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United States v. Bowley

January 26, 2006; as amended February 17, 2006


Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Division of St. Thomas and St. John (Crim. No. 04-cr-00169-1) District Judge: Hon. Raymond L. Finch, Chief Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKEE, Circuit Judge.


Argued: December 8, 2005

Before: SCIRICA, Chief Judge, McKEE and and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges.


We are asked to determine if the district court erred in suppressing certain evidence the government sought to introduce in this prosecution of an illegal alien for illegally reentering the United States. The evidence the district court suppressed pertained to the alien's identity. For the reasons that follow, we will reverse and remand to the district court for further proceedings.


In early August 2004, Sergeant Bernard Hendricks of the Virgin Islands Police Department ("VIPD") was investigating a series of armed robberies in the Coral Bay area of St. John. During the course of that investigation, he learned that Gary Bowley had been involved in those robberies as well as other illegal activities, including drug dealing. That information was provided by individuals who had previously provided reliable information to the VIPD. Bowley was known to the VIPD as "Junior."

On August 16, 2004, at approximately 11:30 a.m., Hendricks and another VIPD officer drove to Bowley's residence in their police car. Upon arriving, they called to Bowley who came out and spoke with the officers. They asked Bowley if he had any documents that would show that he was lawfully present in the United States. In response, Bowley admitted that he was in the United States illegally, and he gave the officers a Jamaican passport containing his photograph and the name "Junior Anthony Miller." Hendricks then asked Bowley if he would accompany them to the police station, and Bowley agreed.

Later that same day, the officers contacted the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"). The next day, ICE agents took Bowley and two other illegal aliens to St. Thomas for a hearing before an immigration judge. At the ICE offices, Bowley's fingerprints (and those of the two other aliens) were electronically scanned. The computer database matched the scan to the fingerprint records of "Gary Bowley."

Immigration records showed that Bowley was a citizen of Jamaica who had previously been deported from the United States on November 17, 2000, following convictions for selling marijuana, attempted robbery, possession of a weapon and "bail jumping." After matching the fingerprints, an ICE agent advised Bowley of his Miranda rights and Bowley told the agent that he did not want to make a statement.*fn1 Nevertheless, an ICE agent subsequently questioned Bowley about biographical data such as his parents' names, his occupation, and whether he had any children.

Thereafter, a criminal information was filed charging Bowley with one count of illegally reentering the United States after having been previously deported, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), (b)(2). Bowley responded by filing a motion "to suppress all evidence obtained from him, including his statement that he was illegally in the United States, his passport, his fingerprints, and the statements that he made after refusing to waive his Miranda rights." App. 13-14.*fn2

At the ensuing suppression hearing, the government argued that the VIPD officers had reasonable suspicion for an investigative detention of Bowley from the time they encountered him at his home. The government also argued that Bowley "was not under arrest when he was handcuffed, transported to the police station in St. John, [and] held overnight in a cell . . . but was merely detained pending further diligent investigation." App. 14. The district court denied Bowley's motion in part and granted it in part.

The district court agreed with the government that the VIPD officers had reasonable suspicion to investigate Bowley based on the information they had received from people in the area concerning his involvement in illegal activities including the robberies the police were investigating. The district court based that conclusion on the fact that those people had previously given reliable information, and that their reports corroborated each other. Therefore, the district court ...

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