United States v. Terry

MDENT, a Charleston drug task force, investigated Terry after an officer found remnants of drugs in trash outside of a residence associated with Terry. An MDENT agent acquired a search warrant for Terry’s residence. Agents followed Terry to a store. Once Terry had parked, Corporal Johnson approached the car and smelled marijuana. Terry turned over a small amount of marijuana. Johnson searched the car. Nothing more was found. Meanwhile, another MDENT agent surreptitiously placed a GPS tracker onto the car. No contraband or incriminating evidence was found in the residence. Afterwards, Johnson obtained a warrant to “ping” Terry’s cell phone and to place a GPS tracker on the car. Two days later, agents relied solely on the GPS data to track the car to Ohio, where they suspected Terry obtained drugs. After the car returned, the officers followed it and determined that it was speeding at five miles above the posted speed limit of 45 MPH. Officers pulled the car over. Tamara, the car’s owner, was driving. Terry was a passenger. Johnson wrote Tamara a warning citation while another officer spoke with Terry and informed Johnson that he smelled marijuana, Johnson ordered Terry out of the car and performed a pat-down. Officers discovered 195.5 grams of methamphetamine and 2.9 grams of marijuana. Although the district court found that MDENT’s conduct constituted a flagrant constitutional violation, it denied Terry’s motion to suppress on the basis of standing. The Fourth Circuit vacated. Terry had standing and the discovery of the evidence seized during the traffic stop was not sufficiently attenuated from the unlawful GPS search to purge the taint. View "United States v. Terry" on Justia Law