Monday, January 19, 2009

IV. Conflicts of Law


88. The analysis regarding conflict of laws is identical to that articulated in the Defendants’ previously filed briefs regarding the electronic intercepts, search of Defendants’ home and statements made post-arrest.

89. To summarize, this matter presents a question of conflict between substantive and not procedural laws. See Larrison v. Larrison, 2000 Pa.Super 111, 750 A.2d 895 (2000).

90. In cases where the substantive laws of Pennsylvania conflict with those of a sister state in the civil context, Pennsylvania courts take a flexible approach which permits analysis of the policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court. See Griffith v. United Airlines, 416 Pa.1, 203 A.2d 796, 805 (1964).

91. This approach gives the state having the most interest in the question paramount control over the legal issues arising from a particular factual context, thereby allowing the forum to apply the policy of the jurisdiction most intimately concerned with the outcome. Id.

92. Defendant Cuadra believes that a similar approach should be taken in the criminal context where the substantive laws of this Commonwealth conflict with those of a sister state.” Commonwealth v. Sanchez, et al, 552 Pa. 570, 576, 716 A.2d 1221, 1224 (1998) (Emphasis supplied).

93. Because Virginia law enforcement arrested the Defendants for Pennsylvania authorities who were en route with the Pennsylvania warrants, Pennsylvania has the greater interest in the outcome of this matter.

94. Virginia did not execute their own search warrant until the following day.

95. Further, the items seized, namely the Sig Sauer knife, relate to the Pennsylvania prosecution and not any prosecution Virginia authorities have instituted as is evidenced by the fact that Virginia turned over these items to Pennsylvania and did not retain them and based upon the Findings of Fact outlined above.

96. Defendant Cuadra was not charged with crimes in Virginia. Moreover, the “Fugitive From Justice warrant” that Virginia authorities claim they relied on to seize Defendant Cuadra does not exist. As outlined above in the Findings of Fact, the arrest warrant was issued by MDJ Tupper on May 15, 2007.

97. The Sanchez case makes these distinctions even more clear. In Sanchez, a canine sniff of a package in California which was sent to a Pennsylvania resident gave rise to the probable cause necessary for issuance of a Pennsylvania search warrant. Sanchez, 716 A.2d at 1222. The canine sniff was legal under California law but not Pennsylvania law. Id. at 1223. The Sanchez court concluded that California possessed the greater interest in the validity of the canine sniff and because the sniff complied with California law, it could be used to support probable cause in Pennsylvania. Id at 1224. Jn reaching this conclusion, the Sanchez court reasoned:

No Pennsylvania state interest would be advanced by analyzing the propriety of the canine sniff under Pennsylvania law because the canine sniff did not occur in Pennsylvania and no Pennsylvania state officer was involved in the canine sniff. * * * Thus we hold that if the courts of a sister state determine that a canine sniff is not a search in that state, the propriety of a sniff initiated by that state’s officers and conducted within that state’s borders must be evaluated under the laws of that state, Id. at 1224, 1225. (Emphasis supplied).

98. Virginia authorities did not possess any Virginia arrest warrant for Defendant Cuadra.

99. The only valid warrant Virginia authorities possessed at the time was the knowledge of the existence of the arrest warrants for the Defendants from Pennsylvania.

100. The items at issue, namely the knife, were turned over to Pennsylvania authorities.

101. Virginia authorities never charged the Defendants with any crimes.

102. Analysis compels the result that Pennsylvania law applies to the search of the Defendants’ BMW and the seizure of items, namely the knife, therefrom. Analysis Under Pennsylvania Law.

103. Under Pennsylvania law, a warrantless search of a vehicle incident to arrest violates Article 1 Section 8 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution. See Commonwealth v. White, 543 Pa. 45, 669 A.2d 896 (1995).

104. Once Mr. Cuadra was in custody, there was no reason to dispense with the warrant requirement if police wanted to search the car for investigatory purposes.

105. Under a Pennsylvania analysis, it is very clear that the items seized should be suppressed as they are fruits of an illegal search. Analysis Under Virginia Law

106. In applying Belton to the analysis of warrantless vehicle searches, Virginia courts will examine: 1. Whether the defendant was the subject of a lawful custodial arrest; and 2. Whether the arrestee was the occupant of the vehicle that was searched. Glasco v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 257 Va. 433, 438, 513 S.E.2d 137, 140 (1999) clUng People v. Savedra, 907 P.2d 596, 597-98 (Cob. 1995).

107. Again, the scope of the search extends only to the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 at 460.

108. The purpose of a search without warrant contemporaneous to arrest is the need, to remove any weapons that [ arrestee] might seek to use in order to resist arrest or to effect his escape” and the need to prevent the concealment or destruction of evidence. Chime! v. Cailfornia, 395 U.S. 752, 763, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685 (1969).

