MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.
This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Isiah Mundy's motion to suppress evidence obtained during his encounter with the Richmond police officers on April 18, 2013. [Record No. 14] The motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). An evidentiary hearing was held on September 24, 2013. Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge issued his report, recommending that the defendant's motion be denied. [Record No. 27] On October 7, 2013, the defendant filed objections to the Recommended Disposition. [Record No. 32] After reviewing the Magistrate Judge's Recommended Disposition and having considered the parties' arguments, the Court will overrule Mundy's objections and deny his motion to suppress.
As noted by Magistrate Judge Wier, this case requires the Court to evaluate the propriety of the defendant's interaction with law enforcement on April 18, 2013. Mundy, a backseat occupant of a parked passenger car, argues that law enforcement officers improperly seized the car and him on the evening in question. The relevant facts are mostly undisputed and are summarized by Magistrate Judge Wier as follows:
Richmond Police Detectives Joseph Lain and Rodney Tudor, both from the narcotics unit, were patrolling the area of Francis and E Streets in downtown Richmond in a black, unmarked Ford Taurus. Both officers identified the location as a high-crime area, indicating problems with theft, burglary, prostitution, fights, and drug activity. [Record No. 26, pp. 15-16, 59] At approximately 10:21 p.m., the officers, traveling east on Francis Street, turned left onto E Street. Id. at 17. A Ford Contour, ultimately identified as belonging to Julie Rice, was parked along the right-hand curb on E Street. The headlamps of the officers' car illuminated the Contour as it turned onto poorly-lit E Street, and Tudor noticed legs/feet sticking out of the open back passenger door. Id. at 60. Per Tudor, the legs protruded straight out of the vehicle - approximately 1.5 feet - and the feet were turned toward the 9-10 o'clock position. Id. at 61. The car was dark and police initially saw no one else in the vehicle. Id. at 23; 54.
Tudor immediately pulled over, stopping in front of and catty-cornered to the Contour. Id. at 18. The record is contradictory on the spatial proximity of the vehicles. Lain indicated that Tudor parked approximately 8-10 feet from the Contour but close to the right-hand curb. Id. at 21-22, 41. Per Lain, the Contour's primary method of egress would have been to back up and drive forward around the police vehicle. Id. at 51 ("Without a shadow of a doubt, yes, they could have backed up just a couple of feet and drove around, yes."). Tudor, who admittedly was unsure about the distances, testified that he parked approximately 10 feet from the Contour, although he believed that the subject vehicle could have pulled forward, either to the left or the right, in addition to backing up as a route of leaving the area. Id. at 64-65. Tudor estimated parking the Taurus approximately 5-6 feet from the curb. Id. at 83. Finally, Rice testified that the officers' car fully blocked the Contour, completely preventing the vehicle from moving forward. She described the distance between the two vehicles as "pretty close, " suggesting a margin of approximately 3 feet. Id. at 100. Finally, Ms. Gibbs indicated that the Contour could have exited only by backing up and reversing course. Id. at 108-09 ("[The Contour] could have only went on the sidewalk to get around the vehicle or on the other sidewalk to get around the vehicle or to back - back up."). The photo in the record clearly shows the cruiser angled in front of and obviously in the near path of the Contour. [Record No. 20-2]
Lain immediately activated the emergency blue lights, exited the vehicle, and proceeded to the passenger side of the darkened Contour with his flashlight drawn. Id. at 19-20. Tudor briefly remained in the vehicle to radio in the location. Id. at 19. As Lain approached the vehicle, he announced himself as Richmond police and encountered Bradley Ashcraft in the driver's seat, Rice in the front passenger seat, and Mundy partially in the back passenger seat. Id. at 23-25. Lain described Mundy as lying sideways in the car, with his head near the center console and legs outside the door. Mundy rose up and turned toward the open door as Lain approached. Id. at 26-27.
Detective Lain engaged the individuals in basic conversation, describing Mundy as polite but nervous with trembling hands. Id. at 29, 32. Lain quickly noticed digital scales lying in the floorboard of the back passenger seat, in Mundy's area. Id. at 27, 28. Around this time, and just moments after the stop, Detective Tudor reached the vehicle and verbally identified the backseat passenger as Isiah Mundy. Id. at 30; id. at 66-67 (Tudor explained that he was personally familiar with Defendant. He had received numerous complaints of Mundy engaging in drug trafficking and had previously participated in drug investigations concerning Mundy.). Lain then asked Defendant to exit the vehicle. He complied, letting a cell phone drop from his hands to the street. Id. at 32. Rice and Ashcraft subsequently complied with officer requests to vacate the car. Rice admitted ownership of the Contour, and law enforcement searched the vehicle. A search uncovered from under the passenger seat, around Mundy's access point, a clear plastic bag containing 9 individually packaged plastic bags. [Record No. 20-9 (Exhibit I: nine bags)] The bags allegedly contained cocaine. Mundy consented to a search of his person, which revealed a second cell phone and $2, 242.00 cash.
Officers arrested Mundy and ultimately charged him with 2 counts of trafficking in a controlled substance. In a Mirandized interview at police headquarters, Mundy admitted to trafficking in cocaine to support a personal use habit. Id. at 36. Officers released Rice from the scene and arrested Ashcraft on an unrelated state warrant.
[Record No. 27, pp. 2-4 (footnotes omitted)] On September 17, 2013, Mundy filed a motion to suppress, seeking to exclude all evidence obtained during the encounter and subsequent interview. [Record No. 14]
Mundy argues that his initial contact with law enforcement constituted an illegal seizure, unsupported by reasonable suspicion, thus violating Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1967), and its progeny. [ See Record No. 14-1, pp. 4-7.] He contends that, due to this improper search and seizure, his constitutional rights were violated and that suppression of all evidence seized and the fruits thereof is necessary. [ Id., p. 7] Magistrate Judge Wier found that Mundy's motion to suppress should be denied. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge concluded that, based on the totality of the circumstances, law enforcement subjected the defendant to an investigative detention. However, the officers had articulable facts giving rise to a reasonable suspicion of possible criminal activity. [Record No. 27, p. 2] Thus, the detention of the defendant was proper under Terry. The Magistrate Judge also found that the exclusionary rule should not be applied, however, he declined to provide this as an alternative holding because the parties had not fully addressed the issue, and because of his conclusion that the defendant's encounter with the detectives constituted a lawful Terry stop.
Although Mundy agrees with the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that his initial encounter with Detective Lain and Tudor was a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, he objects to the finding that the law enforcement officers had a reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigative detention. [Record No. 32] He also objects to the Magistrate Judge's application of the exclusionary rule. The undersigned finds Mundy's objections to be without merit. Additionally, the undersigned disagrees with the finding that ...