United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.
Michael C. Hager, Esq., Hager Law Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEVEN E. RAU, Magistrate Judge.
The above-captioned case came before the undersigned on Defendant Jermaine Dushun Travis's ("Travis") six motions to suppress. This matter was referred for the resolution of the issues raised in Travis's Motions to Suppress pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends that the Motions to Suppress Physical Evidence be denied, the Motions to Suppress Statements be granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion to Suppress Evidence from Cell and Motion to Suppress Wiretapping Evidence be denied as moot.
On August 5, 2014, the United States of America (the "Government") filed an indictment charging Travis with one count of felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). (Indictment) [Doc. No. 1].
The Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 30, 2014. (Minute Entry Dated Oct. 30, 2014) [Doc. No. 43]. Bloomington Police Department Officer Ryan Arbuckle ("Officer Arbuckle") and Bloomington Police Department Detective Nick Melser ("Detective Melser") testified. (Ex. & Witness List) [Doc. No. 44]. Three exhibits were received into evidence: Government's Exhibit 1, a copy of the video from Officer Arbuckle's squad car; Government's Exhibit 2, a copy of a recording made of the conversation between Travis and Detective Melser on June 5, 2014; and Government's Exhibit 3, a copy of the search warrant executed at the Comfort Inn in Bloomington, Minnesota (the "Search Warrant"). ( Id. ). Supplemental briefing was submitted after the hearing. (Suppl. Mem. in Supp. of Mots. to Suppress Evidence, "Travis's Suppl. Mem.") [Doc. No. 50]; (Gov't's Resp. to Travis's Suppl. Mem., "Gov't's Suppl. Mem.") [Doc. No. 52]; see (Minute Entry Dated Oct. 30, 2014 at 2). Travis requested permission to file a reply memorandum of law, which the Court granted. (Text Only Order Dated Dec. 18, 2014) [Doc. No. 55]. The Motions to Suppress were taken under advisement on December 23, 2014, when Travis's reply was filed. (Reply Mem. in Supp. of Mots. to Suppress Evidence, "Reply") [Doc. No. 56].
The case is currently set for trial before the Honorable David S. Doty on January 26, 2015. (Minute Entry Dated Oct. 30, 2014 at 2).
Officer Arbuckle pulled Travis over for several traffic violations on June 4, 2014, in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Tr. of Mots. Hr'g Held on Oct. 30, 2014, "Tr.") [Doc. No. 47 at 5-10]. Officer Arbuckle first noticed Travis's vehicle when Officer Arbuckle was traveling north on Bloomington Avenue, and Travis was traveling south on the same street. ( Id. at 6). Officer Arbuckle observed that the windows in Travis's vehicle had "extremely dark tint." ( Id. ). Based on Officer Arbuckle's training, he believed that the windows did not permit fifty percent of light in violation of state law. ( Id. at 6-7). Also, Officer Arbuckle observed an obstruction that appeared to be flowers hanging from the review mirror. ( Id. at 8). The obstruction obscured the driver's vision of the windshield in violation of state law. ( Id. ). With the intent of pulling Travis over for the traffic violations, Officer Arbuckle checked the license plate and executed a U-turn so that his vehicle was behind Travis's vehicle. ( Id. at 8-9). After the U-turn, Officer Arbuckle's vehicle was behind Travis's southbound vehicle on Bloomington Avenue, approaching the intersection with American Boulevard. ( Id. at 9). At the stop sign, Officer Arbuckle observed Travis's right-turn signal activate too late-in other words, not sufficiently in advance of the turn-in violation of state law, and Travis's vehicle turned right onto American Boulevard. ( Id. at 9-10). Officer Arbuckle followed the vehicle, and initiated a traffic stop when, a few blocks later, the vehicle turned right into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn. ( Id. at 10). Officer Arbuckle turned on his emergency lights as he followed the vehicle into the parking lot, which activated his car's recording devices. ( Id. at 10). The camera began recording thirty seconds before the emergency lights were activated, and the microphone began recording at the time the emergency lights were activated. ( Id. at 10-11, 14); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:04:49-1:05:30).
