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Date: 05-16-2023

Case Style:

United States of America v. Carlos Ariel Ramos

Case Number: 1:22-CR-42

Judge: Christopher C. Conner

Court: United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (Lackawanna County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Scranton

Defendant's Attorney:

Click Here For The Best Scranton Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory

Description: Scranton, Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1).

In the spring of 2020, York City Police Department received an anonymous complaint of suspected drug dealing out of a residence at 725 Pennsylvania Avenue in York, Pennsylvania. (See Doc. 37-3 at 2). The complainant noted vehicles occasionally would idle in the alley (Monarch Avenue) located directly behind the house; someone would exit the rear of the building and briefly stop at the vehicle, and then the vehicle would drive off. (See id.) Officer Vincent J. Monte-a nine-year veteran of the Department and member of York County's Drug Task Force- investigated the complaint. (See id.) He knew from his training and experience the activity described by the complainant was consistent with drug dealing. (See id.) Additionally, at some point between 2019 and June 16, 2020, Officer Monte received a tip from a cooperating source that a “light skinned male with the nickname of ‘Sosa'” was selling drugs on the 700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. (See id.) Officer Monte previously had investigated Ramos, who had pled guilty to two felony drug offenses in York County in 2015, and knew he went by “Sosa.” (See Id. at 3, 5). The source confirmed “Sosa” and Ramos were one and the same based upon a photograph Officer Monte displayed. (See id. at 3).

On June 15, 2020, Officer Monte and another police officer drove to Monarch Avenue and retrieved two bags of garbage from a pile deposited directly behind 725 Pennsylvania Avenue in anticipation of that morning's collection. (See id. at 2). Officer Monte later examined the bags' contents at another location. (See id.) He found mail addressed to Ramos in one of the bags, though the listed address was “527” Pennsylvania Avenue. (See id.) He also found “multiple clear plastic sandwich bags with the corners torn off and a quantity of loose marijuana” in the same trash bag, along with a “separate package” containing a small amount of marijuana. (See id. at 2-3). Officer Monte recalled from past drug investigations that marijuana dealers “commonly” employ a packaging method whereby they place marijuana in a plastic sandwich bag and “tilt it to one side, causing the substance to collect in the corner of the bag.” (See id. at 3). The dealers will knot the marijuana-filled corner, cut it from the bag, and repeat the process with the other corner.[2](See id.) “What then remains is a plastic sandwich bag with both bottom corners cut off,” which they will discard. (See id.) Lastly, none of the materials in the trash bags Officer Monte inspected contained commercial markings or other indicia suggesting the marijuana had been obtained lawfully from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. (See id.)

Officer Monte surveilled 725 Pennsylvania Avenue on June 15 and 16. (See id. at 4). He observed Ramos coming and going from the building's front door, and he saw Ramos's brother, Joseph, exit via the front door. (See id.) Ramos also left through the front door once and walked to the rear of the property, where a wooden porch and steps provide access to the second floor. (See id. at 6). Officer Monte subsequently queried the Department's reporting system and discovered Ramos and a woman named Ashley Beatty had “reported a burglary at 725 Pennsylvania Avenue second floor” in October 2019. (See id.) The Commonwealth's driver's license database listed Beatty's address as “725 Pennsylvania Avenue Apartment 2.” (See id.) With this information, Officer Monte swore out an affidavit of probable cause and requested a warrant to search the building's second floor apartment and curtilage for evidence of drug trafficking. (See id.) Officers executed the warrant on the morning of June 18 and seized, inter alia, three bags of marijuana, a digital scale, and two loaded firearms. (See Doc. 37-3, Ex. A-7, Property Receipt).

* * *

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. See U.S. CONST. amend. IV; Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128, 133 (1990). When searching a home, the constitutional default is that a warrant is required. See Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 & n.25 (1980) (citations omitted). For a search warrant to issue, a neutral magistrate must find, under the totality of the circumstances, that “there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). Courts reviewing such determinations do not make a de novo probable cause assessment; they “simply [] ensure that the magistrate had a substantial basis for . . . concluding that probable cause existed.” United States v. Miknevich, 638 F.3d 178, 182 (3d Cir. 2011) (second alteration in original) (quoting Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39).

The Supreme Court of the United States views probable cause as an amorphous concept, “not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules.” See Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 695-96 (1996) (quoting Gates, 462 U.S. at 232). Its existence must be determined from the view of the officer on the street, not the judge in the courtroom. See United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1989); see also United States v. Cortez, 499 U.S. 411, 418 (1981). Whether probable cause exists is an objective determination based upon the totality of the circumstances present at the time of the challenged governmental conduct. See United States v. Williams, 413 F.3d 347, 353 n.6 (3d Cir. 2005). Probable cause “is not a high bar.” Kaley v. United States, 571 U.S. 320, 338 (2014).
United States v. Ramos (M.D. Pa. 2023)

Outcome: Defendant's motion to suppress denied.

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