United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation that the court deny Defendant Mark
Rory Whitehead's motions to suppress all evidence
obtained from the search of his residence after his arrest.
(Doc. 37). For the following reasons, the court will accept
the magistrate judge's report and recommendation and deny
the motions to suppress.
magistrate judge found the following facts and the court
finds these facts supported by the evidence on the record.
enforcement officers went to Mr. Whitehead's house to
execute an arrest warrant for him; the officers did not have
a search warrant. An officer knocked on the front door of the
house and Mr. Whitehead responded to the knock. Officer
Sanders arrested Mr. Whitehead at the door, handcuffed him,
and seated him in a chair on the front porch. Mr. Whitehead
was not wearing shoes. He asked the officers to recover his
shoes from inside the house and turn off his stove.
then conducted a protective security sweep of the house.
According to Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas, standard practice is
for arresting officers to conduct a protective security sweep
of any areas with direct access to where the officers make
the arrest to ensure that no threats to officer safety exist.
(See Doc. 31 at 42-45). The front bedroom had a
window that opened to the porch area where the officers had
seated Mr. Whitehead, so Deputy Thomas searched the bedroom
as part of the protective sweep. Deputy Thomas observed a
weapon in plain view in an open closet area in the bedroom.
United States charged Mr. Whitehead with illegally possessing
a weapon-the shotgun recovered from the bedroom closet-after
being convicted of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g). Mr. Whitehead moved to suppress all evidence seized
from his house and all other evidence and statements obtained
as a result of the search. According to Mr. Whitehead, the
officers violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when
they searched his house without a warrant and without legal
justification for the search. After obtaining new counsel,
Mr. Whitehead filed a supplemental motion to suppress that
incorporated and adopted his first motion to suppress and
added a description of the physical layout of his front
magistrate judge held two hearings on the motions to suppress
at which Officer Sanders, Deputy Thomas, and Task Force Agent
the hearings, the magistrate judge entered his report and
recommendation on the motions to suppress in which he found
that Deputy Thomas was justified in conducting a protective
sweep of the front bedroom where he observed the shotgun
under Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990).
Whitehead filed objections to the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation. (Doc. 38). The court analyzes-and
overrules-each of his objections in turn.
magistrate judge stated, the dispositive question for Mr.
Whitehead's motions to suppress is “whether Deputy
Thomas was justified in conducting a protective sweep of the
bedroom where the weapon was found.” (Doc. 37 at 5-6).
“‘protective sweep' is a quick and limited
search of premises, incident to an arrest and conducted to
protect the safety of police officers or others.”
Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325, 327 (1990). In
Buie, the Supreme Court found that arresting
officers can make two types of “protective
sweeps” of the areas around where they make an arrest.
First, the Court held that arresting officers may, “as
a precautionary matter and without probable cause or
reasonable suspicion, look in closets and other spaces
immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an
attack could be immediately launched.” Buie,
494 U.S. at 334. Second, the Court held, “[b]eyond
that, . . . there must be articulable facts which, taken
together with the rational inferences from those facts, would
warrant a reasonably prudent officer in believing that the
area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to
those on the arrest scene.” Buie, 494 U.S. at
the magistrate judge found that the search of Mr.
Whitehead's bedroom satisfied the criteria for the first
type of Buie search because the bedroom “had
line of sight and window access to the front porch
area.” (Doc. 37 at 7). Mr. Whitehead contends that the
magistrate judge also implicitly found that the search fit
the second type of Buie ...