917 F.2d 641 (1st Cir. 1990), 90-1307, United States v. Beltran

Docket Nº:90-1307.
Citation:917 F.2d 641
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellant, v. Maria BELTRAN, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:October 26, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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917 F.2d 641 (1st Cir. 1990)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellant,


Maria BELTRAN, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 90-1307.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 26, 1990

Heard Sept. 5, 1990.

Patrick M. Walsh, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Jeffrey R. Howard, U.S. Atty., Concord, N.H., was on brief, for appellant.

Wilbur A. Glahn, III, by appointment of the Court, with whom McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, P.A., Manchester, N.H., was on brief, for defendant, appellee, Maria Beltran.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, VAN GRAAFEILAND, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

BREYER, Chief Judge.

The government appeals from a district court order suppressing evidence that the government wishes to use in its prosecution of Maria Beltran for drug crimes. See 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3731. The government's most important argument concerns cocaine that police seized at Maria Beltran's apartment at about 11 p.m. on October 24, 1989. Although the police had a search warrant permitting the seizure, the district court found that the warrant rested upon a supporting affidavit that said the police had seen the drugs when they entered Ms. Beltran's apartment at about 8 p.m. that evening to arrest her. The district court ruled that this earlier, warrantless entry violated the federal Constitution. It therefore held the later seizure, flowing from the earlier entry, unconstitutional. The basic question on the appeal is whether the district court could lawfully conclude that the earlier entry

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was unconstitutional. We believe that it could.

1. Exigent Circumstances. The government concedes, as it must, that the Constitution normally requires the police to obtain an arrest warrant before entering a person's home to make an arrest. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 1382, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980); accord Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 211, 101 S.Ct. 1642, 1647, 68 L.Ed.2d 38 (1981). The government says, however, that in this case "exigent circumstances" excused the entry. See Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 455, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 2032, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971) ("There must be a showing by those who seek exemption [from the warrant requirement] that the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative.") (citations omitted) (quotations omitted). The district court decided this fact-based question in the defendant's favor. We must decide whether, on a reasonable view of the evidence, the district court's determination of the underlying facts is "clearly erroneous," United States v. Curzi, 867 F.2d 36, 42 (1st Cir.1989); United States v. Moore, 790 F.2d 13, 15 (1st Cir.1986), and whether its characterization of the facts (as not showing exigent circumstances) is proper. Curzi, 867 F.2d at 42; United States v. Veillette, 778 F.2d 899, 902 (1st Cir.1985).

The record reveals the following: A "confidential informant" (whom the record says was Maria Beltran's supervisor at work) told police that Maria Beltran had sold him cocaine at least twelve times in the past. Drug investigators then used the informant to arrange a cocaine sale. On October 23, 1989, the day of the sale, the police closely monitored the transaction. They observed the informant and Maria Beltran emerge from her apartment, enter the informant's car, and transfer money and powder. The investigators tested the powder and found it consisted of two ounces of cocaine. The investigators then organized a second sale of a pound of cocaine for October 24, the following day. At 4:20 p.m. on October 24, police overheard a telephone conversation between Maria Beltran and the informant. Maria Beltran (in the drug investigator's words) "instructed" the informant to "go" to her apartment at "7:30 p.m." for "the...

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