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United States v. Bradley

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

January 15, 2020




         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Chad Bradley's (“Defendant”) Motion to Suppress. [DN 47.] The government simultaneously filed its brief opposing suppression. [DN 48.] Defendant previously filed a Motion to Reopen the Suppression Hearing. [DN 42.] The Court held a hearing on November 25, 2019. As such, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reason that follow, Defendant's Motion to Reopen Suppression Hearing [DN 42] and Supplemental Motion to Suppress [DN 47] are GRANTED.

         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.] Defendant filed an initial Motion to Suppress the methamphetamine found and all statements made. [DN 20.] This Court denied Defendant's motion. [DN 30.] Defendant subsequently changed attorneys and filed a Motion to Reconsider. [DN 38.] The Court also denied that motion. [DN 41.] Defendant then file a Motion to Reopen the Suppression Hearing. The Court granted Defendant's motion due to ambiguity in the testimony from the first Suppression Hearing.

         II. Legal Standard

         Searches and seizures conducted without a warrant issued by a judge or magistrate are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment unless a specifically established exception applies. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967). When searches are conducted without a warrant, the government has the burden of showing that an exception applies. Vale v. Louisiana, 399 U.S. 30, 34 (1970). “The exclusionary rule prohibits the admission of evidence seized in searches and seizures that are deemed unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, as well as derivative evidence acquired as a result of an unlawful search.” U.S. v. Kennedy, 61 F.3d 494, 497 (6th Cir.1995) (citing Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-85 (1963)). The government must prove by a preponderance that an exception to the exclusionary rule applies.

         III. Discussion

         Here, the Court decided in its first Memorandum Opinion and Order that Deputy Edwards' action of opening the door of Defendant's truck constituted an improper search. [See DN 30 at 3-4.] The Court came to this decision after both parties stipulated the warrant did not include any vehicles. However, there was ambiguity with regards to the independence of the K9 being called from this improper search by Deputy Edwards.

         As both parties have stated, an improper search does not necessarily require a court to suppress all evidence obtained subsequent to that search. The police are to be put “in the same, not a worse, position that they would have been in if no police error or misconduct had occurred.” Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 443 (1984). If there is an independent source for the discovery of the evidence, the evidence must not be suppressed. When determining if an independent source exists, the court must consider, “whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint.” Id. at 442 (quoting Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 488 (1963).

         A. Independent Source Doctrine

         The Court will first consider whether the independent source doctrine applies. When “a later, lawful seizure is genuinely independent of an earlier, tainted one…there is no reason why the independent source doctrine should not apply.” Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533, 542 (1988). Here, the government argues the independent source doctrine applies because the probable cause to search the truck was based on the K9's change in behavior and Trooper Sullivan was always intending to use the K9 at Defendant's residence. Defendant argues the doctrine does not apply because all actions that took place with Defendant's truck are derivative of Deputy Edwards' improper search. The Court agrees with Defendant.

         There is no dispute that Trooper Sullivan and his K9 arrived after Deputy Edwards conducted his improper search. [Supp. Hrg. R. DN 45 (Edwards) 28: ¶¶ 7-12.] The issue here is whether Trooper Sullivan instructed his K9 to sniff the car independent of the information obtained as a result of that search.

         During the first suppression hearing, Trooper Pervine stated he looked through the window of Defendant's truck prior to any search “by a deputy or by a trooper”. [Supp. Hrg. R. DN 23 (Pervine) 2:8 ¶¶ 18-25; 29: ¶¶ 4-9.] If Trooper Pervine looked through the window prior to the search and gained suspicion that would be an independent source for the evidence. However, after the second suppression hearing, it is clear that Trooper Pervine only looked in the car window as a result of Deputy Edwards' search. Trooper Pervine explicitly stated that he did not personally look through the windows of the truck prior to serving the search warrant. [Supp. Hrg. R. DN 45 (Pervine) 5: ¶¶ 9-12.] Pervine further stated that at no point prior Deputy Edwards stating he believed there was something in the truck did Pervine look in the truck. [Id. at 11: ¶ 25; 12: ¶¶ 1-9.]

         Pervine looked in the passenger-side window “in response to what Deputy Edwards told [Pervine]”. [Id. at 13: ¶¶ 2-17.] Trooper Pervine had no “intention of looking at the vehicle”. This leaves no doubt about the timing of and motivation for Pervine looking into the window. The government states that Edwards' improper search only revealed the same black bag and plastic baggies that were visible by looking through the windows of the truck. The Court agrees with this statement. However, the Court cannot ignore the fact that the window was only ...

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