United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress. (Doc. # 15). Defendant's Motion (Doc. # 15)
seeks suppression of all evidence obtained as a result of the
Calera Police Department's search of his vehicle on
November 6, 2016, as well as suppression of any statements he
made after he was pulled over. Defendant (Doc. # 15) and the
Government (Doc. # 16) each submitted briefs in support of
their positions. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing
on Defendant's Motion on July 10, 2017. The Motion is now
fully briefed and ripe for review.
Findings of Fact
before 8:00 a.m. on November 16, 2016, Calera Police Officer
Nick Burnett observed Defendant traveling northbound in a
white Cadillac Deville on I-65. Burnett testified that he
observed the Cadillac cross the fog lane (without signaling)
in violation of state law. Burnett conducted a traffic stop
of Defendant's car, and requested his license and
registration. (Doc. # 16-1, Police Video, 2:30). He then
pointed at a number of air fresheners which were hanging from
Defendant's rear view mirror and told Defendant that he
could not have the air fresheners hanging like that, because
it obstructed the driver's view. (Id. at 2:45).
Burnett also stated that Defendant “went over the white
line” and swerved out of his lane and onto the
“rumble strip” on the right shoulder of the road.
(Id. at 6:15). Burnett testified that he immediately
noted the scent of marijuana when he approached the Cadillac.
member of the Calera Police Department, Officer Krukowski,
arrived on the scene to assist Burnett. (Id. at
7:00). After stepping away from the passenger side door,
Burnett told Krukowski that Defendant was “trying to
cover up the smell of it, with that black and mild, [a cigar]
but -- but you can smell marijuana or what appears to be
marijuana coming from the vehicle.” (Id. at
7:03). Burnett eventually asked Defendant to step out of his
vehicle. (Id. at 7:20). Burnett noticed a bulge in
Defendant's front pocket, and asked Defendant what it
was. (Id. at 7:55). Defendant stated that it was
money. (Id. at 8:00). The officers found a wad of
cash and a pocket knife in the pockets of Defendant's
pants. (Id. at 8:24-9:56). Burnett then began to
search the car for marijuana, while Defendant stood on the
side of the road with Krukowski. (Id. at 11:35).
Defendant was not handcuffed or otherwise restrained at this
unsuccessfully searching for marijuana in the passenger
compartment of the car, Burnett told Defendant:
I am not going to let this car go before I find where that
green weed is in that car. I'm telling you that for a
matter of fact. I don't care what you do. I -- I -- I
don't care. I'm going to tell you this, whatever I
have to do, I'll seize that car and get a search warrant
for it or whatever. I'm not threatening you, I'm not
doing any of that.
(Id. at 14:30). In response, Defendant stated that
he had been “smoking a blunt, ” and that he had
thrown it out the window when he saw Burnett's police
car. (Id. at 15:15). However, he denied possessing
any additional marijuana. (Id. at 15:20-55).
continued searching, Burnett found marijuana, cocaine, and a
loaded Taurus 9mm pistol in a backpack located in the truck
of the car. (Id. at 29:23). He then placed Defendant
in handcuffs. (29:30). Krukowski placed Defendant in a police
vehicle, asked whether he had any other items of contraband
on his person, and advised Defendant of his Miranda
rights. (Video, 32:12-24
Motion seeks to exclude two categories of evidence. First,
Defendant's Motion alleges deficiencies in the search of
his car, and seeks the exclusion of the contraband that was
found therein. Second, Defendant's Motion alleges that
certain statements he made were coerced and the product of a
custodial interrogation, and argues that those statements are
due to be excluded. The court addresses each argument, in
The Traffic Stop and Search of Defendant's Vehicle Was
Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable”
government searches and seizures. Nevertheless, the police
may stop and briefly detain a person to investigate a
reasonable suspicion that he is involved in criminal
activity. United States v. Williams, 876 F.2d 1521,
1523 (11th Cir. 1989) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392
U.S. 1, 30 (1968)). This legal principle permits police
officers to stop a moving automobile based on a reasonable
suspicion that its occupants are violating the law.
Id. at 1524 (citing United States v.
Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 226 (1985); United States v.
Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 682 (1985)). When a traffic stop
is initiated due to a traffic violation, the “tolerable
duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is
determined by the seizure's ‘mission' - to
address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and
attend to related safety concerns.” Rodriguez v.
United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015) (quoting
Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005)) (internal
a traffic stop may last longer than just the time
“necessary to process the traffic violation” when
there is articulable suspicion of other illegal activity.
United States v. Purcell, 236 F.3d 1274, 1277 (11th
Cir. 2001). And, “[a]n officer can conduct a
warrantless search or seizure of a vehicle if there exists
probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains
contraband or other evidence which is subject to seizure
under the law and there exist exigent circumstances which
necessitate a search or seizure.” United States v.
Forker, 928 F.2d 365, 368 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing
United States v. Alexander, 835 F.2d 1406, 1409
(11th Cir. 1988)). “[T]he requirement of exigent
circumstances is satisfied by the ‘ready mobility'
inherent in all automobiles that reasonably appear to be
capable of functioning.” United States v.
Nixon, 918 F.2d 895, 903 (11th Cir. 1990). When probable
cause exists, ...