United States v. Cardona
Police may conduct a warrantless search of a motor vehicle, if probable cause exists to believe the motor vehicle contains other evidence of a crime, pursuant to the 2nd Circuit’s 2004 decision in United States v. Gaskin. Allegedly, police arrested Javier Morales-Gomez, who informed them that he was delivering cocaine to the defendant, Armando Cardona. Police allegedly verified the description of Cardona, his residence and his motor vehicle and taped calls in which Cardona and Morales-Gomez arranged a drug delivery. A jury convicted Cardona of possession, with intent to distribute, five kilograms or more of cocaine. He appealed and argued that police lacked probable cause to arrest. The facts and circumstances were sufficient to furnish probable cause to believe that a criminal offense was being or had been committed. Probable cause also existed to believe that items needed to conduct the criminal offense were in Cardona’s car. "Because both Cardona’s arrest and the subsequent search of his car were supported by probable cause," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "the district court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress." Probable cause also existed to perform a protective sweep of a relative’s residence that was near Cardona’s motor vehicle. Cardona’s associates might have been in that residence and could have posed a threat to police. The District Court did not err in ruling that police lawfully entered the residence to perform a protective sweep. Cardona’s relative consented to a subsequent search, and Cardona failed to prove that consent was not voluntary. Although consent was given after the police performed a protective sweep, which involved a substantial show of authority, it did not constitute clear error to find Cardona’s relative provided valid consent. The District Court, Covello, J., correctly denied Cardona’s motion to suppress. The 2nd Circuit did not rule on ineffective assistance claims, because Cardona did not raise them at the District Court. The 2nd Circuit affirmed and remanded with directions to amend the judgment, insofar as the judgment stated the defendant pled guilty. Cheryl Sturm and Chadds Ford represented Cardona. Robert Spector, Deirdre Daly and S. Vatti represented the government.