United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. McKinley Jr., Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress Evidence [DN 22]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe
for decision. For the following reasons, the Defendant's
Motion to Suppress is DENIED.
October 2017, Owensboro Police Department
(“OPD”)-working in conjunction with the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
(“ATF”)-organized a controlled buy of
methamphetamine. A confidential informant purchased 2 to 3
grams of methamphetamine from Defendant Gazaar Mendela
Dudley. During the buy, police and ATF monitored while the
confidential informant met Dudley in a car parked in front of
his home. ATF Special Agent Dean Clark and OPD Detective Ben
Fleury testified at the suppression hearing because both
officers monitored the controlled buy, in addition to
investigating Dudley previously.
months later, on December 20, 2017, police encountered Dudley
as he drove into a gas station parking lot. Again, Special
Agent Clark and Detective Fleury were both present. While
Dudley's girlfriend Nina Williams went inside the store
to make purchases, Dudley waited in a car that officer
recognized as the same vehicle used during the controlled
buy. Police determined that Dudley had an outstanding arrest
warrant for unpaid child support and decided to effect the
was removed from the vehicle and placed under arrest. Ms.
Williams was briefly detained but released soon after. The
police impounded the vehicle which was owned by Ms. Williams.
Special Agent Clark and Detective Fleury both testified that
they knew that the vehicle did not belong to Dudley but
seized the vehicle nonetheless because they believed it to be
subject to forfeiture because they recognized it to be the
car used in the October methamphetamine transaction. Pursuant
to OPD policy, police performed an inventory search on the
vehicle and discovered a leather jacket. Inside the leather
jacket, officers found multiple bags of marijuana, a bag of
suspected methamphetamine, and a pistol, along with
Dudley's identification card. Based on this evidence, a
grand jury indicted Dudley with possession with intent to
distribute methamphetamine, using/carrying a firearm during
and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and being a
felon in possession of a firearm.
filed the present Motion to Suppress, asking the Court to
suppress the drugs and weapon obtained from the inventory
search of the vehicle, arguing police should not have seized
and searched the vehicle under the Constitution or Kentucky
Standard of Review
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants
shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S.
CONST. Amend. IV. Evidence obtained in violation of a
defendant's constitutional rights bars the use of that
evidence against him at trial. Mapp v. Ohio, 367
U.S. 643 (1961). A person who claims to have been aggrieved
by an unlawful search or seizure bears the initial burden of
production and persuasion to suppress evidence. United
States v. Smith, 783 F.2d 648, 650 (6th Cir. 1986). The
defendant must present a prima facie showing of a Fourth
Amendment violation, i.e., that a government official, acting
without a warrant, subjected him to either an arrest or a
search and seizure. United States v. Bayless, 921
F.Supp. 211, 213 (S.D. N.Y. 1996) (citing cases), aff'd,
201 F.3d 116 (2d Cir. 2000). Once the defendant has made a
prima facie showing, the government then has the burden of
demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that the
search or seizure was not a constitutional violation.
United States v. Bradley, 163 Fed.Appx. 353, 357
(6th Cir. 2005).
moves the Court to suppress the evidence obtained from the
search of his girlfriend's car. First, Dudley argues that
the police did not have statutory authority to seize the car
belonging to Ms. Williams. In Kentucky, forfeitable
contraband includes vehicles “which are used, or
intended for use, to transport, or in any manner to
facilitate the transportation, for the purpose of sale or
receipt of” controlled substances. Ky. Rev. Stat.
§ 218A.410(h). Dudley argues that while Ms.
Williams' car may have been the location where he sold
controlled substances to a confidential informant, the police
had no evidence that the vehicle was used to
transport the methamphetamine. On this point, Dudley
argues that the vehicle was not forfeitable contraband since
the statute “requires more than mere
‘involvement' of the vehicle in a drug
crime.” (Def.'s Resp. [DN 39] at 8).
evidence shows that a controlled buy was made from the
Defendant while he was seated in the subject vehicle, which
was at that time parked in a driveway. The vehicle
facilitated the sale of contraband in that respect, but there
is no direct evidence that the vehicle was used to transport
the contraband either before or after the controlled buy.
However, one would logically infer that the vehicle had been
used for that purpose.
somewhat similar circumstances, the Kentucky Supreme Court,
in Osbourne v. Commonwealth, determined a vehicle
was subject to forfeiture under KRS § 218A.410(h)
despite a lack of proof that the vehicle was used to
transport contraband. 839 S.W.2d 281 (Ky. 1992). The vehicle
was not in running condition at the time contraband was found
in it. There was evidence that the Defendant had been seen
previously driving the vehicle but the only evidence of its
use in facilitating drug trafficking was that contraband was
found in it. The court held, “It is sufficient under
KRS 218A.410(h) and (j) to show a nexus between the property
sought to be forfeited and its use to facilitate violation of
the controlled substances act.” Id. at 283.
Therefore, in this case, even if officers had no reason to
believe that Ms. Williams' car was used to transport
drugs, the fact that Dudley used the car to facilitate the
sale of methamphetamine seems sufficient to render Ms.
Williams' vehicle forfeitable under Kentucky
Dudley argues that the search and seizure of the vehicle
violated his constitutional rights. As for the seizure of the
vehicle, “the Fourth Amendment does not require police
to obtain a warrant before seizing an automobile from a
public place when they had probable cause to believe that it
was forfeitable contraband.” United States v.
Musick, 291 Fed. App'x 706, 722 (6th Cir. 2008).
Under the federal forfeiture statute, forfeitable contraband
includes vehicles “which are used, or are intended for
use, to transport, or in any manner to facilitate the
transportation, sale, receipt, possession, or concealment
of” controlled substances. 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(4).
Dudley complains that the police had no specific identifying
information about the vehicle other than the confidential
informant's description that it was “a little white
car. Maybe a little white Ford.” (Def.'s Resp. at
3). Still, ...