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United States v. Bradley

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 11, 2019



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Defendant Chad Elliot Bradley (“Defendant”) to suppress certain evidence uncovered by law enforcement officers in a search conducted on November 27, 2018 at Defendant's residence and statements made subsequent to that arrest. [DN 20.] The United States has responded, [DN 28], and Defendant has replied. [DN 29.] This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         This case arises from Defendant's arrest on November 27, 2018. As a result of the arrest, Defendant has been charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. [DN 1.] ¶ 7:55 p.m. on November 27, 2018, Deputy Brooke Nelms obtained a search warrant for Defendant's residence. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Nelms) 62: ¶¶ 21-25, 63: ¶¶ 1-2.] The warrant was executed that night by detectives and deputies from the Graves County Sheriff's Department, and the Kentucky State Police. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Pervine) 28: ¶¶ 1-2.] The search warrant only authorized a search of Defendant's home. It did not authorize a search of Defendant's vehicle or boat. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Edwards) 46: ¶¶ 23-25, 47: ¶¶ 1-4.]

         Deputy Edwards began searching the residence for drugs and found a smoking pipe and a marijuana roach. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Edwards) 40: ¶¶ 15-19, 41: ¶¶ 2-8.] Once he completed the search of the home, Deputy Edwards went outside and searched Defendant's boat. After searching the boat, he opened the door of Defendant's black truck and found a black bag on the seat. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Edwards) 41: ¶¶ 22-25.] According to Deputy Edwards, Trooper Pervine then came outside to tell him the truck was not included in the search warrant. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Edwards) 51: ¶¶ 3-4.] Trooper Sullivan arrived with his K9, Diego, after Deputy Edwards opened the door of the truck. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Edwards) 43: ¶¶ 5-7.]

         Upon arrival, Trooper Sullivan “ran” his K9 around Defendant's parked truck and the K9 showed a “change in behavior” between the driver's door and the rear door. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Sullivan) 7: ¶¶ 10-13, 17 ¶¶ 14-17.] The K9 did not signal an “alert” but the change in behavior signaled an odor of narcotics. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Sullivan) 7: ¶¶ 14-16.] Sullivan then ran the K9 around the car a second time to confirm the change in behavior. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Sullivan) 8: ¶¶ 9-12.] The K9 exhibited the same behavior and Sullivan subsequently informed a deputy that there was enough reason for a search. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Sullivan) 8: ¶¶ 11-13.] A search was conducted, and methamphetamine was found. [Supp. Hrg. R. (Sullivan) 20: ¶¶ 10-12.]

         II. Legal Standard

         The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV. Consistent with this, constitutional jurisprudence provides “the basic rule that ‘searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.'” Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 338 (2009) (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967)). One of those exceptions is the automobile exception. The automobile exception allows officers to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle if there is probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. United States v. Lumpkin, 159 F.3d 983, 986 (6th Cir. 1998). “Probable cause exists when there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Smith v. Thornburg, 136 F.3d 1070, 1073 (6th Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted). Determination of probable cause must be judged by a totality of the circumstances. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 230 (1983).

         III. Discussion

         A. Deputy Edwards' Entry of Vehicle

         It is undisputed that the search warrant did not include Defendant's vehicle. In order for a search of the vehicle to legally take place, an exception to the warrant requirement must have applied. In his testimony, Deputy Edwards admits to opening the door of the vehicle before Trooper Sullivan arrived with his K9. Upon opening the door, he saw a black bag containing a ziplock bag. Shortly after, Trooper Pervine informed Deputy Edwards that the truck was not included in the search warrant and Deputy Edwards stepped away.

         Although seemingly minor, opening the door constituted a search of Defendant's car. “A search occurs when an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable is infringed.” U.S. v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984). The interior of a car is subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment. New York v. Class, 475 U.S. 106, 114-115 (1986). It is unclear if Deputy Edwards moved anything in the vehicle. He has no recollection of doing so. However, this is immaterial because simply opening the door of the vehicle constitutes a search. Since there is no indication that Deputy Edwards had any evidence to establish probable cause, this was a violation of Defendant's constitutional rights.

         B. Dog Sniff of the Vehicle

         As both parties have stated, a positive detection by a reliable K9 provides sufficient probable cause to search a vehicle. Florida v. Harris,568 U.S. 237, 246-247 (2013). When a K9 is certified by a bona fide organization, the court may presume probable cause exists unless there is conflicting evidence. Id. Testimony of the dog's training ...

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