United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendant Jonathan Gary
Odom's motion to suppress evidence obtained during the
warrantless search of a vehicle. (Doc. # 17). For the reasons
explained below, the motion is due to be denied.
court held a hearing on Odom's suppression motion on June
17, 2019. Based on the testimony and evidence presented at
the hearing, the court finds the following facts.
22, 2018, Officer Jesse White of the Fort Payne Police
Department was assigned to patrol an area near Stewart Circle
Court and Godfrey Avenue in Fort Payne, Alabama. (Docs. # 35
at 8; 31-4 at 1). Officer White, who has lived in Fort Payne
for about 40 years, knew the neighborhood to be “a very
high crime area” and testified that “it used to
be one of the worst . . . in our city, actually.” (Doc.
# 35 at 9). He was patrolling the neighborhood in part
because police had received “a few complaints about
some drug activity going on in that area.”
(Id. at 10).
around 5:30 a.m., while driving north on Godfrey Avenue,
Officer White noticed a vehicle driving on Stewart Circle
Court come to an extremely hard stop at the stop sign at the
intersection of Stewart Circle Court and Godfrey Avenue.
(Id. at 10-11; Doc. # 31-4 at 1). As Officer White
passed the vehicle, it pulled out behind him on Godfrey
Avenue. (Doc. # 35 at 11). Viewing the vehicle in his rear
view mirror, Officer White observed the car come to almost a
complete stop in the road behind him. (Id.). As he
continued north on Godfrey Avenue, Officer White observed the
vehicle turn right on 11th Street without giving a turn
signal. (Id.). Officer White then made a U-turn and
headed south on Godfrey Avenue, back toward 11th Street.
Officer White turned left on 11th Street, he almost
immediately met the vehicle, which was traveling in the
opposite lane back toward Officer White and Godfrey Avenue.
(Id. at 11-12). Officer White concluded that the
vehicle had made a U-turn on 11th Street shortly after
turning onto that road and was now heading back toward
Godfrey Avenue. (Id. at 12).
passing the vehicle on 11th Street, Officer White made a
U-turn and observed the vehicle run the stop sign at 11th
Street and Godfrey Avenue “at a high rate of
speed” and without giving a turn signal. (Id.
at 12-13). Suspicious, Officer White pursued the vehicle in
his marked patrol car. (Id. at 13). As he reached
the intersection of 11th Street and Godfrey Avenue, Officer
White observed the vehicle turning onto Steward Circle Court
“at a very high rate of speed.” (Id.).
Circle Court is the entrance to an apartment complex.
(Id.; Doc. # 31-4). When the vehicle entered the
complex, it was moving “very fast.” (Doc. # 35 at
13-14). Upon entering the complex, Officer White observed the
vehicle “pretty much sliding into a stop” and
activated the lights on his patrol car. (Id. at 14).
As Officer White approached the vehicle in his patrol car,
the vehicle's driver (later determined to be Defendant
Odom) exited the vehicle, looked at Officer White, and took
off running behind a building in the apartment complex.
White exited his patrol car and pursued Odom on foot.
(Id.). While chasing Odom, Officer White observed
him throw something, though he could not identify what came
out of Odom's hand. (Id.). As he was chasing Odom,
Officer White also noticed a female passenger in Odom's
vehicle, with the passenger door open. (Id. at 15).
Officer White ordered her to stay in the car as he ran by.
(Id.). Officer White ultimately apprehended Odom in
an open field in view of the vehicle. (Id.). Officer
White ordered Odom onto the ground with his hands behind his
head, drew his firearm, and kept both Odom and the female
passenger in view while waiting for backup to arrive.
arrived in short order and another officer, Sergeant Jones,
helped Officer White handcuff Odom. (Id. at 16).
While Sergeant Jones and Officer White handcuffed Odom,
another officer, Nicholas Hill, approached the passenger door
of the vehicle, where the female passenger remained seated.
Officer Hill directed the female passenger (later determined
to be Alena Benson) to step out of the car and place her
hands behind her back. After handcuffing Benson, Officer Hill
led her to a nearby sidewalk and directed her to have a seat.
Hill then asked Benson several questions, which prompted her
to tell him that there was a large amount of
“dope” in the car and that the dope might be in
one of Odom's bags.Officer Hill also asked Benson who the
car belonged to, and she responded that it belonged to
Officers at the scene confirmed that the vehicle was
registered to a person with the last name of
“Benson.” (Doc. # 35 at 90-91). Finally, Officer
Hill asked Benson if she would mind if he searched the car to
look for the dope, and she gave her consent to the
Hill then proceeded to search the car. During the search, he
found a black backpack containing approximately 78.4 grams of
methamphetamine. (Doc. # 30-2 at 2). The backpack also
contained a traffic citation belonging to Odom and a pair of
size 32x34 men's blue jeans, which were consistent with
Odom's size. (Id.). Officers also found other
drug-related evidence and paraphernalia in the vehicle.
(Id.; Doc. # 35 at 82-83).
has moved to suppress all of the evidence recovered from the
search of the vehicle on grounds that the search ...