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United States v. Travis

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 3, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Jermaine Dushun Travis, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the objections by the government and defendant Jermaine Dushun Travis to the January 9, 2015, report and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court overrules the objections.

BACKGROUND

The background of this matter is fully set forth in the report and recommendation, and the court recites only those facts necessary to resolve the current objections. On June 4, 2014, Bloomington Police Department Officer Ryan Arbuckle pulled Travis over for traffic violations pertaining to tinted windows, windshield obstructions, and the improper use of a turn signal. ECF No. 47, at 5-14. When Arbuckle approached the vehicle, Travis rolled down the window. Id. at 12-13. Arbuckle smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, and he called for backup. Id. at 13-16, 53. Arbuckle asked Travis about the smell of marijuana, and Arbuckle stated that he had a "sack of weed." Id. at 16-17.

Arbuckle asked Travis to step out of the vehicle, if he had anything illegal on him, and if he could search his pockets. Id. at 17. Travis agreed. Id. at 17-18. Arbuckle conducted a patdown and felt a bulge in Travis's front pocket. Id. at 18-19. Arbuckle removed a baggie from the pocket, handcuffed Travis, and asked if crack was inside the baggie. Id. at 19. Travis responded that "there's a firearm up under the seat." Id. at 19-20. Arbuckle also recovered a hotel keycard from Travis's person and, after conducting a search of the vehicle, a handgun. Id. at 20-21. Travis was processed at the Bloomington jail. Id. at 22.

Arbuckle then proceeded to the hotel room traced to the keycard and knocked on the door. Id. at 22-23. He entered the room and "froze" it while another officer obtained a search warrant. Id. at 24, 56. After the warrant was obtained, Arbuckle and Detective Melser searched the room and found ammunition, narcotics scales, plastic baggies, and heroin. Id. at 26. Before the search, a woman entered the room and was detained. Id. at 25. The next day, Melser interviewed Travis at the Bloomington jail. Melser talked with Travis for a little over five minutes before reading his Miranda rights. Travis agreed to waive his Miranda rights and talk to Melser.

On January 9, 2015, the magistrate judge recommended that Travis's motions to suppress physical evidence be denied, and his motion to suppress statements be granted in part. Travis and the government timely object.

DISCUSSION

The court reviews the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b); D. Minn. LR 72.2(b).

I. Reasonable Suspicion for Traffic Stop

Travis first objects to the determination that Arbuckle had reasonable suspicion to perform the traffic stop. "A traffic stop must be supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause." United States v. Hollins, 685 F.3d 703, 706 (8th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Any traffic violation, however minor, provides probable cause for a traffic stop." United States v. Adler, 590 F.3d 581, 583 (8th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Arbuckle pulled Travis over based on three traffic violations. See Minn. Stat. §§ 169.19, subd. 5 (requiring a turn signal to be activated no less than 100 feet before the turn); 169.71, subd. 1 (prohibiting objects suspended between the driver and windshield); 169.71, subd. 4 (prohibiting tinted windows with a light transmittance of less than 50 percent).

Travis first argues that Arbuckle testified at the suppression hearing that he was not aware at the time if his car was a sedan or SUV, and as a result, could not determine if it was exempt from Minnesota's window-tint statute. See Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subd. 4(b)(3). Similarly, Travis argues that Arbuckle could not determine whether the obstruction hanging from his rearview mirror was exempt under Minnesota law. See Minn. Stat. § 169.71, subd. 1(a)(2). These arguments are unavailing, because Arbuckle testified at the evidentiary hearing that he believed the car was a sedan and the obstruction was flowers. ECF No. 47, at 8, 46. The magistrate judge found this testimony credible. Moreover, even if Arbuckle was mistaken as to the exemptions, those mistakes are objectively reasonable. See United States v. Sanders, 196 F.3d 910, 913 (8th Cir. 1999) (noting that a police officer is "justified in making the stop if he objectively had a reasonable basis for believing that the driver has breached a traffic law." (Internal quotation marks omitted)).

Travis next argues that Arbuckle did not have reasonable suspicion to pull him over based on a turn signal violation, because Arbuckle did not testify at the evidentiary hearing that he observed the vehicle moving while within 100 feet of the stop sign. The court finds this argument irrelevant, because Arbuckle testified that the turn signal was not activated when the vehicle was stopped at the intersection.[1] ECF No. 47, at 9, 37-38. As a result, the court finds that Arbuckle had reasonable suspicion to pull over Travis, and the objections regarding the traffic stop are overruled.

Travis next argues that the stop was initiated based on pretext, noting that Arbuckle traced the license plates on the car to a different owner and failed to immediately inquire about the tinted windows. It is immaterial whether Arbuckle had an ulterior motive, because the stop was based on probable cause. See United States v. Bell, 86 F.3d 820, 822 (8th Cir. 1996) ("If the officer has probable cause to stop the violator, the stop is objectively reasonable and any ...


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