W.D.N.Y.: Def had standing as a bailee in a backpack

Defendant had standing as a bailee in a backpack. He disclaimed ownership of it, but he attempted to assert control over it and he refused consent to search. He also did not abandon the backpack, either. United States v. Hannold, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66997 (W.D. N.Y. Apr. 19, 2019):

The Government countered with two arguments. First, Defendant’s acts—removing the backpack, tossing it aside, repeatedly denying ownership of it—do not evince an expectation of privacy. ECF No. 35 at 16. Second, Defendant’s status as a bailee, if it existed, ceased when the purported owner of the backpack appeared at the scene. Id. at 16-17.

The Court disagrees. First, the acts the Government highlighted do not paint a full picture of Defendant’s behavior. While he did remove the backpack, toss it aside, and deny ownership of it, he also repeatedly denied consent to seize or search the backpack, grabbed at it when Kapuscinski seized it, and, according to Kapuscinski, stood in a protective manner between Kapuscinski and the backpack.

Second, Defendant’s statements or acts indicating he did not own the backpack are of no moment. Ownership is not the only basis on which to assert Fourth Amendment protection; bailee status, which does not confer ownership rights, is also sufficient. Perea, 986 F.2d at 639-40. And, more importantly, Defendant had the right to exclude others from possessing the property and he repeatedly asserted that right as to Kapuscinski.

Finally, Defendant’s status as bailee did not cease before the seizure. As the Government itself points out, the backpack’s purported owner did not appear on the scene until after Kapuscinski seized the backpack, Defendant attempted to grab it, and Kapuscinski detained Defendant in his patrol car. ECF No. 35 at 17. Therefore, Defendant could not have delivered the backpack to its purported owner before the seizure.

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