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, Maurice
Arrington's (“Arrington”), Motion to Suppress
Evidence and Request for a Hearing (“Motion to
Suppress” or “Motion”). [DE 14]. No.
response was filed. The Court held a suppression hearing. [DE
16]. This matter is now ripe. For the reasons below, the
Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motion to
Suppress [DE 14].
November 24, 2018, at 11:20 p.m. Officer Beahl and Officer
Mathieson pulled over Arrington and conducted a traffic stop.
[DE 17, October 3, 2019 Transcript (“Tr.”), at
40:1-15]. Both officers exited their vehicle. [DE 17, Tr. at
42:2-13]. Officer Mathieson approached the driver's side
window and Officer Beahl approached the passenger's side
window. [Id.]. Arrington was in the driver's
seat, and Officer Mathieson informed Arrington that he was
stopped because he failed to signal before turning right. [DE
17, Tr. at 75:1-3; see also DE 19, Gov. Ex. 1, body
camera footage of Officer Mathieson (“Video”) at
1:08-13]. Immediately thereafter, Officer Mathieson asked
Arrington whether had any “drugs, weapons, dead bodies
in the car.” [DE 19, Video at 1:13-15]. Arrington
responded that he had heroin. [DE 17, Tr. at 75:5-6]. This
admission occurred about 27 seconds after the officers
initiated the traffic stop. [Id. at 75:7-10].
Officer Mathieson then asked Arrington to step out of the
car. [Id. at 75:12-19]. Around this time two more
officers arrived on scene. [Id. at 77:5-21;
97:22-98:13]. Officer Mathieson placed Arrington in handcuffs
and asked him if he had anything in his pockets. [DE 19,
Video at 2:24- 58]. Arrington responded that he had a gun.
[Id. at 2:58-3:02]. Officer Mathieson removed the
gun and placed it in an evidence bag. [Id. at
3:35-4:10]. Officers Mathieson and Beahl then searched
Arrington's car, [Id. at 4:27] and found drugs
and other evidence, [DE 14 at 29]. The officers placed
Arrington and the other passenger in the car under arrest and
administered Miranda warnings. [DE 19, Video at 6:40-58].
is well settled that in seeking suppression of evidence the
burden of proof is upon the defendant to display a violation
of some constitutional or statutory right justifying
suppression.” United States v.
Rodriquez-Suazo, 346 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2003)
(quoting United States v. Feldman, 606 F.2d 673, 679
n.11 (6th Cir. 1979)). The defendant's burden extends to
both “the burden of production and persuasion.”
United States v. Patel, 579 Fed.Appx. 449, 453 (6th
moves to suppress all statements and evidence obtained from
the November 24, 2018 stop and search of his vehicle arguing
that the officers lacked probable cause to conduct the
traffic stop. [Tr. 101:19-102:7]. Arrington also argues that
even if the officers had probable cause to stop the vehicle,
they impermissibly extended the stop by asking Arrington if
he had any “guns, drugs or dead bodies” in the
car. [Id.]. Finally, Arrington argues that even if
the stop was proper, the officers impermissibly questioned
Arrington in violation of his Miranda rights. [Id.].
Officers had probable cause.
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). This is true even if the stop, itself,
was a pretext to search the vehicle because the officers'
actual motivation for making the stop is irrelevant to the
constitutionality of the stop. Whren v. United
States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996); see also
United States v. Bailey, 302 F.3d 652, 656 (6th Cir.
2002). A stop based on a police officer's observation
that a person failed to use his or her turn signal when
turning provides probable cause to conduct a traffic stop.
United States v. Sandoval, No. 3:15-CR-00107-TBR,
2017 WL 562180 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 10, 2017).
the officers testified that they observed Arrington's
vehicle sitting on Magazine street and proceed to turn right
onto Broadway, pulling out immediately in front of the police
cruiser. [DE 17, Tr. at 40:12-18; 69:25-70:19]. The officers
observed that Arrington did not use his turn signal.
[Id.]. Arrington argues that the officers could not
have seen whether he signaled before turning because the rear
of the car was not visible to the officers. [Id. at
103:10-104:2]. The officers both testified that they could
see the rear of the car as it was turning, and that a
car's turn signal would still be activated during the
turn. [Id. at 55:8-23; 70:6-19]. Thus, they believed
that Arrington failed to signal in violation of Ky. Rev.
Stat. § 189.380. [Id.]. The officers told
Arrington the basis for pulling him over at the scene, and
the same basis was documented in the police report, the
citation, and reiterated in the officers' testimony at
the suppression hearing. Arrington presented no evidence to
counter the officers' testimony. The officers thus had
probable cause to believe that Arrington failed to use his
turn signal in violation of Ky. Rev. Stat. § 189.380.
Officers did not unreasonably prolong traffic stop.
argues that even if the officers properly initiated the stop,
the officer's questions about whether Arrington had any
“drugs, guns, and dead bodies” unreasonably
delayed it, and was therefore unlawful. [Tr. at
104:19-108:20]. Arrington further argues that the
officer's question was not based on reasonable suspicion
and caused unlawful delay. [Id.] Arrington thus
argues that any evidence obtained should be suppressed as
fruits of a poisonous tree. [Id. at 39:3-12].
traffic stop typically entails tasks such as “checking
the driver's license, determining whether there are
outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the
automobile's registration and proof of insurance, ”
(Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1615
(2015) (citing Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648,
658-60 (1979))), officers may also ask questions about
“matters unrelated to the justification for the traffic
stop, ” (United States v. Stepp, 680 F.3d 651,
662 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v.
Everett, 601 F.3d 484, 490 (6th Cir. 2010)). These
questions “do not convert the encounter into something
other than a lawful seizure, so long as [they] do not
measurably extend the duration of the stop.”
Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 333 (2009). Even
“some amount of questioning” intended “only
to ferret[ ] out unrelated criminal conduct” is
“permissible-so long as the officer's overall
course of action during a traffic stop, viewed objectively
and in its totality, is reasonably directed toward the proper
ends of the stop.” Everett, 601 F.3d at 495.
“Questions directed toward officer safety . . . do not
bespeak a lack of diligence.” Id. at 495.
Similarly, while questions related to drugs “would not
be justified by the interest in officer safety-the minuscule
additional delay does not amount to a lack of
diligence.” United States v. Cochrane, 702
F.3d 334, 341 (6th Cir. 2012).
the first part of Officer Mathieson's question, about
weapons, was directly related to officer safety, and thus
“does not bespeak a lack of diligence.” Everett,
601 F.3d at 495. The additional time that it took for the
officer to ask about drugs or dead bodies was a matter of
seconds, and thus did not measurably extend the otherwise
proper stop. Because the questions related to officer
safety and only delayed the stop a few seconds, the
officer's questions did not convert the encounter ...