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United States v. Phothisat

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

October 6, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
PHOUVA PHOTHISAT, Defendant.

ORDER

CHARLES R. BUTLER, Jr., Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 28) and the government's response thereto (Doc. 31). Defendant seeks to suppress evidence seized from his home pursuant to a search warrant. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the motion is due to be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

Facts

On May 30, 2014, Mobile County District Judge Joe Basenberg issued a search warrant for 7951 Magnolia Crest Drive in Irvington, Alabama ("the Irvington address"). Sergeant Larry Toland signed the search warrant affidavit, which cited following facts asthe basis for probable cause:

• Sgt. Tolands's knowledge, "[t]hrough training and experience, " that drug dealers frequently have large sums of cash on hand, frequently keep safes/lock boxes and other secure compartments to protect their cash, frequently maintain records of their drug transactions, including telephone lists, money ledgers and customer lists, frequently use cell phones to avoid detection, and often keep on hand bags scales and other packaging.
• Sgt. Toland's training and experience. He had been employed by Mobile Police Department since 2001, was currently "assigned to Mobile County Street Enforcement Narcotics Team since October 2013, " and had "[a] prior two-year assignment to the Street Level Interdiction Drug Enforcement detail, " in addition to "training in the conduct of drug dealers and drug investigations, experience debriefing defendants, confidential informants, witnesses and others with personal experience in the drug trade.
• Sgt. Toland's meeting "within the past 72 hours" with a reliable confidential informant (RCI) who advised that he could purchase methamphetamine from Phouva Phothisat at the Irvington address and that "Phouva sells methamphetamine to customers and also supplies several other dealers in the Asian community with high quality methamphetamine commonly referred to as ice' or clean'." Within the past six months, this RCI had provided information, previously unknown to law enforcement, about "importation, manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine in the Mobile and costal Mississippi areas." This information was verified by Sgt. Toland's direct observations and corroborated by other law enforcement agencies. In addition, the RCI had provided information to law enforcement on other prior occasions "that proved to be true and correct after the execution of warrants based on information he provided."
• A controlled buy made by the RCI at the Irvington address under the supervision and surveillance of Sgt. Toland and other officers. Prior to the transaction, the officers searched the RCI and his vehicle for contraband and money and found none, and gave the RCI prerecorded money for the controlled buy. Next, they watched him drive to the Irvington address and, a short time later, exit the area of the house. The RCI then met the officers at a predetermined location and handed Toland "a quantity of methamphetamine." The RCI explained that he had "knocked on [Phouva's] window, " Phouva met him in the back yard and asked how much he needed, took the RCI's money, went back in the house and came out and "handed the RCI a clear plastic baggie containing [methamphetamine]."

(Search Aff., Doc. 31-2.)

Based on the foregoing facts, Sgt. Toland requested, and was granted, permission to search the Irvington address for the following property:

Illegal drugs, to wit: Methamphetamine, cell phones, phone bills, documents, ledgers, currency, prerecorded currency..., photographs, paraphernalia, lock boxes and safes, video survielance [sic] and recording devices, and weapons that may be used to facilitate illegal drug transactions.

Id.

The search warrant was executed on June 2, 2014. According to the government, law enforcement seized over 100 grams of methamphetamine, plastic baggies, scales, identification papers, and 15 firearms. Issues Raised

Defendant argues that evidence from the search should be suppressed because: (1) the search warrant, in general, was not supported by probable cause; (2) the search warrant affidavit did not provide probable cause to seize the firearms; and (3) either (a) the search warrant affidavit failed to establish a nexus between certain items to be seized and the criminal activity described or (b) the execution ...


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