Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Whitehead

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 6, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARK RORY WHITEHEAD, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The magistrate judge found the following facts and the court finds these facts supported by the evidence on the record.

         Law 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.

         Officers 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.

         The 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 bedroom.

         The magistrate judge held two hearings on the motions to suppress at which Officer Sanders, Deputy Thomas, and Task Force Agent Owens testified.

         Following 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).

         Mr. Whitehead filed objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. (Doc. 38). The court analyzes-and overrules-each of his objections in turn.

         II. DISCUSSION

         As the 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).

         A “‘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 334.

         Here, 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.