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United States v. Tataw

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 20, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
EYONGAGBANKEH TATAW

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Eyongagbankeh Tataw's appeal from the order of the Magistrate Judge denying his motion to suppress evidence. (Docket No. 5.) The Government has responded. (Docket No. 6.) Defendant Tataw has replied. (Docket No. 7.) This matter is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the Court will DENY Defendant Tataw's appeal and affirm the Magistrate Judge's denial of the motion to suppress evidence.

BACKGROUND

On July 14, 2012, Defendant Tataw was stopped upon driving up to Gate 7 at Fort Campbell at approximately 2:50 AM by David Maddox, a security guard at Fort Campbell.[1] (Docket No. 4, Page 4.) As a security guard, Maddox does "access control" and "violations of traffic" and "reports them to the Military Police." Id. Maddox checked Tataw's valid identification card to ensure he was permitted to be on the post.[2] Id. at 5. Maddox noticed a "very strong odor of alcohol coming from [Tataw]." Id. As a result, Maddox decided to hold him and call the Military Police because he suspected Tataw may have been drinking and driving. Maddox asked Tataw to turn off his vehicle and give him his driver's license, insurance, and registration. Thereafter, Maddox did not take any steps to further the investigation himself. Maddox testified that the Military Police arrived approximately 10-15 minutes later. Id. at 6. The exact amount of time which it took for a Military Police Officer to arrive upon the scene is not clear from the record, although most of the evidence and testimony indicates it was approximately 15-25 minutes later.

Sergeant Steven Joshua Beard, a Military Police Officer, recalls being dispatched to Gate 7 at approximately 3:00 AM for suspicion of DUI.[3] (Docket No. 4, Page 7.) He was told there was a "push on it" because the person that was being held was getting irate and belligerent. Id. at 8. Accordingly, he went to Gate 7 under a "Code 3, " which means he preceded there with his lights and sirens on. Id. Beard testified that he arrived on the scene "somewhere between 3:11 and 3:15 [AM]." (Docket No. 4, Page 18.)

Upon arriving at Gate 7, Beard detected an odor of alcohol being emitted from the vehicle. (Docket No. 4, Page 9.) Beard also observed that Tataw's eyes were bloodshot and he had a slight glaze in his eyes. After running all of Tataw's information into the system, Beard determined that he had no outstanding warrants. Id. Beard then advised Tataw that due to the smell of alcohol he was going to "go ahead and issue him the field sobriety tests for suspicion of DUI." Id. Beard "pulled Tataw outside of the vehicle" in order to perform these tests. Id. Beard testified that he actually administered the field sobriety tests "shortly after" arriving on the scene, approximately around 3:30 AM. Id. at 13. Beard testified that Tataw was not cooperative during the administering of these tests, stating he was belligerent and yelling obscenities the entire time. Id. He noted that while normally these tests take three to five minutes, they can take longer if the suspect is uncooperative. Id.

Staff Sergeant Dycus of the Military Police was called to Gate 7 before Beard at 3:07 AM for a possible DUI. At that time he was responding to another call, which is why the dispatcher also contacted Sergeant Beard. Dycus got to Gate 7 at approximately 3:48 AM. (Docket No. 4, Page 38.) When he arrived, he states that he saw standard field sobriety tests being administered by Beard and Specialist Forsythe.[4]

Tataw failed the field sobriety tests administered by Beard and was transported to a military police station. Tataw then consented to a breathalyzer test which indicated a blood alcohol content of 0.137%. During trial, Tataw moved to suppress the field sobriety tests and breathalyzer test. The Magistrate Judge denied this motion. Subsequently, Tataw was found guilty of "drunk driving on federal property in Kentucky." (Docket No. 5, Page 2.) Tataw now appeals the Magistrate Judge's denial of his motion to suppress.[5]

STANDARD

Defendant Tataw has asserted the standard of review is de novo, (Docket No. 5, Page 5), and the Government has not asserted that a different standard of review is required. See United States v. Urrieta, 520 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2008) (upholding district court's factual finding unless clearly erroneous, but reviewing legal conclusions de novo ); Fed. R. Crim. P. 58 (g)(2)(D) ("The scope of appeal is the same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district judge."). The Court will review the legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge denying the motion to suppress de novo. [6]

DISCUSSION

Defendant Tataw's argument that his motion to suppress should have been granted is based upon the time period of the investigation. Specifically, Tataw argues the extended length of time which he was "seized" while awaiting on Military Police to arrive made the seizure unconstitutional.[7] Essentially, Tataw claims he was held unreasonably long waiting for another officer-Sergeant Beard-to arrive to do field sobriety tests. On the other hand, the Government argues that the time period of the investigation was reasonable and permissible. Specifically, the Government argues that the security officer's call to the military police was justified and necessary.

Admittedly, it is unknown exactly how much time lapsed between when Defendant was first seized and the first Military Police Officer, Sergeant Beard, arrived. At a maximum, 25 minutes could have lapsed between Defendant's initial arrival at the gate and when the first military police officer arrived to investigate.[8] ( See Docket No. 7 Defendant's Reply Brief.) Accordingly, the Court will determine whether a 25 minute lapse under these circumstances renders the seizure unconstitutional because it violates the Fourth Amendment.[9]

The Court finds that the delay Tataw suffered while waiting for Sergeant Beard to arrive did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights. Accordingly, the Court will affirm the Magistrate Judge's ruling and deny the motion to suppress. "The Fourth Amendment is not, of course, a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only against unreasonable searches and seizures. The authority and limits of the Amendment apply ...


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