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United States v. Edwards

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 31, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff- Appellee,
v.
Nalenzer Lee Edwards, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted: November 16, 2017

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Jefferson City.

          Before COLLOTON and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges, and READE, [1] District Judge.

          COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

         Nalenzer Edwards was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin. The district court[2] denied Edwards's pre-trial motion to suppress evidence seized during a traffic stop and statements made to officers after his arrest. We conclude that law enforcement officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment, so there was no basis to exclude the disputed evidence, and we therefore affirm the judgment.

         I.

         The investigation and prosecution of Edwards arose from communications to police by a confidential informant on June 10, 2015. The informant, who previously had provided reliable information, contacted Detective Timothy Giger from the Columbia Police Department to report that Edwards was involved in drug trafficking. The informant told Giger that Edwards would be driving that day from Columbia to Jefferson City to provide money to a woman named "Tasha" and to obtain heroin for transport back to Columbia.

         Giger and other officers followed Edwards's silver Pontiac Bonneville from a hotel in Columbia to a house in Jefferson City owned by Natasha Terrell. Edwards entered the home and remained for thirty to forty-five minutes before driving back to Columbia. That evening, Jefferson City police searched the trash outside Natasha Terrell's residence and discovered drug paraphernalia consistent with drug trafficking. Based on the totality of the evidence, Detective Greg Bestgen of Jefferson City obtained a search warrant for the home, but did not execute it immediately.

         A week later, the same informant notified Detective Giger that Edwards again planned to travel to "Tasha's" house that day to obtain heroin. As before, Giger and other officers followed Edwards from Columbia to Natasha Terrell's house. Edwards went inside the house and then drove away. Once he left, Detective Bestgen and other officers executed the search warrant; they found heroin, crack cocaine, pills of an unknown nature, and approximately $7, 000 in cash. A second confidential informant, who was present in the home during the search, informed Bestgen that Edwards had left with approximately twenty grams of heroin.

         While officers searched Natasha Terrell's home, Officer Paul Gash of Jefferson City conducted a traffic stop of Edwards's vehicle after learning from Detective Giger that Edwards was believed to have completed a drug transaction. Giger instructed Gash to arrest Edwards, so Gash placed Edwards in custody in the back of a police car. After Edwards declined to consent to a search of his vehicle, Gash ran his canine around the Bonneville's exterior, but the dog did not alert to the presence of drugs.

         Gash next contacted Detective Bestgen, who stated that there was probable cause to search the vehicle. Gash then searched the Bonneville and discovered four bags of heroin behind the instrument panel of the car. In an interview, after receiving the warnings prescribed by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), Edwards admitted his involvement in drug trafficking. Thereafter, a grand jury charged Edwards with conspiracy to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), respectively.

         Before trial, Edwards moved to suppress his incriminating statements and the heroin seized from his vehicle, but the district court denied the motion, and the case proceeded to trial. A jury found Edwards guilty on both charges, and the district court sentenced him to 156 months' imprisonment.

         II.

         On appeal, Edwards challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. He contends that police lacked probable cause to arrest him, and that his statements should have been suppressed as the fruit of an unlawful arrest. He also argues that police searched his vehicle without probable ...


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