Search ruled ok even if person claiming authority doesn’t live there…just deals drugs there.

Mr. Gonzalez tried several ways to get out of his drug convictions, including two attempts at perjury. Unfortunately for him, one thing judges don’t like is when they are lied to.

One of the legal ways Gonzalez tried to have the search of the apartment tossed out was by asserting that police should have known his friend did not live in the apartment even though she consented to a police search. Apparently, she didn’t really live there…she just dealt drugs from there. Unfortunately again for Mr. Gonzalez, the appeals court recognized his friend’s apparent authority, and his appeal was denied.

From United States v. Gonzalez

Where a defendant has been convicted of drug offenses, no reversal is warranted here, as the lower court did not err in denying the defendant’s suppression motions.

“This case demonstrates several patterns in urban drug dealing: the shipment of packages of large quantities of drugs through reputable carriers, here DHL; the use of largely empty apartments by drug conspirators as drug drops to which the shipments are addressed; and police who pretend to be carrier employees, make deliveries, and arrest those who take control of the package at the apartments. The defendant, Jesus Gonzalez, convicted of conspiring to distribute and possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, tries to take advantage of this pattern to argue the court erred in not suppressing statements and evidence from this sequence, including from a search of the apartment to which his female co-conspirator consented. Gonzalez is mistaken.

“Gonzalez also made the mistake of committing perjury in the course of the suppression hearing. He ended up with a two-level enhancement to his sentence, from which he appeals. We affirm his conviction and sentence. …

“Gonzalez argues it was unreasonable for the officers to believe [Kristina] LaFrance’s claim that she lived in the apartment because she misspelled the name [Anna] Ohoven as ‘Ohoben,’ could not produce identification, and it appeared no one lived in the apartment. If these facts signaled that LaFrance was lying, they supported the inference that the apartment was not lived in at all but was being used as a drug drop to which she at least had joint access.

“The test is not whether LaFrance actually lived in the apartment but whether she apparently had sufficient authority to consent to its search. It would turn the Fourth Amendment upside down to say that an officer was unreasonable because the person claiming authority who answered the door did not in fact live there but used it for drug dealing. The doctrine of apparent authority to consent to searches of physical spaces is not limited to residences where people live. …

“Gonzalez’s claim is that the district court did not sufficiently consider whether he simply suffered memory lapses or was confused. We agree with the district court that ‘there is no way you can view [the] entire testimony as anything other than an effort to completely and totally deceive the Court in an effort to try to get the Court to grant the suppression motion.’

“Gonzalez’s testimony involved a series of convenient and implausible denials. …”

About Attorney John J. MacLaughlan

John MacLaughlan is Massachusetts licensed attorney as well as a Boston police officer. John is currently assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force (Gang Unit). He is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Law with a concentration in Labor Law. He holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell as well as a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John has taught Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Use of Force, Applied Patrol Procedures, and Police Response to Active Shooters to sworn police officers and police academy recruits. Prior to becoming a Boston Police Officer, John served for 9 years as a police officer in Lowell, where he was a member of the Police Dive Team and Patrol Rifle Team.
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