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United States v. Dillard-Cribbs

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

February 16, 2018



          Gregory F. Van Tateiihove United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon the Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram's Recommended Disposition (also known as a “Report and Recommendation, ” or “R&R”) [R. 194] on the Motion to Suppress [R. 169] filed by Defendant Malik Dillard-Cribbs. In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court deny Dillard-Cribbs's motion. [R. 194.]


         The Magistrate Judge conducted an evidentiary hearing on the issues raised in Dillard-Cribbs's motion to suppress and supplemental pleadings and, thereafter, issued a written R&R wherein he recommends that Dillard-Cribbs's motion to suppress be denied. [R. 190; R. 194.] In his recommendation, the Magistrate Judge thoroughly set out his proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. [R. 194.]

         Dillard-Cribbs does not offer specific objections to the factual recitation provided in the R&R but does object to the Magistrate's application of the law to those facts. [R. 195.] Because Dillard-Cribbs does not specifically object to the Magistrate's proposed findings of fact, the Court adopts them and, for convenience, reprints them herein:

[O]n May 19, 2016, District Judge Amul Thapar authorized the interception of wire and electronic communications over a cell phone used by Brandon Wollum. One intercept revealed a suspected source or supply using telephone number 510-637-8158. Additional intercepts indicated the two were going to meet on May 26, 2016. The DEA followed Wollum to a casino parking lot in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Wollum was surveilled briefly meeting with someone driving a car registered to a “Malik M. Dillard-Cribbs.” Further intercepts began on June 6, 2016, and indicated another meeting would soon occur near Lexington, Kentucky. On June 7, 2016, Wollum was surveilled meeting, in Woolum's vehicle, with the driver of a maroon Dodge Durango for approximately thirty minutes. The driver of the Durango returned to that vehicle and headed northbound on I-75. The Durango was subsequently stopped [ ].
Jeffrey Tyler Gaby, the Kentucky State Trooper that conducted the stop, was the lone witness at the suppression hearing. He testified that he was contacted by a DEA task force officer and was asked if he could stop a newer, purple Dodge Durango and identify its driver. Gaby was located on the northbound onramp at exit 136 and, once he obtained the information specifying the vehicle in question, he observed the vehicle speeding and conducted the stop. Gaby testified that, as a general matter, he would have used a radar device to detect the vehicle's speed, but did not recall specifically doing so in this instance or the speed it registered. Gaby stated he informed the driver he was speeding, at which point the driver surrendered his driver's license and stated that he had a firearm in the vehicle and wanted Gaby to know it was there. Gaby does not recall whether the driver surrendered his driver's license or revealed the firearm's existence first. The driver was Malik M. Dillard-Cribbs. At some point, Defendant provided Gaby a concealed carry license for the firearm.
Defendant said the firearm was in the floorboard on the driver's side, and Gaby responded by asking if he could take control of the weapon. During the stop, Defendant exited the vehicle and was patted down by Gaby to see if he had more weapons. Gaby did not find additional weapons, but did locate a large sum of money in Defendant's pocket. Gaby testified that the purpose of the patdown was to see if Defendant had anything else that could be a danger. Gaby asked Defendant about his trip that day, and Defendant responded that he had been to Radcliff, Kentucky, to drop off his child with his girlfriend. Gaby identified Defendant, but did not write him a citation or search the vehicle, and Defendant drove away. Gaby stated the entire stop lasted only a matter of minutes, estimating that it lasted a total of 4-5 minutes.

[R. 194 at 1-3 (citations to the record omitted).]

         Although Dillard-Cribbs does not object to the above factual recitation, he does object to the Magistrate's legal conclusions. Before considering those objections, a synopsis of the Magistrate's conclusions provides some context. The Magistrate Judge ruled that the Kentucky State Trooper had sufficient probable cause to initiate a traffic stop of Dillard-Cribbs because Dillard-Cribbs did not contradict or contest that he was speeding. [Id. at 4-5.] The Magistrate also concluded that because no evidence was seized during the patdown search, there is nothing to suppress with regard to the patdown. [Id. at 7.] Thus, because the traffic stop was constitutionally sound and, regarding the contents of Dillard-Cribbs's pocket, nothing was actually seized, suppression is unwarranted.

         Dillard-Cribbs timely objected to the R&R, challenging the Magistrate Judge's conclusions that (1) there existed probable cause to justify the traffic stop and (2) the trooper's observations are not suppressible because nothing was actually seized. [R. 195.] Dillard-Cribbs also seeks suppression of certain statements made by him during the stop as well as any statements by the trooper concerning what the trooper believed to be a large amount of cash in Dillard-Cribbs's pocket at the time of the traffic stop. [See R. 183.] The objections, in essence, ask the Court to review only the Magistrate's application of the law to the facts of this case. In response to Dillard-Cribb's objections, the Court has conducted a de novo review of the analysis, see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and for the reasons set forth below, Dillard-Cribbs's Motion to Suppress [R. 169], as clarified by his Reply in Support of Motion to Suppress [R. 183], will be GRANTED.


         The Fourth Amendment provides “the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause. . . .” U.S. Const. Amend. IV. For Fourth Amendment purposes, a traffic stop “constitutes a seizure of persons.” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996) (internal citations omitted). A law enforcement officer may initiate a traffic stop when she “possesses either probable cause of a civil infraction or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” United States v. Lyons, 687 F.3d 754, 763 (6th Cir. 2012). In Kentucky, speeding is a civil infraction as evidenced by its inclusion in the statutory scheme governing motor vehicles and traffic regulations, as opposed to the state's penal code. See KRS § 189.390. The exclusionary rule mandates suppression of seized evidence where an unlawful traffic stop occurs. Lyons, 687 F.3d at 763 (citing Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963)). As stated by the Magistrate Judge at the evidentiary hearing, while it is the defendant's motion, it is on the Government to establish the requisite burden of proof. [See R. 190, Audio Recording of Evidentiary Hearing at 24:24.]

         On the one hand, where probable cause of a civil infraction supports a traffic stop, “an officer's subjective intent is irrelevant.” United States v. Blair, 524 F.3d 740, 748 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Whren, 517 U.S. at 813). On the other hand, a stop based on reasonable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity - commonly referred to as a Terry stop - “must be supported by specific and articulable facts that would warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate.” Id. at 750. A Terry stop “must be justified at its inception, and it must be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the ...

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