United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to
suppress. (ECF No. 9.) Through his motion, Defendant contends
law enforcement lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion to
“seize” him while he was camping in Acadia
National Park on August 3, 2016. Following a hearing, and
after consideration of the parties' arguments, the Court
denies the motion.
the evening of August 3, 2016, Darren Belskis, a ranger in
Acadia National Park, while on foot patrol in the Blackwoods
Campground of the park, heard some noise during quiet hours
(10 p.m. - 6 a.m.), and walked toward the direction of the
noise. As he approached the location of the noise, he smelled
marijuana. He determined the smell was coming from
at the entrance to the campsite, Ranger Belskis observed two
individuals, one male and one female. He witnessed the female
hand a vapor pen to the male. A vapor pen is a device used to
smoke a variety of substances. The male appeared to conceal
the item in one of his hands. Ranger Belskis directed
Defendant to put down the vapor pen. Defendant put the pen in
the pocket of the short pants he was wearing at the time.
Defendant did not take the pen out of his pocket and make it
available to Ranger Belskis, Ranger Belskis placed Defendant
in handcuffs. According to Ranger Belskis, he placed
Defendant in handcuffs to gain control of the situation as he
was concerned for his safety and about the possible
destruction of evidence. Ranger Belskis cited the time of
night (approximately 11 p.m.), Defendant's apparent use
of an intoxicating drug, and Defendant's failure to
follow his instruction to put down the vapor pen as the
factors that generated the safety concern.
placing Defendant in handcuffs, Ranger Belskis frisked
Defendant and removed the vapor pen from Defendant's
pocket. Ranger Belskis then requested that an associate come
to the campsite with a field test so that he could confirm
that the vapor pen contained a controlled substance. The
content of the vapor pen tested positive for THC. Because of
the delay occasioned by the request for a field test from
another ranger, the encounter lasted approximately thirty to
Government bears the burden of establishing that a stop
complied with the Fourth Amendment. United States v.
Lopez, 380 F.3d 538, 543 (1st Cir. 2004). “The
Fourth Amendment prohibits ‘unreasonable searches and
seizures' by the Government, and its protections extend
to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall
short of traditional arrest.” United States v.
Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (citing Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 9 (1968)). To determine whether a stop
was reasonable, the Court must assess “(1) whether the
officer's action was justified at its inception, and (2)
whether it was reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances which justified the interference in the first
place.” United States v. Moore, 235 F.3d 700,
703 (1st Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotations
the detention of a suspect is more burdensome than a brief
investigatory stop, it is generally analyzed as an
arrest. A warrantless arrest is permitted when
“the facts and circumstances known to the arresting
officers were sufficient to warrant a prudent person in
believing that the defendant had committed or was committing
an offense.” United States v.
Torres-Maldonado, 14 F.3d 95, 105 (1st Cir. 1994).
“[I]n order to establish that probable cause existed
for such an arrest, the government need not present the
quantum of proof necessary to convict.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). “The standard of
probable cause is the probability, not a prima facie
showing, of criminal activity.” United States v.
Ciampa, 793 F.2d 19, 22 (1st Cir. 1986). The standard is
met when the totality of the circumstances indicate there is
“a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a
crime will be found in a particular place.”
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983).
absence of probable cause to arrest, an officer may still
conduct an investigatory stop where he has knowledge of
“specific and articulable facts which, taken together
with rational inferences, ” generate a reasonable
suspicion that criminal activity “may be afoot.”
Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 30. “A finding of
reasonable suspicion requires a particularized and objective
basis for suspecting the person stopped of criminal
activity.” United States v. Brown, 621 F.3d
48, 55 (1st Cir. 2010) (quoting United States v.
Espinoza, 490 F.3d 41, 47 (1st Cir. 2007)).
Government does not dispute that Ranger Belskis'
encounter with Defendant constituted a stop or seizure. Given
that Ranger Belskis temporarily placed Defendant in handcuffs
and otherwise prevented him from leaving the campsite, Ranger
Belskis unquestionably seized Defendant. The issue is whether
Ranger Belskis had either reasonable suspicion for the
seizure and/or probable cause to arrest Defendant.
is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. 21
U.S.C. § 812(c), Schedule I(c)(10). As such, the
possession of marijuana in Acadia National Park constitutes a
federal offense. 36 C.F.R. § 2.35(b)(2). “It is
well settled that the smell of marijuana alone, if
articulable and particularized, may establish not merely
reasonable suspicion, but probable cause.” United
States v. Ramos, 443 F.3d 304, 308 (3rd Cir. 2006)
(citing United States v. Humphries, 372 F.3d 653
(4th Cir. 2004); United States v. Winters, 221 F.3d
1039 (8th Cir. 2000)).
as he arrived at Defendant's campsite, Ranger Belskis
smelled burning marijuana and observed Defendant in
possession of a device that is used to smoke a number of
substances. Insofar as the possession of marijuana in Acadia
National Park is illegal, Ranger Belskis plainly had a
reasonable basis for an investigatory stop or seizure. The
fact that Ranger Belskis had a reasonable basis for a
Terry stop, however, does not end the inquiry.
Defendant also challenges Ranger Belskis' frisk of him,
which frisk produced the vapor pen. During a valid
Terry stop, an officer may conduct a pat-down search
or frisk if the officer “has some articulable,
reasonable suspicion that the person stopped may be
dangerous.” United States v. Tiru-Plaza, 766
F.3d 111, 116 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v.
McGregor, 650 F.3d 813, 820 (1st Cir. ...