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United States v. Whitis

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

August 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON WHITIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Joshua Kelley Pyles's Motion to Alter or Amend [DE 38] the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order of July 20, 2017 [DE 35], wherein it rejected his efforts to suppress evidence seized by Kentucky State Police during a traffic stop in April 2016. The Court permitted his co-Defendants, Robbie Neal Whitis and Jason Whitis, to join in his Motion [DE 41, 44, 47]. The United States having filed a Response in Opposition [DE 50], this matter is now ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons stated in the Memorandum Opinion and Order of July 20, 2017, and reiterated today, the Motion to Alter or Amend is DENIED.

         “The decision to reopen a suppression hearing is left to the sound discretion of the court.” United States v. White, 455 F. App'x 647, 650 (6th Cir. 2012) (finding no merit in the defendant's argument that the trial court did not “closely scrutinize” evidence produced at trial, even though it tended to disprove a police officer's testimony at a prior suppression hearing). “Generally, a court should be reluctant to reopen a case, and that principle has been applied to suppression hearings.” Id. When making such a request, the moving party must first provide “a reasonable explanation for failing to present the evidence initially.” Id. “Then the timeliness of the motion, the character of the testimony, the effect of granting the motion, and whether the opposing party will be prejudiced by reopening the hearing should be considered.”[1]Id.

         As explained in the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order of July 20, 2017, Trooper Ramsey ran the license plate of the vehicle Defendants were driving and discovered that its owner, Angela Burdine, was subject to an active arrest warrant. In such circumstances, an officer is entitled to presume that the registered owner of a vehicle is one of its occupants and initiate a traffic stop on that basis, unless he is aware of facts that make such a presumption unreasonable. See United States v. Chartier, 772 F.3d 539, 543 (8th Cir. 2014); United States v. McBrown, 149 F.3d 1176, 1998 WL 413981, at *10 (5th Cir. 1998); United States v. Montalvo-Rangel, 2010 WL 1417745, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 5, 2010) (quoting People v. Khoshaba, 2006 WL 932408, at *2 (Mich. App. 2006)); State v. Howard, 766 N.E.2d 179, 183 (Ct. App. Ohio 2001). Defendants insist that Trooper Ramsey was unreasonable in making such an assumption because he believed Angela Burdine was a female and could see that the three occupants of the vehicle were all male.

         In support of this proposition, Defendants point to the following testimony:

Q: Mr. Pyles was in the passenger seat in the back?
A: That's correct.
Q: And you saw a passenger in the back?
A: Yes.
Q: Mr. Pyles' appearance was fairly close to his appearance today?
A: Yes.
Q: And he does not have long hair as some women have, ...

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