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United States v. Rolley

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

May 25, 2017



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Jamey Rolley's motion to suppress evidence discovered during a police search of his person and vehicle. [DN 16.] The Court held a suppression hearing on May 18, 2017, receiving testimony from the United States and hearing arguments by both parties. The Court does not believe briefing is necessary on this matter. Rolley's motion is ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, it is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Kentucky State Police Trooper Bob Winters was patrolling a stretch of I-69 in Caldwell County, Kentucky on the evening of August 18, 2016. Around mile marker 75, he came upon a car stopped on the northbound shoulder, still running with its lights on. Winters had passed this area approximately five minutes prior, and had not seen the vehicle. The trooper pulled over and approached the open driver's side window. He shined his flashlight inside and found the Defendant, Jamey Rolley, asleep behind the wheel. Winters also noticed a four- to six-inch long glass pipe in the driver's seat, sticking out from beneath Rolley's right leg. The pipe contained a burnt white residue. Based upon his training and experience, Winters believed the pipe had been used to smoke either methamphetamine or crack cocaine.

         Winters rapped on the car's door, startling Rolley awake. They spoke for a few seconds, during which time Rolley appeared confused and exhibited slurred speech. Winters ordered Rolley out of the vehicle and immediately conducted a search of Rolley's person. At this time, Winters testified he had already decided to place Rolley under arrest based upon Winters' suspicion that Rolley was under the influence of narcotics and his possession of the glass pipe. During his search, Winters discovered a small baggie of methamphetamine in Rolley's front pants pocket. Winters handcuffed Rolley, placed him in his cruiser, and then searched Rolley's car. Inside, he discovered a firearm and approximately 1.4 kilograms of methamphetamine in the passenger floorboard. Rolley was charged federally with possessing with the intent to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. See [DN 1.]

         Rolley now moves to suppress the evidence discovered by Trooper Winters. He argues that Winters' search of his person incident to arrest was improper because the possession of drug paraphernalia is not an arrestable offense under Kentucky law, and because Winters did not have probable cause to believe Rolley was under the influence when he conducted the search.

         II. Legal Standard

         The Fourth Amendment protects the “right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. If the government violates a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, that defendant may move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3)(C), to exclude the evidence gathered against him. United States v. Haygood, 549 F.3d 1049, 1053 (6th Cir. 2008). In seeking suppression, “the burden of proof is upon the defendant” to show that the search or seizure violated “some constitutional or statutory right.” United States v. Rodriguez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Feldman, 606 F.2d 673, 679 n.11 (6th Cir. 1979)). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Rose, 714 F.3d 362, 366 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing United States v. Beauchamp, 659 F.3d 560, 565 (6th Cir. 2011)).

         III. Discussion

         The sole issue before the Court is whether Trooper Winters had probable cause to place Rolley under arrest, such that his search of Rolley's person was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The parties agree that pursuant to Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98, 111 (1980), it is immaterial that Winters conducted his search immediately prior to formally placing Rolley under arrest. They also seem to agree that, if the arrest was valid, Winters' subsequent search of Rolley's vehicle was permissible based upon Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 347 (2009). The task before the Court, then, is to determine whether Trooper Winters had probable cause to arrest Rolley for driving under the influence or possession of drug paraphernalia.

         Although “state law defines the offense for which an officer may arrest a person, . . . federal law dictates whether probable cause existed for an arrest.” Kennedy v. City of Villa Hills, 635 F.3d 210, 215 (6th Cir. 2011). The Supreme Court has defined “probable cause” as the “facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge that are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense.” Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979). Probable cause requires only the probability of criminal activity, not some type of “prima facie” showing. See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983); Criss v. City of Kent, 867 F.2d 259, 262 (6th Cir. 1988) (same). “[P]robable cause determinations involve an examination of all facts and circumstances within an officer's knowledge at the time of an arrest.” Estate of Dietrich v. Burrows, 167 F.3d 1007, 1012 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162 (1925)). Keeping this standard in mind, the Court will turn to the specific offenses Rolley is alleged to have committed.

         A. Driving Under the Influence

         Under Kentucky law, a person may not operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, including cocaine and methamphetamine. See KRS 198A.010(1)(c)-(d). Pursuant to KRS 431.005(1)(e), officers may arrest a person for driving under the influence without first obtaining a warrant, so long as the officer has probable cause to believe the person committed the offense.

         Trooper Winters did not actually observe Rolley driving a vehicle. Nevertheless, Winters unquestionably had probable cause to believe Rolley had driven to the location where he was ultimately arrested. When Winters came upon the scene, Rolley was behind the wheel of a still-running car on the shoulder of the interstate. The vehicle contained no other occupants. Further, Winters had passed this stretch of interstate no more than five minutes prior, but did not observe Rolley's vehicle. It is difficult to conceive how else Rolley could have arrived at the location except by ...

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