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United States v. Peavy-Wright

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 14, 2019




         Michael Curtis Peavy-Wright is charged with possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C.A. § 841(a)(1) (West 2019). Peavy-Wright moves to suppress all evidence obtained from a search of his person by police (ECF No. 36). For the following reasons, I deny the motion.

         I. FACTS

         On February 22, 2019, at 2:14 a.m. on Interstate 95 near the York Toll Plaza, Maine State Police Trooper Jesse Duda initiated a traffic stop of a Ford F150 pickup truck because the vehicle's registration had expired. The truck contained four occupants: the driver and three passengers, including Peavy-Wright. When Trooper Duda approached the truck, he observed that Peavy-Wright, who was sitting in the rear driver's-side seat, was not wearing a seatbelt. He also observed a marijuana pipe in the front of the vehicle and smelled the odor of burnt marijuana.

         Trooper Duda asked the driver for her license and the truck's registration. She provided her license, which indicated that she was from Presque Isle, Maine-an approximately five-hour drive from where the truck was stopped.[1] The driver was unable to locate the truck's registration, stating that she was not the owner of the vehicle. Trooper Duda also asked the passengers, including Peavy-Wright, if they had identification, and each indicated that they did not. At this point, Trooper Duda asked the driver to step out of the truck, and he returned to his vehicle with her. He questioned the driver about why she had the truck and where she was going. She indicated that she and the passengers lived in Presque Isle, that they had all driven down from Bangor that night to pick up the truck at the Kittery rest area on I-95, and that they were on their way back to Bangor when they got pulled over. When asked to name the passengers in the truck, the driver identified Peavy-Wright as “Louie.” During the conversation, Trooper Duda ran the driver's license through a law enforcement database and discovered that she was the subject of a narcotics investigation in Maine.

         At approximately 2:21 a.m., while Trooper Duda was questioning the driver, Sergeant Thomas Pappas arrived. He approached the truck, saw the passengers still seated, and noticed that Peavy-Wright was not wearing a seatbelt. Sergeant Pappas asked the passengers for identification, and they responded that they did not have any. Sergeant Pappas then asked the passengers to write down their names and dates of birth. Peavy-Wright wrote that his name was “Michael Wright.” When Sergeant Pappas asked Peavy-Wright where his “license [was] out of, ” Peavy-Wright stated, “Mass.” Sergeant Pappas then followed up by asking, “Mass.? What part?” Peavy-Wright responded, “Kittery.” Sergeant Pappas testified that he immediately knew that this was untrue because Kittery is a town in Maine, not Massachusetts.[2]At this point, Sergeant Pappas asked Peavy-Wright to step out of the truck. He asked for permission to pat down Peavy-Wright, which Peavy-Wright provided. Sergeant Pappas then conducted a patdown search of Peavy-Wright's chest, waist area, and pant-legs. The patdown did not yield any weapons or contraband.

         Sergeant Pappas then continued to question Peavy-Wright about his identity. Sergeant Pappas told Peavy-Wright that the driver had identified him as “Louie, ” and Peavy-Wright responded that his name was “Michael Wright, ” not “Louie.” Sergeant Pappas asked for Peavy-Wright's middle name, and Peavy-Wright stated that it was “Curtis.” Sergeant Pappas attempted to verify Peavy-Wright's identity through a law enforcement database, but the database did not return any matches for a “Michael Wright” with the date of birth that Peavy-Wright had provided. The database did, however, return matches for the names of the other two passengers in the truck. Peavy-Wright explained that in his past interactions with law enforcement, officers had been unable to verify his identity. He further informed Sergeant Pappas that his last valid identification card had been issued in Ohio and suggested that a search of Ohio records might verify his identity.

         Meanwhile, Trooper Duda had his trained K-9 partner, “Mack, ” perform a dog sniff of the truck. Mack alerted to the odor of narcotics on the truck. Trooper Duda then walked over to Sergeant Pappas' vehicle and spoke briefly with Sergeant Pappas and Peavy-Wright. Trooper Duda asked Peavy-Wright why the driver had referred to him as “Louie, ” and Peavy-Wright explained that he had gotten the nickname “Louie” from wearing Louis Vuitton clothing. Trooper Duda also asked Peavy-Wright about his travel plans, and Peavy-Wright stated that he had been picked up in Portland and was heading back to Portland.

         After this brief interaction with Trooper Duda, Peavy-Wright volunteered to Sergeant Pappas for the first time that his last name was not “Wright” but “Peavy-Wright.” He also explained that, on previous occasions, police officers had been unable to identify him in law enforcement databases under the name “Wright” but had been successful when searching for him under the name “Peavy-Wright.” Sergeant Pappas then attempted to verify Peavy-Wright's identity based on this new information. Peavy-Wright also reiterated that his last valid identification card was issued in Ohio, offered to provide his social security number, and indicated that Portland Police Department had verified his identity during a stop in South Portland in 2018. When Sergeant Pappas misspelled “Peavy-Wright” during a radio communication, Peavy-Wright informed Sergeant Pappas of the correct spelling.

         Two minutes later, after eighteen total minutes of fruitless efforts to verify Peavy-Wright's identity, Sergeant Pappas told Peavy-Wright, “You're just going to be detained right now at this point. I have no idea who you are. Put your hands right behind your back. You're not wearing a seatbelt. You're telling me you live in Kittery, Massachusetts.” Sergeant Pappas placed Peavy-Wright in handcuffs and engaged in a probing search of Peavy-Wright's waist and groin area. Sergeant Pappas testified that he did not limit himself to the scope of a patdown but conducted a “full search incident to arrest.” During the search, Sergeant Pappas felt an object in Peavy-Wright's groin area and manipulated the object out of Peavy-Wright's pants so as to remove it without reaching inside. The object was a package of narcotics, which was later determined to be fentanyl, or a mixture containing primarily fentanyl.

         Shortly after the search, Sergeant Pappas became aware of Ohio records confirming that Peavy-Wright was “Michael Curtis Peavy-Wright, ” and that Peavy-Wright had accurately reported his date of birth.


         The Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. In general, a search must be supported by a valid warrant in order to be reasonable. See Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 139 S.Ct. 2525, 2534 (2019). If a search of the person is conducted without a warrant, the search “is reasonable only if it falls within a recognized exception” to the warrant requirement. Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. 141, 148 (2013) (citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 224 (1973)); see also Mitchell, 139 S.Ct. at 2534.

         A. ...

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