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Exigent circumstances allowed warrantless search of backpack


A jury convicted Cyril Lartigue of possessing an unregistered destructive device, specifically, a combination of glass bottles, a flammable liquid, pieces of cloth, and a lighter, which constituted parts that Lartigue intended to assemble into a Molotov cocktail, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). The district court sentenced him below the applicable guidelines range to 24 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. On appeal, he argues the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress the warrantless search of his backpack. The 5th affirmed.


Lartigue contends that the district court should have granted his motion to suppress the evidence discovered in a warrantless search of his backpack because, he claims, there were no exigent circumstances to justify the search. Here, the evidence introduced at the suppression hearing showed that law enforcement officers observed Lartigue on video assembling what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail, which he placed in his backpack before he was detained by police.

Therefore, there was a fair probability that Lartigue was in possession of a potentially dangerous device. See Contreras.  Moreover, Lartigue was detained near a chaotic protest, and there were multiple fires and fireworks in the area. Therefore, police officers reasonably believed that the backpack, which potentially contained an incendiary device or flammable liquid, posed a genuine danger to people in the vicinity. See Daniels.

A reasonable view of the evidence supports the district court’s findings that the officers had probable cause to believe Lartigue was in possession of an incendiary device and that exigent circumstances existed to justify a search of his backpack.