out." Tr. at 16. At that moment the police officer told the defendant that he was under arrest. The defendant was handcuffed and he was taken to the police station for booking and interrogation.

 What did the police officer see at that moment which caused him to tell the defendant he was under arrest? The testimony revealed that Officer Centrella saw a portion of a square object wrapped in silver duct tape. He did not touch the object, nor did he view the whole object at that time. Indeed, testimony of the two arresting officers differed significantly on the size of the object. Nor were the contents of the package field tested at that time. The package was then removed from the bag and transported with the defendant back to the station. It was "field" tested at that time and the result was positive for powdered cocaine.


 A. The Arrest

 As a preliminary matter, I address the events surrounding the defendant's arrest. The level of protection afforded a defendant by the Fourth Amendment depends on whether the intrusion in question is merely an investigative stop, for which only reasonable suspicion is required, or rises to the level of an arrest which requires a showing of probable cause. Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 498-500, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229 (1983). In distinguishing a stop from an arrest the standard is that a stop "must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop" and that "the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available." Id. at 500. The overarching principal in making such determinations is what a "reasonable person" under similar circumstances would believe. See United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497, 100 S. Ct. 1870 (1980). I must apply an objective standard, then. If it looks like an arrest and if it sounds like an arrest, then for Fourth Amendment purposes it is an arrest.

 Using this objective standard, I find that Mr. Prandy was placed under arrest the moment the detectives saw the duct tape. What occurred clearly sounded and looked like an arrest. Immediately upon seeing the portion of the duct taped object, the police actually advised Mr. Prandy that he was under arrest. Mr. Prandy was immediately handcuffed and taken to the police station. His possessions were confiscated. These facts would certainly suggest to a reasonable person that he was under arrest and subject to the normal constraints and searches that accompany an arrest. In addition, the police gave Mr. Prandy his Miranda warnings, another indication that a defendant is in custody.

 The testimony shows that at the moment the police officers saw the duct tape, every person on the scene thought an arrest had been made. Both officers testified that Mr. Prandy was, to their minds, "arrested" immediately after they saw the duct tape. Mr. Prandy also ...

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