When Officer Arbuckle approached the vehicle, the driver, later identified as Travis, rolled down the window. (Tr. at 12-13). Based on his training and experience, Officer Arbuckle detected "the strong odor of burnt marijuana" emanating from the vehicle. ( Id. at 13, 53); see also ( id. at 15). Per standard protocol, Officer Arbuckle radioed for assistance, believing he had probable cause to search the vehicle. ( Id. at 13, 15-16). After identifying Travis, Officer Arbuckle asked him about the smell of marijuana. ( Id. at 13); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:07:18-21). Travis said no one had smoked inside the vehicle, that he had a "sack of weed" and indicated toward the vehicle's center console. (Tr. at 16-17); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:07:22-1:08:05). At this point, a second police car arrived with two police officers. (Tr. at 17); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:08:57-1:09:02). Officer Arbuckle asked Travis to exit the vehicle, and asked if he had anything illegal on him and if he minded if Officer Arbuckle checked his pockets. (Tr. at 17); see also (Gov't Ex. 1 at 1:08:57-1:09:28). Although Travis did not answer initially, Officer Arbuckle asked again, and Travis said, "go ahead, sir." (Tr. at 17-18); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:08:29-1:09:32). When Officer Arbuckle patted Travis's left front pocket, he felt a bulge that felt like a "baggie of narcotics." (Tr. at 18-19). Officer Arbuckle removed the baggie and some United States currency from Travis's pocket. ( Id. at 19). Officer Arbuckle handcuffed Travis and asked him if he was dealing dope and if crack was inside the baggie. ( Id. at 19); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:09:45-1:10:00). Travis responded, "While you're at it, there's a firearm up under the seat." (Tr. at 19-20); (Gov't's Ex. 1 at 1:10:01-04). Officer Arbuckle also recovered a keycard for room 455 at the Comfort Inn from Travis's person. (Tr. at 20-21). Officer Arbuckle conducted a search of the vehicle and located a black Ruger handgun under the driver's seat. ( Id. at 21).
After processing Travis at the Bloomington jail, Officer Arbuckle returned to room 455 at the Comfort Inn to conduct a knock-and-talk because he believed the room was associated with narcotics use or sales. ( Id. at 22). A knock-and-talk is an attempt to make contact with a person and conduct further investigation. ( Id. at 22). No one responded to several knocks, but Officer Arbuckle could hear a television inside the room ( Id. at 22-23). He was concerned that someone was inside the room, refusing to answer the door. ( Id. at 23). Thus, there was a potential that someone inside the room could have additional weapons and could be "laying in wait, " or someone inside could be destroying additional evidence. ( Id. ). This was a concern for Officer Arbuckle because the traffic stop took place right outside the hotel, in the hotel parking lot, and it was possible that someone in the room watched the traffic stop from inside the room and saw Travis's arrest. ( Id. at 23-24). Officer Arbuckle entered the hotel room and ensured that no people were inside. ( Id. at 24-25). He "froze" the room, meaning he left everything in the room as it was and asked another officer, Detective Melser to obtain a search warrant. ( Id. at 24); see also ( id. at 56). While Officer Arbuckle waited for the search warrant, a woman entered the room and was detained. ( Id. at 25). When Detective Melser arrived with the search warrant, he and Officer Arbuckle searched the room. ( Id. at 25-26). They found a shoebox containing "handgun ammunition, multiple magazines of handgun ammunition, ... two narcotics scales, some plastic baggies for packaging narcotics[, ] and... a large amount of the same powdery substance..." that was found on Travis's person and was later determined to be heroin. ( Id. at 26).
The following day, Detective Melser interviewed Travis at the Bloomington jail in a recorded conversation. ( Id. at 57); see (Gov't's Ex. 2). Before the interview, Travis had been in custody overnight, with access to food, water, a bed, and a toilet. (Tr. at 60-61). Travis did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, nor did he complain of "discomfort or physical sickness." ( Id. at 61). An approximately five-and-a-half-minute conversation took place before Detective Melser gave Travis a Miranda warning. (Gov't's Ex. 2 at 2:55-8:23); see also (Tr. at 59). In response to Detective Melser's question of whether Travis was willing to waive his rights and speak to Detective Melser, Travis responded, "sure." (Tr. at 59); see (Gov't's Ex. 2 at 8:44-9:34). Although Travis was upset about his girlfriend's arrest, the majority of the conversation was cordial. ( Id. at 60).
First, the Court addresses the Motion to Suppress Evidence from Travis's Cell and Motion to Suppress Wiretapping Evidence, which the Court recommends be denied as moot. The remaining Motions to Suppress are based on a series of events, beginning when Travis was stopped by Officer Arbuckle and concluding with Detective Melser's questioning of Travis in the Bloomington jail. See generally (Mots. to Suppress). Some of the evidence and statements that Travis seeks to suppress depend on the lawfulness of other evidence and statements. For this reason, the Court addresses each alleged constitutional violation in the chronological order in which it occurred.
