United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT STEWARD'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS 
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
January 23, 2016, Defendant Cielo Monique Steward, along with
her girlfriend and co-defendant Morgann Shearron, attempted
to board a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Detroit, Michigan.
Each woman checked a bag. Shearron's bag triggered an
alert as it went through TSA screening. While conducting a
search for explosives, TSA agents discovered what appeared to
be illegal drugs. TSA contacted the Phoenix Police
Department. Officer Essick arrived and collected
Shearron's bag. Meanwhile, Officer Gaspar asked airline
representatives whether Shearron checked any other bags.
Gaspar learned that Shearron was traveling with Steward, who
had checked a bag. Gaspar asked the airline representative to
pull Steward's luggage and send it to the police
resolution room at the airport.
Beck, Lamb, and Gaspar then met Shearron on the jet way and
asked her to accompany them for questioning. Steward elected
to join them. The officers checked Steward's information,
discovered outstanding warrants for her arrest, and placed
her in custody in a holding cell at the airport. Later,
Detective DeSantiago searched Steward's bag and found
several bricks of suspected cocaine and heroin. The
detectives subsequently questioned Steward about her luggage.
Government charged Steward with conspiracy to distribute
controlled substances. Steward now moves to suppress the
evidence. For the reasons below, the Court will deny
challenges the Government's search of her luggage and the
statements that followed. She does not challenge her
detention or the seizure of her luggage. Steward relies upon
two grounds for suppressing the evidence found in her
suitcase: (1) the search falls outside the administrative
search exception to the warrant requirement, and (2) the
search falls outside the search-incident-to-arrest exception
to the warrant requirement. The Government responds that the
police officers conducted an inventory search pursuant to a
written policy. Because the Court finds the police officers
conducted an inventory search, it need not consider whether
the search falls within the administrative-search or
search-incident-to-arrest exceptions of the warrant
searches constitute "a well-defined exception to the
warrant requirement." Illinois v. Lafayette,
462 U.S. 640, 643 (1983). The exception rests on the
government interests to "protect an owner's property
while it is in the custody of police, to insure against
claims of lost, stolen, or vandalized property, and to guard
the police from danger." Colorado v. Bertine,
479 U.S. 367, 372 (1987). Consistent with the Fourth
Amendment, therefore, police may search the "personal
effects of a person under lawful arrest as part of the
routine administrative procedure" of "booking and
jailing the suspect." Lafayette, 462 U.S. at 643.
Moreover, when conducting inventory searches, police officers
need not pursue the least intrusive available option.
Id. at 648.
Supreme Court further noted that "[r]easonable police
regulations relating to inventory procedures administered in
good faith satisfy the Fourth Amendment[.]"
Bertine, 479 U.S. at 374. Additionally, the Supreme
Court has recognized that police administrative policies
requiring the "opening of all containers or of opening
no containers are unquestionably permissible[.]"
Florida v. Wells, 495 U.S. 1, 4 (1990).
after lawfully detaining Steward, Detective DeSantiago
conducted an inventory search pursuant to a written police
regulation. Phoenix Police Department regulations require
officers, "[u]pon the full custody arrest of a subject,
. . . [to] inventory all personal effects in the person's
possession prior to booking." ECF 151-3, PgID
855.The inventory must include "look[ing]
inside all containers, locked or unlocked." Id.
That rule is unquestionably permissible. See Wells,
495 U.S. at 4. Detective DeSantiago's report includes a
recitation of the items found in Steward's luggage:
"a bunch of bath towels, " "a large object
heavily wrapped in saran wrap" that contained "a
pillow case" and the bricks of suspected drugs, and
"no other personal items or clothing[.]" ECF 151-4,
PgID 857. Detective DeSantiago also reviewed Steward's
carry-on bag, which contained "her personal items and
some clothing[.]" Id.
inventory search, although generally valid, may not be taken
in bad faith-i.e. for the "sole purpose of
investigation[.]" United States v. Hockenberry,
730 F.3d 645, 659 (6th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). The
"mere fact that an officer suspects that contraband may
be found" does not "invalidate an otherwise proper
inventory search." Id. at 659 (citation
omitted). Officers conducting an inventory search must act
pursuant to a "standardized procedure, " but still
maintain "flexibility and practical judgment in how such
searches are carried out." Id. at 661; see
United States v. Kimes, 246 F.3d 800, 805 (6th Cir.
2001) (recognizing that the comprehensiveness of an inventory
list may properly be left in the discretion of the officer).
Steward chose to accompany the officers and Shearron to the
police room. A check of her identification revealed that
there were outstanding warrants for her arrest. The officers
then placed Steward in custody. Pursuant to state Phoenix
Police Department policy, DeSantiago opened all containers to
detail Steward's effects, he searched her bag, and
produced a report that named the items discovered. Under the
circumstances, the Court cannot conclude that DeSantiago
acted in bad faith or for the sole purpose of investigation.
the Court will deny Steward's request to suppress her
statements for several reasons. First, officers lawfully
arrested Steward. Second, the officers properly conducted an
inventory search of Steward's luggage. Third, the
officers provided Steward with proper Miranda
warnings. Fourth, Steward acknowledged and waived her
Miranda protections. Fifth, defendant offers no
facts or law to support suppression of her statements if the
luggage search was proper.
it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's