United States District Court, D. Maryland
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendant Luis Flores-Reyes' motions
to suppress the fruits of a warrantless search and subsequent
search warrant. ECF Nos. 408, 409. On November 8, 2019, the
Court held a motions hearing during which the arresting
officer and affiant, Detective Paul Hellwig of the Fairfax
County Police Department, testified. ECF No. 449-1. The Court
subsequently ordered supplemental briefing on whether
probable cause existed to arrest Flores-Reyes on suspected
drug distribution, and if not, whether sufficient probable
cause supports the search warrant executed two days later.
The Court has received the briefing, ECF Nos. 453, 454, and
for the following reasons, the Court finds Flores-Reyes was
the subject of a warrantless arrest without probable cause,
and all fruits of that arrest must be suppressed. Further,
the Court concludes that when it excises from the search
warrant affidavit the facts obtained as a product of
Flores-Reyes' unconstitutional warrantless arrest, the
search warrant was obtained without probable cause. Thus, the
Court grants Defendant's motion to suppress the fruits of
the search warrant. 
Hellwig has spent the last seventeen years as an undercover
officer in the narcotics unit. ECF No. 449-1 at 5:18-6:2. In
January of 2018, Hellwig was working with a confidential
informant (“CI”) who told Hellwig he could
purchase cocaine from a target, Caesar Martinez, who is not a
defendant in this case. Id. at 7:1-25. On or about
January 16, 2018, the CI arranged to purchase $600 worth of
cocaine from Martinez. Id. at 8:1-8. However, at the
time of the sale, Martinez only had $160 worth of cocaine
available and told the CI that his supplier was close by and
that he could get the rest. Id. at 8:8-9:1. Hellwig
and his team chose to end the undercover sale rather than
have Martinez obtain more drugs from the supplier.
Id. at 8:23-9:1.
weeks later, on January 30, 2018, the CI set up another
controlled purchase with Martinez at Hellwig's direction.
Id. at 9:5-10. The plan was for the CI to meet
Martinez in a shopping center parking lot to purchase two
“eight-balls” of cocaine. Id. at
9:13-23. Martinez was to arrive alone and by car, and to be
arrested before the sale was consummated. See Id. at
arrived at the shopping center driving a white 2011 four-door
Dodge Avenger. Id. at 10:14-18, 28:16-17.
Flores-Reyes was in the front passenger seat. Id. at
10:14-18, 28:16- 17. Both the CI and Hellwig recognized
Martinez but not Flores-Reyes. Id. at 10:22-23.
Hellwig also acknowledged that he had “no idea”
who the passenger was, nor did he expect anyone to be
traveling with Martinez. Id. at 24:1-17. Hellwig
observed the CI and Martinez talking by phone while Martinez
got out of the vehicle, walked around briefly, and then
returned to the car. Id. at 10:24-11:5. Shortly
after Martinez got back into the driver's seat, the
arrest team descended on the vehicle, as planned.
Id. at 11:23-12:5.
direct examination, Hellwig testified that at this moment,
“both men were taken into custody while sitting in the
vehicle.” Id. at 12:1-5. Hellwig confirmed
that both Martinez and Flores-Reyes were removed from the
vehicle and handcuffed. Id. at 12:3-13, 27:24-25.
Officers then executed a search of the vehicle and found
“two baggies of cocaine, approximately eight-balls,
three and a half grams in size on the floorboard between the
driver's seat and the passenger seat.” Id.
at 12:14-19. Both individuals were then taken “to the
Mason District Station for an interview and then later
processed into [the] Adult Detention Center.”
Id. at 12:22-25. Hellwig further testified that
because “[n]either one took responsibility for the
cocaine, ” they were both “taken into custody . .
. and charged.” Id. at 13:1-7.
station, Flores-Reyes was interrogated. Id. at
12:22-25, 30:6-8. During the interrogation, Flores-Reyes
misrepresented the precise apartment in which he lived.
Id. at 15:2- 7, 42:16-23. Martinez was separately
interrogated and identified Flores-Reyes as his supplier.
Id. at 13:20-25. Hellwig also described further
investigation in which he learned from the FBI that
Flores-Reyes was a suspect in a federal investigation and
that the FBI possessed historic information from a separate
confidential informant who was a drug consumer and had been
in Flores-Reyes' apartment at some unspecified point in
the past. Id. at 15:15-18, 34:7-22.
cross examination, however, Hellwig clarified his testimony
in important and material ways. First, Hellwig confirmed that
Reyes was “arrested” at the same time as Martinez
and at a point in time where “all Mr. Flores-Reyes had
done was sit in the car.” Id. at 27:19-23.
Hellwig further described that at the point of arrest,
Flores-Reyes was handcuffed, was not free to leave, and was
eventually transported to the station after the drugs were
located in the vehicle. Id. at 27:24-28:8.
and critically with regard to the constitutionality of
Flores-Reyes' arrest, Hellwig described having found the
drugs not on the floorboard between the two men, but rather
on the driver's side, closest to Martinez and on the
other side of the center console and gear shift that
physically separated the driver and passenger sides. See
Id. at 28:10-29:25. When asked to clarify precisely
where the drugs were found, Hellwig attested as follows:
Q: You found what you believed to be drugs on the floorboard
between the front passenger and driver's side?
A: Right along-yep. Right on the floor, right along the
driver's side where the console meets the passenger seat
and driver seat.
Q: Okay. So this is a 2011-a 2011 Dodge Avenger, four-door
Q: All right. Now, like most four-door cars made in this
century, they have a center console?
Q: And there are bucket seats . . .?
Q: So there is an area where the driver will sit and then
there is the ...