United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA GRADY JENNINGS, DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Joseph Williams's
Motion to Suppress Evidence. [DE 17]. The Court held a
suppression hearing. [DE 23]. Briefing is complete, and the
motion is ripe. [See DE 20; DE 29; DE 32]. For the reasons
below, the Court DENIES Williams's motion.
November 23, 2017, Louisville Metro Police Department
(“LMPD”) Detective McCauley, Sergeant Keeling,
and Detective Barton were conducting surveillance on the
Georgetown Apartment complex in Louisville, an area with a
history narcotics trafficking. [DE 24, Tr. Supp. Hearing at
106:21-25, 107:1-15]. Detective McCauley observed a vehicle
idling in the vicinity of the apartment complex.
[Id. at 107:3-24]. The vehicle left the apartment
complex, turned without signaling, and passed Detective
McCauley's unmarked vehicle. [Id. at 107:17-21].
Detective McCauley recognized the driver as Williams, whom
Detective McCauley knew from an earlier traffic stop.
[Id. at 105:11-17]. Detective McCauley communicated
over police radio that the vehicle had turned without
signaling. [Id. at 108:5-9].
the corner from the apartment complex, LMPD Detectives Flynn
and Mayo stopped Williams's vehicle for failure to
signal, excessive windshield tinting, and an obstructed
license plate. [Id. at 67:6-25, 68:1-14]. After
Detectives Flynn and Mayo signaled for Williams to pull over,
Williams drove about “the length of a football
field” before stopping the vehicle. [Id. at
68:18-25]. As Williams stopped, Detective Flynn saw
Williams's head “duck down to what appeared to be
underneath the driver's seat.” [Id. at
Flynn and Mayo approached the vehicle, and Detective Flynn
saw Williams still reaching under the driver's seat.
[Id. at 69:10-19]. Detective Flynn shined his
flashlight through the windshield and saw what “looked
to be the butt end of a pistol” under the driver's
seat. [Id.]. Detective Flynn signaled to Detective
Mayo, who was approaching the driver's side door to speak
with Williams, that a firearm was likely in the vehicle.
[Id. at 95:9-17]. Williams then lifted his arms from
beneath the seat, and Detective Mayo secured Williams's
arms and removed him from the vehicle. [Id. at
98:17-23]. As Detective Mayo removed Williams from the
vehicle, Williams's hands moved toward his waistband.
[Id. at 75:19-22]. The officers told Williams to
remain still and handcuffed him. [Id. at 76:3-5].
Detective Flynn testified that they removed and handcuffed
Williams because the “totality of the circumstances,
” including Williams's “furtive
movements” and the likely firearm, created a concern
for officer safety. [Id. at 99:3-15].
McCauley arrived to assist with the traffic stop.
[Id. at 108:24-25, 109:1-6]. He approached the open
driver's side door and saw the back of the firearm in
Williams's vehicle. [Id. at 109:8-15]. Detective
McCauley testified that seeing Williams and the handgun was
significant because he “knew” Williams was
“a convicted felon and known violent offender.”
[Id. at 109:18- 21]. Detective McCauley announced a
code to the other officers signifying the presence of the
firearm. [Id. at 109:22-25, 110:1-6]. Because
Williams was a felon and possessed a gun, Detective McCauley
considered Williams under arrest. [Id. at
109:20-21]. That said, the officers did not inform Williams
that he was under arrest at that time. [Id. at
the officers removed Williams from the vehicle, Sergeant
Keeling patted Williams down and found a stack of currency in
Williams's pocket and a bag of hydrocodone in
Williams's underwear. [Id. at 114:2-24]. The
officers then searched Williams's vehicle but found no
additional contraband. [Id. at 122:2-10]. During the
search, Williams made several incriminating statements,
including “that's all I had was the gun” and
that the hydrocodone was for personal use and “not
trafficking.” [Id. at 122:2-6, 125:1-2].
Detective McCauley then transported Williams to the
Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. [Id. at
jury charged Williams with drug and firearm offenses. [DE 1].
Williams now moves to suppress evidence discovered during the
stop and search of his vehicle. [DE 17]. The Court held a
suppression hearing [DE 23], and the parties filed
post-hearing briefs [DE 29; DE 32].
makes several arguments in favor of suppression. First,
Williams argues that the LMPD lacked probable cause to
conduct the initial stop. [DE 29 at 162-65]. Second, Williams
contends that the stop violated his right to due process
because the LMPD was targeting poor and minority communities
when conducting stops. [Id. at 165-66]. Third,
Williams argues that the LMPD lacked probable cause to search
his vehicle. [Id. at 166-69]. Finally, Williams
asserts that the Court should suppress his incriminating
statements because the officers' actions amounted to a
custodial interrogation without a Miranda warning.
[Id. at 169].
Stop of Williams's Vehicle was Proper.
Williams asserts that the LMPD improperly stopped his
vehicle. [DE 17 at 38-39; DE 29 at 162-65]. Police officers
can lawfully stop a vehicle if there is probable cause to
believe that the driver committed a traffic violation.
United States v. Ferguson, 8 F.3d 385, 391 (6th Cir.
1993). And a stop based on a traffic violation is permissible
even if it is pretext for further investigation. Whren v.
United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996). An
officer's actual motivation for making the stop is
irrelevant to the constitutionality of the stop when the
officer has probable cause to make the stop. United
States v. Bailey, 302 F.3d 652, 656 (6th Cir. 2002). In
other words, if a stop is supported by probable cause,
“it is irrelevant what else the officer knew or
suspected about the traffic violator at the time of the
stop.” Ferguson, 8 F.3d at 391.
Flynn and Mayo saw Williams's vehicle, among other
things, take a right-hand turn without using a turn signal.
[DE 24, Tr. Supp. Hearing at 67:18-25, 68:1]. Changing lanes
without signaling violates Kentucky law. Ky. Rev. Stat.
§ 189.380. The detectives thus had probable cause to
stop Williams's vehicle. And because the stop ...