U.S. v. Mark Polus

Decision Date27 May 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73-1230,73-1230
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Antonio MARK POLUS, Defendant, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Antonio Cordova Gonzalez, San Juan, P. R., on brief for defendant, appellant.

Julio Morales Sanchez, U. S. Atty., and Jorge Rios Torres, Asst. U. S. Atty., on brief for appellee.

Before COFFIN, Chief Judge, McENTEE and CAMPBELL, Circuit Judges.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge.

Antonio Mark Polus was convicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), and one count of willful possession of counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes with intent to defraud, 18 U.S.C. § 472. The sole issue he raises on appeal is whether the court erred in refusing to suppress heroin and counterfeit bills taken from his possession following his arrest. Before the jury was impanelled, Mark Polus moved to suppress and the court heard and denied the motion, Fed.R.Crim.P. 41(e). Later the seized items were introduced in evidence.

Shortly after he deplaned from a flight originating in New York City, Mark Polus was arrested in the San Juan International Airport on April 15 by agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. No search or arrest warrant had been obtained. Nonetheless the arrest would be lawful if the agents had probable cause to arrest him, 21 U.S.C. § 878(3)(B); and the subsequent search which revealed the contraband would be valid as incident to his lawful arrest. See Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 310-11 & n. 3, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327 (1959); United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

The agents' decision to arrest Mark Polus was based upon the tip of an informant. Appellant contends that as this source was not shown to be sufficiently "reliable", the tip could not establish probable cause. The relevant evidence most favorable to the Government may be summarized as follows:

There was testimony 1 that the agents first met with the informant on April 3 at the San Juan airport. The informant, who had never worked for the federal agents before, had been referred to them by an officer of the Puerto Rico state police. The informant told them that he was waiting at the airport for Mark Polus with whom he intended to fly to New York where Mark Polus would obtain a quantity of narcotics. As a result of this conversation the agents initiated investigations in Puerto Rico and New York concerning the activities of both Mark Polus and the informant. These, it was testified, confirmed that Mark Polus was indeed on his way from his home in Ponce to the airport, and the agents accordingly established a covert surveillance upon the informant. They observed Mark Polus arrive and meet with the informant, and watched them board the New York bound flight in company together. The agents subsequently requested that agents from their New York office investigate further. These investigations were said to corroborate the informant's story. 2

Thereafter, while the informant was in the mainland United States, he kept in "constant contact" with the federal agents in Puerto Rico, phoning them on three occasions. On April 6, his call apparently confirmed the information he had previously given. On April 14, he told the agents that he and Mark Polus would be returning to Puerto Rico shortly. On the morning of April 15, the informant told the agents that appellant and he would be arriving at International Airport that afternoon, gave them the flight number and time, and told them that appellant would be carrying narcotics and counterfeit bills.

The agents went to the airport and established surveillance of the gate area where the flight was expected. At about 2:00 p. m. the informant came through the gate area with other passengers from the New York flight, met with the agents, told them that Mark Polus would be deplaning in a few minutes and said that narcotics were secreted in his tie. When appellant came through the gate area the agents followed him to the main lobby. There they approached him, touched his tie, and placed him under arrest. Upon searching him they found a plastic bag containing approximately one ounce of heroin in his tie, and twelve counterfeit $20 bills in a box he had been carrying.

The Supreme Court has cautioned,

" 'In dealing with probable cause, . . . as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.' Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. (160) at page 175 (69 S.Ct. 1302 at page 1310, 93 L.Ed. 1879). Probable cause exists where 'the facts and circumstances within their (the arresting officers') knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information (are) sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that' an offense has been or is being committed. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162 (45 S.Ct. 280, 288, 69 L.Ed. 543)."

Draper, 358 U.S. at 313, 79 S.Ct. at 333. We think that the informant's story concerning Mark Polus' possession of contraband bore sufficient indicia of truthfulness to justify men of reasonable caution in acting thereon. 3

By the time of arrest, the agents were sufficiently aware of the underlying circumstances from which the informant concluded that appellant would be bringing contraband back from New York. See Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 114, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 12 L.Ed.2d 723 (1964). His story, verified by the agents' observations, indicated that his information was based upon personal knowledge of appellant's movements and intentions. United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 109-11, 85 S.Ct. 741, 13 L.Ed.2d 684 (1965). And, despite the fact that the informant had never worked for the agents previously, there was enough corroborating information to establish his "reliability". Whitely v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560, 91 S.Ct. 1031, 28 L.Ed.2d 306 (1971). His tip was not that of an anonymous third party. The...

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