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Melton v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

September 29, 2014

LUKE LEWIS MELTON, III, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CHARLES S. COODY, Magistrate Judge.

The petitioner, Luke Lewis Melton III ("Melton"), is before this court on a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. After consideration of Melton's § 2255 motion, the supporting and opposing submissions, and the record in this case, the court concludes that an evidentiary hearing is not required and that, under Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts, the § 2255 motion should be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 20, 2009, Melton pled guilty under a plea agreement to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of marijuana, and possession of crack cocaine. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); 21 U.S.C. § 844(a). After a sentencing hearing on October 28, 2009, the district court sentenced him to 60 months in prison. Melton appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the drug evidence found during the search of his car. On August 9, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming his conviction and sentence. United States v. Melton, 391 Fed.App'x 799 (11th Cir. 2010). The Eleventh Circuit subsequently denied rehearing and rehearing en banc. United States v. Melton, 409 Fed.App'x 315 (11th Cir. Oct. 8, 2010) (Table, No. 09-15608-DD). On June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court denied Melton's petition for certiorari review. Melton v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 3058 (2011) (No. 10-8321).

On June 27, 2012, Melton filed this motion under§ 2255 motion (Doc. No. 1) arguing, as he did on direct appeal, that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the drug evidence found during the search of his car.

The government answers (Doc. No. 7 at 13) that Melton's claim - is sole claim - is procedurally barred from this court's review because it was raised and decided adversely to him on direct appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. The government also argues that Melton's § 2255 motion should be dismissed based on his voluntary waiver, in the plea agreement, of his right to collaterally attack his sentence. Because the fist rationale is dispositive of Melton's § 2255 motion, the court pretermits discussion of the effect, if any, of the waiver provision in the plea agreement.

II. DISCUSSION

Melton contends that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the drug evidence found during the search of his car.[1] Specifically, he argues that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009).

Melton presented this argument on direct appeal, [2] and here it is beneficial to quote at length from the Eleventh Circuit's opinion:

... On appeal, Melton argues that the district court erred in failing to suppress the drug evidence found during the search of his car. Melton further argues that the district court's ruling that the search was a permissible inventory search was clear error and contrary to the evidence introduced at the suppression hearing. Although the district court denied Melton's motion to suppress on the basis of the inventory search exception, we affirm on other grounds.
....
In New York v. Belton, the Supreme Court held that "when a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile." 453 U.S. 454, 460, 101 S.Ct. 2860, 2864, 69 L.Ed.2d 768 (1981). Until recently, we applied an expansive view of Belton and read that case to mean that police could search a vehicle incident to an arrest regardless of whether the arrestee had control over the passenger compartment at the time of the search. Davis, 598 F.3d at 1262 (citing United States v. Gonzalez, 71 F.3d 819, 825 (11th Cir. 1996)). However, in Arizona v. Gant , the Supreme Court rejected our view of Belton, permitting such a search only where the arrestee can reach the passenger compartment at the time of the search, or where the officer has a reasonable belief that the vehicle contains evidence of the crime of arrest. 556 U.S. 332 , 129 S.Ct. 1710, 1723, 173 L.Ed.2d 485 (2009). Furthermore, the Court has held that "a decision... construing the Fourth Amendment is to be applied retroactively to all convictions that were not yet final at the time the decision was rendered. " Griffith v. Ky., 479 U.S. 314, 324, 107 S.Ct. 708, 713, 93 L.Ed.2d 649 (1987).

In Davis we applied the announced rule in Gant and held that a search incident to arrest conducted for neither evidentiary nor officer-safety concerns violated the Fourth Amendment.[1] Davis, 598 F.3d at 1263. However, we also held "that the exclusionary rule does not apply when the police conduct a search in objectively reasonable reliance on ...


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