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United States v. Beauregard

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 26, 2019




         The Court denies a defendant's motion to suppress evidence, finding that the police stop of his rented Kia was justified either by the defendant's traffic infractions witnessed by the state trooper or based on cumulative specific and articulable facts that the defendant was engaged in the transportation of illegal drugs. Based on the record evidence, the Court finds that the defendant voluntarily consented to the search of the Kia and that his initial statements to law enforcement were noncustodial and not subject to Miranda warnings. Finding no Fourth Amendment violation, the Court also rejects the defendant's claim that the results of a later search of the Kia consented to by the owner, namely the rental company, should be suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree, because the Court concludes the tree was not poisonous to begin with. Finally, the Court rejects the defendant's claim that under Byrd v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1518 (2018), he has a Fourth Amendment interest in the contents of his girlfriend's automobile that was separately stopped.


         On December 17, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Richard Beauregard, alleging that he committed two federal crimes on November 7, 2018: Count One alleged that he conspired with others to distribute fentanyl and Count Two that he possessed fentanyl with the intent to distribute it, each a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Indictment (ECF No. 1). On February 28, 2019, Mr. Beauregard filed a motion to suppress evidence, alleging that law enforcement did not have a reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle Mr. Beauregard was operating. Mr. Beauregard's Mot. to Suppress and Dismiss (ECF No. 34) (Def.'s Mot.).[1] On April 8, 2019, the Government filed its opposition to the motion to suppress. Gov't's Resp. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Suppress (ECF No. 41) (Gov't's Opp'n). On May 7, 2019, the Court issued notice of an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress, setting the hearing for May 29, 2019. Notice of Hr'g (ECF No. 42). The Court held the evidentiary hearing on May 29, 2019. Min. Entry (ECF No. 43). At the close of the evidence, the parties argued orally and submitted the motion to the Court for ruling.


         A. The Defendant's Motion

         In his motion, Mr. Beauregard argues that law enforcement was without reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle he was operating on November 7, 2018. Def.'s Mot. at 1. He maintains that his prolonged detention at the traffic stop was illegal and that he did not voluntarily consent to a search of the vehicle. Id. He says that the canine sniff search lacked probable cause, that the canine was not properly handled or trained, [2] and that the further search lacked probable cause. Id. He argues that law enforcement obtained any statements in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, and his statements should be suppressed. 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Id.

         B. The Government's Response

         The Government points out that law enforcement stopped two vehicles on November 7, 2018 in the breakdown lane of the Maine Turnpike. Gov't's Opp'n at 1-6. Mr. Beauregard was operating the first vehicle that the police stopped: a blue Kia bearing New Hampshire license plates. Id. at 3-4. The second vehicle was a 2002 Dodge Caravan bearing Maine license plates, operated by Megan Shockley. Id. at 6. The Government argues that Mr. Beauregard does not have standing to challenge the stop and search of the Caravan owned by Ms. Shockley. Further, the Government contends that the police stop and the search of the Caravan were legal because Ms. Shockley had an outstanding arrest warrant, she admitted that she was carrying contraband on her person, and she produced a small quantity of heroin and cocaine as well as a hypodermic needle. Id. at 7. After a canine alerted to the odor of a controlled substance in the Caravan, a trooper searched the Caravan and found heroin (approximately 210 grams) in a pair of pants and crack cocaine (approximately 15 grams) in a sock. Id. at 6-7. The Government says that Mr. Beauregard has no standing to object to the search of Ms. Shockley's vehicle and that the search of the Shockley vehicle was lawful. Id. at 7-10.

         The Government also says that the stop and search of the Kia was lawful. Id. at 10-14. It further claims that Mr. Beauregard consented to the search of the Kia. Id. at 14-16. The Government says that the length of time Mr. Beauregard was detained was not unreasonable in the circumstances. Id. at 16-17. Finally, the Government argues that Mr. Beauregard's detention was non-custodial and therefore his statements are not precluded under Miranda. Id. at 17-19.


         The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. am. IV. The question presented by Mr. Beauregard's motion to suppress is whether law enforcement violated the Fourth Amendment guarantee in its stop and search of Megan Shockley's Dodge Caravan and of the rented Kia that Mr. Beauregard had been operating on November 7, 2018.