A. Evidence from Travis's Cell and Wiretapping Evidence
Travis seeks suppression of "any and all documents seized from the defendant's cell." (Mot. to Suppress Evidence from Travis's Cell). The Government represents that it is not aware of any such materials, and if there are any such materials, the Government will not offer them in its case-in-chief. (Gov't's Omnibus Resp. at 4). Based on the Government's representation that these materials do not exist, the Court recommends that the Motion to Suppress Evidence from Cell be denied as moot.
Travis also seeks to suppress evidence "obtained by electronic surveillance and wiretapping" and "any derivative evidence." (Mot. to Suppress Wiretapping Evidence). The Government represents that it is not aware of any such materials, and if there are any such materials, the Government will not offer them in its case-in-chief. (Gov't's Omnibus Resp. at 2). Based on the Government's representation that these materials do not exist, the Court recommends that the Motion to Suppress Wiretapping Evidence be denied as moot.
B. Traffic Stop
1. Legal Standard
When an officer observes a violation of the law, he or she "has probable cause to initiate a traffic stop, and such a stop comports with the Fourth Amendment." United States v. Bracamontes, 614 F.3d 813, 816 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). An officer may detain an individual during a traffic stop "to determine his identity and to try to obtain information confirming or dispelling the officer's suspicions." United States v. Suitt, 569 F.3d 867, 870 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). It is reasonable for an officer to ask "for the driver's license, the vehicle's registration, as well as inquir[e] about the occupants' destination, route, and purpose." United States v. Sanchez, 417 F.3d 971, 975 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The individual may be detained "while the officer completes a number of routine but somewhat time-consuming tasks related to the traffic violation...." United States v. $404, 905.00 in U.S. Currency, 182 F.3d 643, 647 (8th Cir. 1999). These time-consuming tasks "may include a check of driver's license, vehicle registration, ... criminal history, and the writing of the citation or warning." United States v. Olivera-Mendez, 484 F.3d 505, 509 (8th Cir. 2007). "An officer's suspicion of criminal activity may reasonably grow over the course of a traffic stop as the circumstances unfold and more suspicious facts are uncovered." United States v. Linkous, 285 F.3d 716, 720 (8th Cir. 2002).
Travis argues there was no reasonable suspicion for Officer Arbuckle to initiate a traffic stop for any of the three traffic violations. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 7-10). Travis also argues that Officer Arbuckle failed to address any of the violations with Travis after initiating the traffic stop. (Reply at 2-3). To the extent Travis argues that the stop did not comport with the Fourth Amendment because Officer Arbuckle did not make any inquiries about the traffic violations, that argument is properly considered with respect to whether the scope of the stop was reasonable, and it is addressed separately from the instant discussion regarding whether Officer Arbuckle's initiation of the traffic stop complied with the Fourth Amendment.
The Court finds there was probable cause to stop Travis for each traffic violation because Officer Arbuckle observed three separate violations of state law. The Court addresses each violation in turn.
a. Window Tint
Travis argues Officer Arbuckle did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Travis for a window tint violation because Officer Arbuckle testified that he did not know if Travis's vehicle, a Dodge Magnum, was exempt from that provision of state law because it might be considered a sport utility vehicle ("SUV") or a van. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 7-8); (Reply at 2). Additionally, Travis argues Officer Arbuckle did not determine whether the vehicle was a sedan, and therefore covered by the statute, until five months later. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 8); see also (Reply at 2).
Officer Arbuckle testified that he is aware that an SUV or van is exempt from the state statute prohibiting tinting that permits less that fifty percent of light through the window. (Tr. at 46-47); see also Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subdiv. 4(b)(3)(ii) (stating that the subdivision about tinting does not apply to "the rear windows or the side windows on either side behind the driver's seat of a van as defined in [Minnesota Statute] section 168.002, subdivision 40[.]"). But Officer Arbuckle testified that he did not know if a Dodge Magnum was classified as an SUV or van. (Tr. at 46). When asked "[A Dodge Magnum] is certainly not a sedan; is that correct?, " Officer Arbuckle replied, "I would say it's a sedan, maybe a station wagon." ( Id. ). The Court finds Officer Arbuckle's testimony, which demonstrates that he believed that Travis's vehicle was a sedan with windows tinted in violation of state law, credible. See ( id. ); see also ( id. at 6) (Officer Arbuckle's testimony stating that he believed Travis's vehicle had "extremely dark tint" and was in violation of state law). Because Officer Arbuckle observed a violation of state law, he had probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. See Bracamontes, 614 F.3d at 816.
