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United States v. Gage

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL GAGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Christopher Gage's Motion to Suppress. Dkt. 22. The Government responded to Gage's motion (Dkt. 24), but Gage did not reply. The Court held oral argument on September 4, 2019, and took the matter under advisement.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Gage's Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On May 2, 2018, law enforcement officers were dispatched to a house near highway 95 in Worley, Idaho, to apprehend Edward Fasthorse, who had an outstanding arrest warrant. Residents of the house explained that Fasthorse was not there, but had fled on foot. Officer Jason Robinson-along with other officers-looked for Fasthorse in a field near the residence. After Fasthorse was located and arrested, Officer Robinson began walking back to his patrol vehicle. A group of individuals were standing near a vehicle parked outside the residence near what has been described as a carport or shed. Officer Robinson noticed Donnovan[1] George-a person he had contacted in the past and knew to be involved in the use and sale of drugs-standing near the vehicle. Officer Robinson also saw drug paraphernalia (including aluminum foil pieces and butane torches) scattered on the ground around the vehicle. Officer Robinson approached the individuals.

         After determining George was the owner of the vehicle by running it through dispatch, Officer Robinson asked George for consent to search the vehicle. George consented to the search.

         As he began his search of the vehicle, Officer Robinson observed a black backpack[2]on the front passenger seat, with open pockets. A small butane torch was visible in the backpack. Also visible was a container filled with a brown liquid, which Officer Robinson believed was consistent with drugs in a liquid form.

         Before searching the backpack, Officer Robinson asked the group standing around the vehicle who owned the backpack. Christopher Gage spoke up, but denied ownership, claiming instead that he found the backpack in a dumpster. Officer Robinson asked which dumpster, and Gage claimed he took the backpack from a dumpster at the Sun Up Bay dumpsite. Officer Robinson explained-and Gage then acknowledged-that it was illegal to remove items from dumpsters at the Sun Up Bay dumpsite.

         Inside the backpack, Officer Robinson discovered:

1. A black case with a spoon, a clear bag with crystal substance, a used syringe, a syringe with black liquid, and bag of unused syringes;
2. Two pairs of female toddler underwear;
3. A black Verizon tablet computer (later determined to contain child pornography upon examination by a forensic examiner);
4. A Samsung Galaxy cell phone (later determined to contain animated pictures of a young female child engaged in sexual acts);
5. A bathroom supply bag with bathroom supplies and small plastic baggies containing crystal residue; and
6. A metal notebook bearing the Defendant's first initials and last name (“C.M. Gage”) on its side.

         Gage asks the Court to suppress all evidence seized as a result of Officer Robinson's search of the car and backpack.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “The Fourth Amendment prohibits ‘unreasonable searches and seizures' by the Government, and its protections extend to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002). “[T]here is ‘no ready test for determining reasonableness other than by balancing the need to search (or seize) against the invasion which the search (or seizure) entails.'” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968).

         Generally, “searches and seizures conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions.” Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 372 (1993). Importantly, “a search conducted pursuant to a ...


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