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United States v. Caraballo

831 F.3d 95 (2016)

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United States v. Caraballo

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

831 F.3d 95 (2016)

Facts

Melissa Barratt was arrested by the Vermont State Police for selling drugs on May 31, 2011. Barratt told the arresting officers that she was involved in drug activities with Frank Caraballo (defendant). Barratt said that she was terrified Caraballo would hurt or kill her if he knew that she had spoken to the police. Barratt told the police that Caraballo had access to firearms and that Caraballo had been violent in the past. Barratt refused to cooperate with the police out of fear of Caraballo and was eventually released. Over the next two months, local police conducted an investigation into Caraballo’s drug operation. The police completed controlled drug buys from Caraballo through undercover agents and confidential informants. During the investigation, police confirmed that Caraballo was armed and acting as the head of a drug operation. On July 29, Barratt’s body was found in a remote wooded area. She had been shot in the back of the head while kneeling with her hands clasped in front of her, in an apparent execution-style killing. The police believed that Caraballo had killed Barratt and were concerned that a leak might have occurred regarding the investigation and that the undercover agents and confidential informants involved in the investigation were at great and immediate risk. Under these circumstances, law enforcement believed that a legitimate emergency existed and submitted an emergency, warrantless request to Caraballo’s cellular phone company to locate Caraballo’s phone. The cellular company complied with this request. Caraballo’s phone was located in less than two hours, and Caraballo was promptly arrested. Caraballo pleaded guilty to a number of drug-distribution charges. In a separate case, Caraballo was charged with crimes related to drug distribution, firearms offenses, and Barratt’s death. Caraballo moved to suppress the evidence discovered after his arrest, alleging that the warrantless search for his phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied the motion, and Caraballo was convicted. Caraballo appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Calabresi, J.)

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