United States v. Aviles, No. 18-2967 (3d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
While investigating reports that Aviles was conducting a drug-trafficking operation, the Lebanon County Drug Task Force obtained a warrant to search Aviles’s residence. In the probable cause affidavit, officers relied upon information gathered through multiple controlled buys conducted by confidential informant “RCI-1,” describing the dates of the buys, the affiants and their Task Force experience, and a general explanation of controlled buys, including the use of recorded Task Force currency. In the resulting searches, officers recovered large quantities of controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, and firearms. Aviles and 12 co-defendants were arrested and charged. Aviles unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence, claiming the officers included false information in their affidavit and omitted other information. He argued that, while the general description of controlled buys represented that currency is exchanged for drugs, some of Aviles’s buys may have involved RCI-1’s exchanging prescription drugs instead of currency. He claimed that RCI-1 had conducted additional drug-related transactions with Aviles outside of the controlled buys. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing, allowing both parties to question the officers but refusing the defense’s request to question RCI-1 based on concerns regarding her identity. Convicted, Aviles was sentenced to life imprisonment under the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 841(b); the court found that Aviles’s prior state court convictions qualified as “felony drug offenses.” The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress but, holding that at least two of his prior convictions do not qualify as felony drug offenses, vacated the sentencing order.