United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Williams, Jr. (“Williams”) is charged with
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and possession of cocaine and
oxycodone in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a). Indictment
(Doc. 1). Evidence supporting these charges was seized during
a late-night traffic stop of Williams' motorcycle
conducted by Corporal William J. Kaufmann (“Officer
Kaufmann”) of the Dothan Police Department. Officer
Kaufmann initially pulled the motorcycle over for speeding.
As Officer Kaufmann approached the bike, Williams passed a
Newport cigarette box to his passenger riding on the back,
and she hid it between her legs. Officer Kaufmann looked
inside the cigarette box and discovered cocaine. He then
frisked Williams for weapons and discovered a 9mm pistol
tucked in his waist band. The cigarette box also contained
two Acetaminophin-Oxycodone pills.
filed a Motion to Suppress arguing that Officer
Kaufmann's search of the cigarette box was unlawful and
that this unlawful search led to the subsequent pat-down
where the gun was discovered. (Doc. 22) at 3-4. On April 22,
2019, the undersigned held a suppression hearing. Transcript
(Doc. 31). At the hearing, Williams raised a new argument
that the traffic stop itself was unlawful because Officer
Kaufmann lacked reasonable suspicion that Williams was
speeding. (Doc. 31) at 39. Williams seeks to suppress all
evidence seized and statements made during the traffic stop.
(Doc. 22). Upon consideration of Williams' Motion (Doc.
22), the Government's Response (Doc. 27), and the
evidence and arguments presented at the suppression hearing,
the undersigned Magistrate Judge recommends that
Williams' Motion to Suppress be denied.
facts are essentially undisputed. See Mot. to
Suppress (Doc. 22) at 1-2. In the early morning hours of
November 27, 2015, Officer Kaufmann was conducting a
night-shift patrol with a trainee, Officer Christopher
Hardman, in a marked police car. (Doc. 24-2) at 1; (Doc. 31)
at 4. They were idling along the roadside near Montgomery
Highway and Montezuma Avenue in Dothan, Alabama, monitoring
traffic using a Stalker radar gun mounted to the dash of the
police car. (Doc 24-2) at 2; (Doc. 31) at 5, 17. At
approximately 2:15 a.m., Officer Kaufmann clocked a
motorcycle traveling northbound on Montgomery Highway doing
57 mph in a 40 mph zone. (Doc. 31) at 5; (Doc 24-2) at 2. He
pulled out behind the motorcycle, turned on his emergency
lights, and made a traffic stop. Id.
motorcycle, a black 2005 Harley-Davidson Street Glide, pulled
over, and Officer Kaufmann observed a black male rider, later
identified as Williams, and a black female passenger, later
identified as Ursula Mack (“Mack”), on the bike.
Officer Kaufmann and Officer Hardman exited the police car
and approached the motorcycle. (Doc. 24-2) at 2; (Doc. 31) at
6. Officer Kaufmann noted that both Williams and Mack were
wearing clothing that identified them as members or
affiliates of the Outcast Motorcycle Club (“Outcast
M.C.”). (Doc. 24-2) at 2, 4; (Doc. 31) at 7, 29-30, 31.
Kaufmann was familiar with the Outcast M.C. (Doc. 31) at 10.
The Outcast M.C. has a clubhouse a short distance from the
police station in Dothan. Id. at 11. Officer
Kaufmann understood it to be an “outlaw motorcycle
gang” whose members “regularly partake in acts of
violence.” Id. at 10. Officer Kaufmann knew
from police intelligence that the Outcast M.C.'s annual
Dothan rally was taking place that weekend. Id. at
27. He understood that Outcast M.C. chapters from different
states were in Dothan for the rally, and that a few hundred
members were at the Dothan clubhouse. Id. at 27. He
also knew that during the previous year's rally, the
Outcast M.C. had a large fight at their clubhouse in which
somebody was severely beaten and suffered a bad head injury.
Id. at 28.
one hour before the traffic stop at issue here, Officer
Kaufmann had been called as backup on another traffic stop on
the same side of town involving another motorcycle ridden by
an Outcast M.C. member with a female passenger. Id.
at 8-10, 16. The officer making that stop, Officer Dodson,
called for backup when a large number of people began to show
up at the scene. Id. at 9. Police recovered three
handguns from the Outcast M.C. rider at this earlier traffic
stop, and Officer Kaufmann personally observed “the
weapons that were taken off the suspect.” Id.
back to the stop at issue here, as Officer Kaufmann
approached the Harley, Williams turned around and handed a
box of Newport cigarettes he was holding in his left hand to
Mack. (Doc. 24-2) at 2; (Doc. 31) at 11. Mack, still seated
on the bike, then hid the cigarette box between her legs.
Id. Officer Kaufmann testified that, in his
“experience as a law enforcement officer, seeing an
object transferred from one person to another in the sight of
police, . . . would be some type of furtive movement.”
Id. at 12. Officer Kaufmann asked Williams why he
handed the cigarette box to Mack, and he responded,
“why do you need to know?” (Doc. 24-2) at 2;
(Doc. 31) at 12-13. Officer Kaufmann then asked Mack if she
would hand the box to him. (Doc. 24-2) at 4; (Doc. 31) at 12.
She did not respond. Id. At this point, Williams
told Mack to give the box to Officer Kaufmann, and she handed
it to him. (Doc. 24-2) at 4; (Doc. 31) at 13.
Kaufmann testified that he believed that the cigarette box
might contain a weapon of some kind such as a razor blade or
pocket knife. (Doc. 31) at 32. The box was unwrapped, and he
flipped open the top and discovered a clear plastic baggy
containing a white powdery substance that he believed to be
cocaine. (Doc. 24-2) at 5; (Doc. 31) at 14. He secured the
cigarette box in his cargo pocket and patted-down Williams
for weapons. Id. at 14-15. He immediately felt a
large, hard object on Williams's right hip that he
believed to be a pistol. Id. at 15. He lifted
Williams's shirt and discovered a Hi Point Arms C9 9mm
pistol tucked in his waistband. (Doc. 24-2) at 5; (Doc. 31)
at 14. He removed the pistol, gave it to Officer Hardman, and
handcuffed Williams. (Doc. 31) at 15. Officer Kaufmann asked
Williams if he had a permit for the pistol, and he replied
“no.” (Doc. 24-2) at 5; (Doc. 31) at 15. He
searched the motorcycle and found a billy club in the left
saddle bag. (Doc. 24-2) at 5. As the traffic stop progressed,
approximately 15 people showed up in the area. (Doc. 31) at
Thomas Davis arrived at some point and took charge of the
investigation. (Doc. 24-2) at 5. His report states that the
cigarette box contained two small partial sandwich bags that
held a white powder substance that field tested positive for
cocaine. Id. It also contained two 325mg/5mg
Acetaminophin-Oxcodone (Percocet) pills. Id.
Williams was placed under arrest for possession of cocaine
and carrying a pistol without a permit. Id. Officer
Kaufmann also issued Williams traffic citations for speeding
and driving with a revoked license. Id. After being
advised of his Miranda rights, Williams stated that
the cocaine was for personal use. Id.
Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable
search and seizure. See U.S. Const. amend. IV. When
a defendant moves “to suppress evidence garnered
through a warrantless search and seizure, the burden
of proof as to the reasonableness of the search rests with
the prosecution.” U.S. v. Freire, 710 F.2d
1515, 1519 (11th Cir. 1983) (emphasis original). To sustain
this burden, the “Government must demonstrate that the
challenged action falls within one of the ...