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United States v. Miles

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

April 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
TREYVON MILES, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the court on the Defendants' joint objection to the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation (“Report”). (DN 54.) The Defendants, Treyvon Miles, Chillvon Randolph, and Marcus Knight, filed motions to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop that occurred on November 27, 2016. The matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay (“Judge Lindsay”) for a report and recommendation. After holding two hearings, Judge Lindsay recommended that the Defendants' motions to suppress be denied. The Defendants timely filed an objection to the Report. For the following reasons, the court will adopt the Report and Recommendation in full.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 27, 2016, police officers with the Ninth Mobile Division of the Louisville Metro Police Department pulled over a vehicle for traffic violations. The vehicle contained four occupants, three of whom are Defendants in this case. Maverick, a canine trained to detect the odors of certain narcotics, arrived at the scene and alerted to the vehicle. Acting on Maverick's alert, the officers discovered four handguns in the vehicle's glove compartment.

         The Defendants filed motions to suppress evidence under the premise that the evidence was obtained in an illegal search and seizure in violation of the Defendants' Fourth Amendment rights. (DN 25; DN 33.) The United States argued that the warrantless search of the Defendants' vehicle was permissible under the “automobile exception, ” which allows law enforcement officers to legally search a vehicle without a search warrant if the vehicle is readily mobile and the officers have probable cause to search it. See Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 940 (1996). Hearings on this issue were held before Judge Lindsay on November 6, 2017 and December 14, 2017, whereupon evidence was presented and witnesses were heard. (DN 39; DN 42.)

         Judge Lindsay entered a Report and Recommendation on March 19, 2018 recommending that the Defendants' motions to suppress be denied. (DN 51.) The Defendants timely filed an objection to Judge Lindsay's Report and the issue is now before this court. (DN 54.)

         II. STANDARD

         The court considers de novo any objection to a magistrate judge's recommendation. Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). After review, the court “may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or resubmit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Defendants object to Judge Lindsay's Report on four grounds: (1) that the Report misperceives the Defendants' arguments as to the validity of the traffic stop; (2) that the United States did not meet its burden in showing that the canine sniff of the Defendants' vehicle did not unreasonably extend the traffic stop; (3) that the canine handler's failure to restrain the dog when it stuck its snout in the vehicle's open window amounted to an unlawful search; and (4) that the United States did not provide sufficient evidence of the canine's training and reliability. The court will address each in turn.

         1. Validity of the traffic stop

         The Defendants first take issue with the Report's characterization of their argument on pretext. The Defendants claim that the record supports their argument that “police used the pretext of a traffic violation to justify the stop.” (DN 46, 1.) They point to the bodycam footage of Detective Brian Wilson (“Detective Wilson”), wherein an officer can be heard stating that four young black men were involved in a drive-by shooting the previous day, presumably implying that the officers believed that the occupants could have been the same individuals involved in the shooting. (DN 42, Gov. Exh. 1, 01:43.) In light of this officer's statement, the Defendants object to Judge Lindsay's contention that the “defendants have not proffered anything more than their suspicions to suggest” that the traffic stop was pretextual. (DN 51, 7.)

         In their objection, the Defendants express concern that the court may construe counsel as “being less than candid with the Court” in arguing that there exists evidence of pretext. (DN 54, 3 - 4.) However, Judge Lindsay ultimately concluded that a finding of whether or not the stop was pretextual is immaterial to the court's analysis. Judge Lindsay correctly stated, per the holding in Whren v. U.S., that the constitutionality of traffic stops does not depend on the subjective intentions, or “reasonableness, ” of the individual officers involved as long as probable cause of a traffic violation exists. 517 U.S. 806 (1996). Since any factual findings on the issue of pretextuality is immaterial to the validity of a traffic stop, the court finds that Judge Lindsay's characterization of the evidence on pretextuality bears no consequence to the conclusions presented in his Report. As such, the court adopts the Report's findings concerning the analysis of pretext.

         The Defendants next claim that Judge Lindsay's conclusion that the traffic stop was lawful is “unnecessary to the analysis” when, according to the Defendants, “objections to the traffic stop [ ] were not made.” (DN 54, 4.) While the Defendants may not have objected to the validity of the traffic stop, an analysis of the validity of the traffic stop is necessary for the application of the automobile exception as asserted by the United States. In order for the United States to succeed under this theory, it must show that: (1) the officers conducted a lawful traffic stop of the vehicle; and (2) the officers had probable cause to believe the Defendants' vehicle contained contraband. U.S. v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 823 (1982). The United States presented evidence that the Defendants' vehicle ...


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