Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Human Rights: Police find 5kg of cocaine in car but court dismisses evidence as police had no reason to believe it was there

SOURCE Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin LLP

Kestenbaum Eisner & Gorin obtain a complete defense victory when LA Superior Court Judge suppresses all evidence recovered from defendant's vehicle by Glendale Police Department, including 5 kilograms of cocaine.

LOS ANGELES, March 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- An LA Superior Court Judge agreed with defense attorney Alan Eisner that a Glendale Police Department officer's stop, search and recovery of narcotics from a defendant's vehicle was without reasonable suspicion and without probable cause.

The case began when officers were conducting surveillance on a suspected narcotics location and a BMW was let out from a gate at that location by what officers allege was a lookout. The officers followed the BMW on the 105 and 405 freeways to a Costco (Hawthorne) parking lot where Mr. Eisner's client got into the BMW and the BMW was driven to where the client's JETTA was parked in the lot. Mr. Eisner's client took a full black duffle bag from the trunk of the BMW and placed it in the trunk of his JETTA. The officers confronted Mr. Eisner's client, asked him what was in the duffle bag and after receiving no response, opened the duffel bag and found five kilograms of cocaine.

Two detectives testified before the judge, offering their expert opinion as narcotics detectives that this was a classic case of a public location drug transfer and sale, giving just cause to stop, search and recover the narcotics. Specifically, the officers testified that (1) the BMW exhibited anti-surveillance driving on the freeway going to the drug transfer by rapidly changing lanes and abruptly exiting the freeway, (2) the BMW exhibited a suspicious driving pattern in the parking lot because the BMW drove aimlessly up and down 5 aisles, and (3) both passengers were nervous and continually looking around during the transfer of the bag between the two cars.

Defense counsel Alan Eisner's cross-examination of the lead detective on the issue of asserted anti-surveillance driving established that: 1) no variation in speed occurred on the freeway, unlike the usual case with anti-surveillance driving; 2) no unnecessary exiting and reentry to the freeway occurred; 3) no driving in residential neighborhoods or to cul-de-sacs to detect law enforcement occurred; 4) no stopping alongside the road to detect any potential followers during the route occurred; 5) no excessive U-turns occurred; and, 6) a direct path of travel occurred rather than the indirect route that is usually the case with anti-surveillance driving.

Mr. Eisner's cross examination further established that the route taken by the BMW in the parking lot was not indirect. Mr. Eisner had the detectives identify the vehicle's path of travel on a map of the parking lot. The Judge examined this evidence and ruled that "…there could not have been a more direct route of travel by the care in the lot."

The Court rejected the detectives' assertion of probable cause and suppressed all contraband obtained from the stop. In granting attorney Eisner's Fourth Amendment motion, the Court also held that without the suppressed evidence, there was insufficient evidence to bind the case over for trial. The defendant was immediately released.

Fourth Amendment motions to suppress evidence are granted very rarely. Case dismissals after the granting of such motions are also extremely rare.