         A. The Stop and Search of Megan Shockley's Dodge Caravan

         There is no evidence in this record that the police stop and search of the Shockley Dodge Caravan was illegal. Setting aside the events in Massachusetts, at the May 29, 2019 suppression hearing, Trooper Matthew Williams confirmed that before he stopped Ms. Shockley's Dodge Caravan, he determined that there was an outstanding active arrest warrant for Megan Shockley for a pending Maine State charge of Aggravated Trafficking in Scheduled Drugs. He was able to visually identify Ms. Shockley as the same person for whom there was an arrest warrant by comparing a Department of Motor Vehicle identification photograph with the driver of the Caravan.

         Once he stopped the Shockley Caravan, he asked Ms. Shockley whether she was, in fact, Megan Shockley and she confirmed she was. He placed her in handcuffs. Upon questioning, she volunteered to Trooper Williams that she had a ticket of heroin as well as a small amount of crack and a needle in her bra. Trooper Williams understood that a ticket of heroin referred to a single dose. At that point, Trooper Williams had not searched Ms. Shockley because he was waiting for a female officer to arrive at the scene to perform a search. However, Ms. Shockley told Trooper Williams that if he placed the handcuffs so that her arms were in front, rather than behind her, she would retrieve the drugs and needle. He did so. She voluntarily produced a small amount of heroin and crack cocaine as well as a hypodermic needle from her bra and handed these items to Trooper Williams.

         After this occurred, Trooper Adam Schmidt, a Corporal with Troop A of the Maine State Police, trained with Ibo, a canine, and certified as a team, performed a canine search of the Shockley Caravan. According to Trooper Schmidt, Ibo alerted twice to the Caravan. The first was at the driver's door and the second at the rear of the motor vehicle. Based on these alerts, law enforcement opened the back of the Caravan and searched the rear area, where they found a lump inside a cargo pocket of a pair of pants and what looked like heroin inside a plastic bag, itself inside a tube sock. They also found a small make-up kit that contained a small amount of crack cocaine under the front driver's seat.

         Mr. Beauregard points to certain facts which he claims make the search of the Caravan illegal. First, he notes that Trooper Schmidt admitted he did not ask Mr. Beauregard's permission to search the Shockley caravan. Next, he points out that when Mr. Beauregard asked Trooper Schmidt whether the car the police had stopped just ahead of his Kia was his girlfriend's vehicle, Trooper Schmidt said, “No, I don't think so.” Mr. Beauregard argues that Trooper Schmidt was lying to him when he denied that they had stopped Ms. Shockley's Caravan. Third, he maintains that if Mr. Beauregard had known it was Ms. Shockley's vehicle stopped ahead, he would have walked up and checked on her.

         But none of these points matters if Mr. Beauregard has no Fourth Amendment rights in Ms. Shockley's Caravan or the items of personal property searched and seized inside her Caravan.[3] Fourth Amendment rights are “personal to each defendant” and may not be asserted vicariously. United States v. Lopez-Lopez, 282 F.3d 1, 9 n.3 (1st Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Padilla, 508 U.S. 77, 81-82 (1993) (per curiam)); United States v. Lopez-Lopez, 282 F.3d 1, 9 n.3 (1st Cir. 2005). In Padilla, the United States Supreme Court wrote that “[i]t has long been the rule that a defendant can urge the suppression of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment only if that defendant demonstrates that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the challenged search or seizure.” Padilla, 508 U.S. at 81 (emphasis in original).

         The familiar standard for assessing whether a defendant has a Fourth Amendment interest in property searched or seized is “first, whether the movant has exhibited an actual, subjective, expectation of privacy; and second, whether such subjective expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as objectively reasonable.” United States v. Rheault, 561 F.3d 55, 59 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979)). Regarding Fourth Amendment interests in automobiles, the First Circuit has written that “[i]n the context of a vehicle search, a defendant must show a property or a possessory interest in the automobile in order to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy.” United States v. Almeida, 748 F.3d 41, 47 (1st Cir. 2014). A person who is “merely a passenger” does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a vehicle. Id.

         The record reveals that the Caravan was Ms. Shockley's, not Mr. Beauregard's, and that law enforcement had the right to stop and arrest her once it confirmed that she was someone with an outstanding arrest warrant. Having legally stopped and arrested Ms. Shockley, once she produced drugs and a hypodermic needle from her clothes and once Ibo alerted on the Caravan, the police had the right to search the Shockley Caravan.

