United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Jesus Ramos' Motion to Suppress
evidence obtained through a series of three interrelated
searches. Mr. Ramos challenges the validity of the searches
under the Fourth Amendment. The first search was of Mr.
Ramos' cell phone records, including cell-site location
information ("CSLI"). The second search was of Mr.
Ramos' apartment, conducted when the police executed an
arrest warrant for him. The third search was a more in-depth
examination of Mr. Ramos' apartment, conducted after the
police secured a search warrant. For the reasons below, the
Court GRANTS Mr. Ramos' Motion to Suppress. ECF 24.
Spring 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration
("DEA") surveilled a home on Ford Street in
Providence, R, I. ("Ford St. Property") and one of
its residents because it suspected that illegal narcotic
activity was taking place there. The DEA came to believe that
the resident was Mr. Ramos based on its observation of him
and an informant's tip that Mr. Ramos was residing in the
area of Ford Street.
and the Boston Police Department ("BPD") met with
the Rhode Island State Police ("State Police") to
discuss their drug investigation and suspicions that the
individual under surveillance was Mr. Ramos. In their
meetings, the DEA and BPD informed the State Police that Mr.
Ramos had an extraditable arrest warrant from Massachusetts
for several drug- and firearm-related offenses. Massachusetts
issued this warrant when Mr. Ramos removed a global position
satellite monitor pending trial for those offenses. The DEA
and BPD also informed the State Police that Mr. Ramos had two
state convictions for drug distribution and trafficking, and
that Mr. Ramos had falsified his identity. Additionally, the
DEA relayed information from an informant to the State Police
that Mr. Ramos was using cell phone No. 508-649-XXXX.
State Police took two steps to continue the DEA's
investigation of the Ford St. Property and to establish a
link between Mr. Ramos and the Property. First, it conducted
a check of property and utility records that gave W&W Realty
LLC as the property owner, and showed electric accounts in
the names of Catalino Ramos Polanco and Earl Raymond. Second,
State Police officers tested white residue found in plastic
baggies in the trash outside the Ford Street Property and
identified traces of cocaine therein.
the trash pull, the State Police obtained a warrant from a
Rhode Island magistrate to obtain records and CSLI for cell
phone No. 508-649-XXXX, In support of the warrant request,
Detective Ryan Santo filed an affidavit stating that a
credible, confidential source had linked Mr. Ramos to the
508-649-XXXX number. ECF 37-1 at 4. A search of that
number's CSLI subsequently showed its location to be at
or near the Ford Street Property.
established a link between the cell phone No. believed to
belong to Mr. Ramos and the Ford Street Property, the State
Police and Providence Police executed the arrest warrant for
Mr. Ramos. Upon arrival at the Ford Street Property, the
police encountered Mr. Ramos' landlord, Ramon Polanco.
Mr. Polanco identified Mr. Ramos as his downstairs tenant and
opened the locked door to Mr. Ramos' apartment with a
key. The police found Mr. Ramos in his bed and arrested him.
Government's factual account of the events following Mr.
Ramos' arrest diverges from Mr. Ramos'. The
Government claims that the police searched Mr. Ramos'
bathroom and two closets. In addition, the Government's
affidavit supporting a subsequent physical search describes a
scale with white residue found inside a large kitchen
cabinet, implying a search of the cabinet. Evidence uncovered
during the search, per the Government's memorandum,
includes a kilo press and red cellophane in one closet.
Furthermore, the Government alleges that the police spotted
another kilo press in plain view, outside the back door to
the apartment. In contrast, Mr. Ramos asserts that no
evidence cited in the affidavit was in plain view during the
police's search, but rather was uncovered during it.
their preliminary search of Mr. Ramos' apartment, the
State Police sought and obtained a search warrant for the
property. To justify this warrant, the State Police cited the
DEA's prior surveillance of the property and of Mr.
Ramos, their search of the trash cans, Mr. Ramos'
criminal history and arrest warrant, and their warrantless
search after arresting Mr. Ramos. A more in depth search
conducted pursuant to the physical search warrant revealed a
variety of evidence that Mr. Ramos now seeks to suppress. In
Mr. Ramos' several filings in support of his Motion to
Suppress, he contends that the first and third searches
(under valid warrants) were unsupported by probable cause,
and that the second (warrantless) search was overbroad.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Fourth Amendment protects citizens against, inter alia,
unreasonable searches and seizures of their homes. U.S.
Const, amend. IV. The first issue here is whether the
Government's warrants for Mr. Ramos' cell records and
for his apartment were constitutionally valid: that is,
whether they were supported by probable cause. Searches
without warrants supported by probable cause, including
searches of the home, are generally presumed unreasonable and
thus unconstitutional. Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S.
452, 459 (2011); United States v. Dion, 859 F.3d
114, 131-32 (1st Cir. 2017) (expounding the probable-cause
standard in the First Circuit). In 2018, the Supreme Court
extended the probable-cause requirement to include searches
of CSLI. See Carpenter v. United States, 138 S.Ct.
2206, 2221 (2018), The second issue is whether the
police's search of Mr. Ramos' apartment, conducted
during his arrest and before the issuance of a search warrant
for the apartment, was constitutionally valid. The parties
argue that either the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine or
the protective-sweep doctrine should apply. See Arizona
v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009) (search incident to arrest
doctrine); Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990)
(protective-sweep doctrine); United States v.
Delgado-Perez, 867 F.3d 244 (1st Cir. 2017)
(protective-sweep doctrine). See also Chimel v.
California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969) (laying out the modern
basis for the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine). However,
for the reasons explained below, the Court finds that the
State Police's entry into Mr. Ramos' apartment was
unconstitutional and thus needs not address the warrantless
search's validity under either doctrine.
Fourth Amendment violation is found, a court reviewing a
motion to suppress must then determine whether to apply the
exclusionary rule. The rule is a "last resort,"
only properly applied when the deterrent effects of its
application outweigh the sizable social costs. Hudson v.
Michigan, 547 U.S. 586, 591 (2006). Furthermore, several
categorical exceptions to the exclusionary rule exist. While
the Government has not briefed them in its filings, the Court
considers three here: the independent-source exception, the
good-faith exception, and the inevitable-discovery exception.
See Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 238 (2011)