Even if Officer Arbuckle was mistaken and a Dodge Magnum is in fact considered a vehicle eligible for an exception under the window tint statute, the Court's finding does not change. If a mistake of fact is alleged, the inquiry is whether the mistake was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. United States v. Smart, 393 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2005). The Court finds Officer Arbuckle's testimony credible on the subject of his belief that Travis's vehicle was required to comply with the statute, and that it did not. Therefore, even if Officer Arbuckle did make a mistake, it was reasonable under the circumstances.
To the extent that Travis argues Officer Arbuckle was not confident in his assessment that Travis's vehicle was required to comply with the window tinting statute, the Court construes this as an argument that the traffic stop was initiated based on pretext. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 8); (Reply at 2); see also (Mem. in Supp. of Mots. to Suppress Evidence) [Doc. No. 39 at 2-3]. Travis identifies no specific pretext, and even if he had, and even if the Court found Officer Arbuckle had some ulterior motivation, it is irrelevant because the Court determines that Officer Arbuckle had probable cause to initiate the traffic stop based on his observation that Travis's vehicle did not comply with the window-tint statute. See United States v. Bell, 86 F.3d 820, 822 (8th Cir. 1996) ("If the officer has probable cause to stop the [traffic law] violator, the stop is objectively reasonable and any ulterior motivation on the officer's part is irrelevant.").
The Court concludes Officer Arbuckle had probable cause to initiate a traffic stop based on his observation that Travis's vehicle had window tint that did not comply with state law.
b. Windshield Obstruction
Travis argues Officer Arbuckle did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop based on an obstruction he viewed hanging from Travis's review mirror because Officer Arbuckle was not able to describe the object with accuracy and there is no other evidence of the obstruction. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 9); (Reply at 2). Additionally, Officer Arbuckle only speculated as to how it was attached or otherwise fell into one of the exceptions that permits some devices to be attached to windshields, and conducted no further inquiry. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 9); (Reply at 2).
Minnesota law makes it unlawful to have an item "suspended between the driver and the windshield" that is not one of the following: sun visor, rearview mirror, driver feedback and safety monitoring equipment that is mounted as described by the statute, global positioning or navigation systems when mounted as described by the statute, and toll collection equipment. Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subdiv. 1(a)(2). Officer Arbuckle testified that he observed an obstruction, which appeared to be flowers, hanging from the review mirror. (Tr. at 8). Thus, based on Officer Arbuckle's testimony, which the Court finds credible, Officer Arbuckle observed a violation of state law and therefore had probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. See Bracamontes, 614 F.3d at 816.
To the extent Travis argues that Officer Arbuckle's inability to specifically identify the object that obstructed the windshield or Officer Arbuckle's failure to cite Travis for the violation or obtain the object as evidence suggests that Officer Arbuckle initiated the traffic stop as a pretext for detaining Travis, the argument is unavailing. Travis identifies no specific pretext, and even if he had, and even if the Court found Officer Arbuckle had some ulterior motivation, it is irrelevant because the Court determines that Officer Arbuckle had probable cause to initiate the traffic stop based on his observation that Travis's vehicle had an obstruction between the driver and the windshield in violation of state law. See Bell, 86 F.3d at 821.
To the extent Travis argues that Officer Arbuckle made a factual mistake, i.e., that the object ostensibly obstructing the windshield was one permitted by statute, the inquiry is whether Officer Arbuckle's mistake was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. See Smart, 393 F.3d at 770. The Court finds that any mistake Officer Arbuckle may have made was objectively reasonable under the circumstances and in consideration of his credible testimony.
c. Turn Signal
Travis argues Officer Arbuckle did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Travis for a turn-signal violation because Officer Arbuckle was 300 feet behind Travis when Travis was at the stop sign. (Travis's Suppl. Mem. at 8). Specifically, Travis argues that Officer Arbuckle did not testify to his observations of Travis's vehicle when it was 100 feet before the stop sign- when a turn signal is required to be activated-and Officer Arbuckle "may not have seen the signal until he got closer to the Travis vehicle. [Officer] Arbuckle suspected a negative, the absence of a turn signal, when he was not in a position to positively identify that it happened." ( Id. at 8-9); see also ( id. at 9-10); (Reply at 3).
The Court finds Officer Arbuckle had probable cause to suspect a turn-signal violation. Officer Arbuckle testified Travis was initially stopped without a turn signal, and subsequently activated his turn signal. (Tr. at 9); see also (Tr. at 37-38). Officer Arbuckle's ability to see Travis's vehicle 100 feet before the stop sign is irrelevant because when Officer Arbuckle saw Travis's vehicle at the stop sign, the turn signal was not activated. ( Id. at 9). Because the Court finds Officer Arbuckle's testimony credible, it finds Officer ...