         Mr. Beauregard's response is that he has standing to challenge the search of the Caravan because at least one item of personal property inside the Caravan was not Ms. Shockley's. Mr. Beauregard maintains that once the police came upon a pair of men's pants inside the Caravan, they must have known that the pants were not hers and that they must have known they were searching someone else's property. As a preliminary matter, even if this premise were correct (which the Court does not find), to establish standing to contest the search of items of personal property in Ms. Shockley's motor vehicle, Mr. Beauregard would have to assert actual ownership in the pair of pants and the tube sock where the police found drugs. There is no evidence that Mr. Beauregard has ever claimed that the pair of pants and the tube sock were in fact his. Nor in the circumstances of this case would the Court expect that Mr. Beauregard would freely admit that the pants and sock containing illegal drugs were his.

         Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that the tube sock was a “male” or “female” sock, so the notion that the police should have known that the sock was not Ms. Shockley's is a reach. Even if the pair of pants were traditionally “male, ” there is nothing in the record to suggest that Ms. Shockley might not have worn them. There is no prohibition preventing women from wearing traditionally male clothing. On this record, there is no evidence that the pants were of a size that would prevent Ms. Shockley from fitting into them. Moreover, even if the male character of the pants could possibly establish that the pants were not Ms. Shockley's, it is a giant leap to conclude that they must have been Mr. Beauregard's. The Court is aware of no authority that gives a male a Fourth Amendment right to contest the search of all male-styled clothing that the police find in another vehicle.

         In fact, the First Circuit has refused to extend the privacy interest in a vehicle to non-owners who were driving the vehicle with the owner's permission, unless their use exceeds “a casual possession” of the vehicle. Almeida, 748 F.3d at 48; United States v. Sanchez, 943 F.2d 110 (1st Cir. 1991); United States v. Lochan, 674 F.2d 960 (1st Cir. 1982). An absence of privacy interest in the vehicle extends to an inventory search. Almeida, 748 F.3d at 48 (“[W]e conclude that Almeida has failed to meet his burden of proof establishing that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the truck. Thus, he cannot bring a challenge under the Fourth Amendment to the evidence recovered from the truck, either in the course of Drouin's warrantless search or the subsequent inventory”). If a driver and passenger in a non-owned vehicle may not, absent unusual circumstances, claim a Fourth Amendment right to the vehicle and its contents, Mr. Beauregard's claim that he had a Fourth Amendment interest in a vehicle he did not own and did not occupy, either as a passenger or an operator, extends Fourth Amendment jurisprudence beyond the breaking point.

         Despite this imposing array of countervailing authority and a difficult factual predicate, Mr. Beauregard posits the case of Byrd v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1518 (2018) as supporting his position that he enjoyed a Fourth Amendment interest in Ms. Shockley's Dodge Caravan and its contents. In Byrd, Terrence Byrd and Latasha Byrd drove in Mr. Byrd's Honda to a Budget car rental facility, where Latasha Byrd rented a Ford Fusion, listing herself, not Mr. Byrd, as the only authorized driver. Id. at 1524. Upon leaving the Budget facility, Ms. Byrd handed over the keys to Mr. Byrd, who put his personal belongings in the trunk and drove off in the rented Ford Fusion, while Ms. Byrd drove his Honda. Id. About three hours later, a state trooper spotted Mr. Byrd driving the Fusion and stopped him for a traffic infraction. Id. After discovering that Mr. Byrd was not a listed driver or renter on the car rental agreement, the police concluded he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the Ford Fusion and its contents. Id. at 1525. Inside the car trunk, they found a laundry bag containing body armor and forty-nine bricks of heroin. Id.

         To address whether the police had the right to perform a warrantless search of the Ford Fusion, the United States Supreme Court posed the following question:

Does a driver of a rental car have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car when he or she is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement?

Id. at 1527. The Byrd Court concluded that “the mere fact that a driver in lawful possession or control of a rental car is not listed on the rental agreement will not defeat his or her otherwise reasonable expectation of privacy.” Id. at 1531.

         The obvious critical difference between Byrd and Mr. ...

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