United States v. Montalvo-Flores, No. 22-1752 (3d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Officers swarmed a New Jersey hotel room to execute an arrest warrant for Montalvo-Flores in connection with his suspected involvement in a robbery. They found car keys during a search incident to arrest. Although Montalvo-Flores exclaimed that those were his car keys, he did not have a valid driver’s license. Upon locating the car in the parking lot, officers discovered that its registered owner was the Enterprise. Officers called Enterprise’s regional risk manager to obtain permission to search the car, stating that Montalvo-Flores was operating the vehicle while involved in criminal activity. The manager, noting Montalvo-Flores was not listed on the rental agreement (his girlfriend, Pisciotta, was) gave officers consent to search the vehicle. In that search, officers found 304 grams of cocaine inside the trunk.
Montalvo-Flores, charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), moved to suppress, arguing that he, with his girlfriend’s permission, lawfully possessed and controlled the car. The district court denied Montalvo-Flores’s motion, holding that he lacked standing because he failed to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car. The Third Circuit reversed. Montalvo-Flores had dominion and control of the car with his girlfriend’s permission and had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car.