United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky Louisville
Charles R. Simpson III, Senior Judge.
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.
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.
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. Laxbron, 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.)
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.)
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
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.
Validity of the traffic stop
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,
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.
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 ...