United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Chester
Thorn's Motion to Suppress Any and All Evidence Seized at
the Time of His Arrest. [DE 23]. The Court held a suppression
hearing on February 13, 2019. [DE 29]. Briefing is complete,
and the Motion is ripe. [See DE 26; DE 36; DE 37]. For the
reasons below, the Court DENIES Thorn's Motion.
March 14, 2017, Louisville Metro Police Department
(“LMPD”) Detectives Brad Jones and Joseff Keeling
spoke with an individual who complained of drug trafficking
at a “drug house” in Louisville. [DE 29, Tr.
Supp. Hearing at 107:17-25, 108:1-15]. The complainant
admitted that he had previously purchased marijuana from the
alleged trafficker but now wanted the drug house to be
“shut down.” [Id.].
on the complaint, Detectives Jones and Keeling drove by the
alleged drug house to examine the situation. The detectives
witnessed an individual carrying a bag leave the house and
get in the passenger seat of a white Lexus that was parked in
the driveway. [Id. at 114:13-25, 115:1-4]. Several
minutes later, the individual exited the Lexus without the
bag and reentered the house. [Id.]. Detective Jones
suspected that the activity “could have been some form
of payment, some kind of drug transaction activity which, you
know, led us to believe the credibility of the complainant
that came in and talked to me.” [Id. at
the Lexus left the house, the detectives followed the vehicle
and contacted an LMPD K-9 unit while they drove on the Snyder
Expressway. [Id. at 126:24-25]. Before the K-9 unit
arrived, the Lexus swerved abruptly into the left-turn lane
without using a turn signal. Detective Jones stopped the
Lexus upon seeing the traffic violation. [Id. at
Jones approached the Lexus, introduced himself, and explained
to the driver, Thorn, why he pulled him over. Detective Jones
asked Thorn for his name and requested his license,
registration, and proof of insurance. Detective Jones,
looking at the license, asked Thorn if he still lived on
Monaco Drive, and Thorn replied “yeah . . ., well
that's my address, . . . yeah, that'll work.”
Detective Jones sought to clarify, and Thorn responded that
he was “stay[ing] with a friend right now.”
Detective Jones again tried to clarify, and Thorn eventually
provided an address on Wabash Place.
Jones instructed Thorn to step out of the vehicle and provide
proof of insurance, which Thorn said was on his phone.
Detective Jones asked Thorn if there were any drugs or
weapons in the car. Thorn said no, and Detective Jones asked
Thorn if he could look in the car. Thorn declined. Thorn
exited the vehicle, pulled up the proof of insurance on his
phone, and handed the phone to Detective Jones. Detective
Jones examined the insurance information on Thorn's
phone, after which Detective Keeling verified the
vehicle's VIN No. to confirm that it was the same vehicle
listed on the insurance. [Id. at 119:14-15].
Jones went to his vehicle to conduct a routine background
check and write a citation for the traffic violations, while
Detective Keeling stood outside the police truck with Thorn.
Unlike LMPD's marked vehicles, which are equipped with a
mounted computer terminal, printer, and scanner to input
driver's license information and print out a citation,
the unmarked police truck that Detective Jones was driving
relied on a separate computer that the detectives carried in
the back seat. [DE 36 at 208-09]. Detective Jones retrieved
the computer and logged in to conduct the background check.
The computer had trouble connecting to the network, and
Detective Jones became visibly frustrated with the delay in
obtaining information. Detective Jones explained the delay to
Thorn and ultimately exited and logged back into the program,
eventually finding the information he sought. [DE 29, Tr.
Supp. Hearing at 124-25].
reviewing the information from the online database, Detective
Jones began filling out a citation for two traffic
offenses-improper lane changing and failure to notify the
Department of Transportation of a change of address.
[Id. at 126:8-9]. While Detective Jones wrote out
the citations, the K-9 officer arrived. The K-9 performed a
“sniff” around the Lexus and tried to enter the
passenger's side through the window. The K-9 officer told
Detective Keeling that the K-9 confirmed a hit on the vehicle
for the presence of contraband. [Id. at 167:13-23].
After the hit, Detective Keeling and the K-9 officer searched
Thorn's car. Thorn became angry and attempted to grab his
phone. Detective Keeling handcuffed Thorn to prevent him from
destroying evidence on the phone, which had been
“constantly going off” during the stop.
[Id. at 168:16-25, 169:1- 17]. The detectives
searched Thorn's Lexus and found a loaded pistol in the
center console, approximately $40, 000 in cash in a leather
bag on the passenger-side floorboard, and approximately
twelve pounds of marijuana in a plastic tote in the trunk.
jury charged Thorn with drug and firearm offenses. [DE 1].
Thorn now moves to suppress evidence discovered during the
stop and search of his vehicle. [DE 23]. The Court held a
suppression hearing [DE 29], and the parties filed
post-hearing briefs [DE 36; DE 37].
argues that the stop was improper because the police had no
arrest or search warrant, saw no misdemeanor or felony
committed in their presence, and did not have probable cause
to believe that a felony was committed in their presence. [DE
23 at 54]. Thorn also argues that even if the stop were
supported by probable cause, the stop was unreasonably
extended. [Id. at 55-56]. Finally, Thorn asserts
that the “officer learned nothing during the legitimate
stop that rose to the level of reasonable suspicion