109. Here, there is no question that Defendant Cuadra was an occupant of the BMW that was searched and that if the items were seized from Defendant Cuadra’s passenger compartment, the seizure would be valid under Virginia law.

110. However, Defendant Cuadra reasserts that Pennsylvania law controls the situation and therefore compels the result that any seizure of evidence from the defendant’s vehicle was warrantless, incident to arrest, and should be suppressed.

Law and Argument—Home Search

111. The Defendants’ home was searched pursuant to the search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, the Virginia RICO warrant, the day after their arrest, on May 16, 2007. Police reports and inventories allege that the items at issue—the knife, laptop computers, a camcorder, tapes and a Sprint mobile air card, were seized at the home by Virginia authorities pursuant to this RICO warrant and turned over to Pennsylvania authorities for use in the Pennsylvania homicide prosecution.

112. The corrupt organization that Virginia alleges the Defendants were involved in is prostitution.

113. The items sought by the affidavit accompanying the search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, relate to the business of the illegal enterprise.

114. The search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, authorizes the seizure of all items at issue herein, except for the Sig Sauer knife.

No Conflict of Laws—Seizure of Knife Illegal Under Virginia Law

115. The search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, the RICO warrant, was initiated and executed by Virginia law enforcement without involvement or at the behest of Pennsylvania.

116. Therefore, Virginia’s laws apply to the execution of the RICO warrant.

117. Virginia search warrant law requires that search warrants may issue upon reasonable and probable cause. Va.Code §19.2-52.

118. The following things may be seized upon specification in the warrant:

(1) weapons or other objects used in the commission of the crime; (2) Articles or things the sale or possession of which is unlawful; (3) Stolen property or the fruits of any crime; and (4) Any object, thing, or person, including without limitation, documents, books, papers, records or body fluids, constituting evidence of the commission of crime... Va.Code §19.2-53.

The affidavit supporting the search warrant must: “... reasonably describe the place, thing, or person to be searched, the things or persons to be searched for thereunder, alleging briefly material facts, constituting the probable cause for the issuance of such warrant and alleging substantially the offense in relation to which such search is to be made and that the object, thing or person searched for constitutes evidence of the commission of such offense.” Va.Code §19.2-54. (Emphasis

119. The warrant must, inter alia, describe the property or person to be searched for and “recite that the magistrate has found probable cause to believe that the property or person constitutes evidence of a crime (identified in the warrant) or tends to show that a person (named or described therein) has committed or is vommitting a crime.” Va.Code §19.2-56.”The warrant shall be executed by the search of the place described. . . and, if property described in the warrant is found there, by the seizure of the property.” Va.Code §19.2-57. (Emphasis supplied)

120. It has long been established that a search made pursuant to a warrant may not go beyond the property described in the warrant and must be reasonably conducted to turn up the materials described. See Matron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192 (1927).

121. The seizure of the Sig Sauer knife exceeded the scope of the search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, and any legal authority.

122. Although it is a weapon, the Sig Sauer knife it is not a weapon alleged to have been used in the commission of the crime of prostitution or RICO violations for which the search warrant, Commonwealth’s Exhibit No. 2, was issued. See Va.Code §9.2-53.

123. Indeed, Virginia authorities had no intention to use the Sig Sauer knife in their anticipated prosecution of the Defendants on RICO charges as they immediately turned the Sig Sauer knife over to Hannon of the Pennsylvania State Police for his use in the Pennsylvania homicide prosecution. See Defendant Cuadra Exhibit No. 44

124. The Sig Sauer knife was not encompassed by the warrant nor has its seizure been authorized.

125. Further, the Sig Sauer knife is not per se illegal or contraband.

126. Because Defendant Cuadra had already been placed in custody the day before, there was no danger he would destroy or use the Sig Sauer knife.

127. There was no reason that Pennsylvania authorities, who were in the area at the time, could not have accompanied Virginia authorities for a separate warrant authorizing the seizure of the Sig Sauer knife for the Pennsylvania prosecution.

128. Even though the seizure of the Sig Sauer knife was not authorized in the warrant, the Commonwealth may rely on the “plain view” exception to the warrant requirement if certain factors are met.

129. Under the Fourth Amendment, police may seize an item without a warrant if it is plain view, its incriminatory character is immediately apparent, and the officer is lawfully in the place where the seizure occurs and has lawful right of access to that object. Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128 (1990).

130. In the instant case, the incriminatory character of the Sig Sauer knife is not immediately apparent.

131. Therefore, the Commonwealth cannot even avail itself of an exception to the warrant requirement to justify the seizure of the Sig Sauer knife.

132. Therefore, the Sig Sauer knife should be suppressed.