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United States v. Jabbi

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

October 26, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on the defendant Abdourahman Jabbi's motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle and to suppress statements made by him to officers after he was arrested (DE 26).

         A state trooper stopped Jabbi while he was traveling on I-75. Ultimately, the trooper searched Jabbi's car and discovered marijuana and cocaine. Jabbi argues that the evidence should be suppressed because the trooper “provoked” the traffic violation that led to the stop. Jabbi also argues that the trooper detained him for longer than permitted under the Fourth Amendment and that there is insufficient evidence that Jabbi consented to the search of his vehicle or that he knowingly waived his right to remain silent after being read the warnings required under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). For the following reasons, the motion to suppress will be denied.

         I. Facts

         At the hearing on this matter, Kentucky State Police Trooper Michael King testified that he has been employed by the Kentucky State Police since 2005 and is currently a member of the Drug Enforcement Special Investigations Unit. He testified that, on May 23, 2018, he and Sergeant Lafe Owens were sitting in a patrol car in a median on I-75 at approximately mile marker 83 when Trooper King observed a white Mercedes SUV driving in the far-right lane much slower than the other vehicles. He testified that he had not observed any traffic violations by the Mercedes driver at that point, but he pulled onto the interstate and proceeded to follow the vehicle.

         As he got closer to the Mercedes, however, Trooper King noticed that the vehicle would veer off to the right-hand side of the road and hit the rumble strips. Trooper King observed the driver looking over his left shoulder out the rear passenger window, again veering to the right and hitting the rumble strips, then gaining control of the car, and repeating the same cycle two or three times.

         Trooper King stated that he suspected the driver was either under the influence or falling asleep. After following the Mercedes for about two miles, Trooper King turned on his emergency equipment to initiate a stop for careless driving. The Mercedes stopped on the right side of the highway. Trooper King stopped behind the vehicle, got out of his patrol car, and approached the Mercedes from the passenger's side for safety reasons.

         Trooper King asked the driver, defendant Jabbi, if he was tired and defendant Jabbi stated he was and that he had been driving for a while. Trooper King testified that Jabbi was extremely nervous, noticeably more nervous than other drivers that King had stopped in the past. Jabbi informed Trooper King that he had a stuttering problem. Jabbi handed his driver's license to Trooper King and Trooper King observed Jabbi's hand shaking. Trooper King testified that he was unable to hear Jabbi because of the traffic and so he asked Jabbi to exit his vehicle.

         At that point, Trooper King observed a backpack and multiple air fresheners inside Jabbi's vehicle. Tooper King testified that, in his training and experience, multiple air fresheners in one vehicle is a sign the driver is attempting to conceal the odor of something. Trooper King testified that Jabbi exited the vehicle and walked to where Trooper King was standing at the rear of the patrol car.

         Trooper King testified that Jabbi became more nervous after exiting the vehicle. He testified that Jabbi told him that he was traveling from Atlanta to Lexington to look at a truck and then was traveling straight back to Atlanta. But Jabbi was unable to tell Trooper King where the truck was located in Lexington. Trooper King testified that Jabbi began looking away from him instead of looking at the trooper as he had at the beginning of the stop. In addition, Trooper King observed Jabbi's eyes roll back in his head when he attempted to speak.

         Trooper King testified that he believed Jabbi was engaged in criminal activity, and so he asked Jabbi if there was anything the trooper should be concerned about. Jabbi said there was not. Trooper King asked Jabbi if he possessed marijuana or cocaine, and Jabbi said he did not. Trooper King testified that he asked Jabbi if he could search the vehicle, and Jabbi said “sure, go ahead” and motioned with his hands toward the vehicle. Trooper King instructed Jabbi to stand with Sergeant Owens. Trooper King and another trooper who had arrived at the scene, David Burton, began searching the vehicle.

         The two officers went to the rear of the vehicle and opened the door to the cargo area. Trooper King testified that there were more air fresheners plugged into an electrical outlet in the cargo area. Trooper King lifted a blanket that was in the spare tire area and found multiple vacuum-sealed packages containing suspected marijuana. The packages were ultimately weighed and determined to contain 27 pounds of marijuana.

         Trooper King walked back to Jabbi and placed him in handcuffs. At this point, additional officers had arrived at the scene and were searching the car. Trooper Michelle Lang observed that the carpet had been pulled up underneath the rear passenger seat. She lifted the flaps and found a white garbage bag containing what appeared to be two kilos of cocaine. Officer Burton found approximately $4, 300 cash inside the backpack sitting on the back seat.

         The officers placed Jabbi in Officer Burton's vehicle and drove him to the Drug Enforcement Administration offices in Lexington. Special Agent Chris Hill of the DEA testified that when Jabbi arrived at the office, he was placed in the processing room, and the DEA officers received background from the arresting officers. Agent Hill testified that he and Task Force Officer Elijah Morris began to interview Jabbi. Agent Hill testified the first thing he did was read Jabbi the warnings required under Miranda. Agent Hill testified ...

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