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United States v. Barnes

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

January 23, 2017



          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         On May 25, 2016, Defendant Talmadge Derrell Barnes was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition. ECF No. 1. The indictment included a forfeiture allegation. Attorney, Jeffrey J. Rupp, was appointed on the same day to represent Barnes. ECF No. 3-4. On June 22, 2016, a superseding indictment was issued which contained the two original counts and added a count charging Barnes with being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF No. 16. On August 30, 2016, Mr. Rupp filed a motion to withdraw as Barnes's attorney and Barton W. Morris, Jr., entered an appearance on Barnes's behalf. ECF Nos. 24, 25. The Court held a hearing on Barnes's motion for the withdrawal of his appointed attorney on September 22, 2016. Based on Mr. Morris's in-court representations and an affidavit filed after the hearing, the Court granted the motion for withdrawal and allowed Mr. Morris to substitute for Mr. Rupp. ECF No. 31. A second superseding indictment was issued on September 14, 2016, which added two additional counts: possession of crack cocaine and possession of marijuana. ECF No. 29.

         On October 24, 2016, Barnes filed a motion to suppress evidence. ECF No. 36. In the motion, Barnes argues that his car was unconstitutionally searched and that evidence found as a result of that search should be suppressed. On January 4, 2017, an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress was conducted. For the reasons stated below, Barnes's motion to suppress will be denied.


         The arresting officers testified at the suppression hearing. Michigan State Police Trooper Adam Whited testified that the vehicle was initially stopped for failure to utilize a turn signal and because an object had been thrown from the passenger window after the stop was initiated. Hearing Tr. at 7, ECF No. 40. When Trooper Whited began talking with the vehicle's driver, Barnes, he noticed a “tied off corner bagging sitting right between his legs.” Id. at 8. Because tied-off baggies are “a common way for narcotics to be packaged and transported, Trooper Whited asked Barnes if there were illegal substances in the car. Id. When Trooper Whited specifically referenced the plastic baggie, Barnes concealed the item underneath himself. Id. At this point, Trooper Whited directed Barnes to exit the vehicle. Id. at 9. Barnes hesitated. Trooper Whited then opened the door and gave multiple verbal commands to exit. Id. Because Barnes remained noncompliant, Trooper Whited grabbed Barnes's wrists and arms to “prevent him from destroying any evidence or trying to reach for anything in the vehicle.” Id. Barnes eventually stepped out of the vehicle, but continued trying to pull away from Trooper Whited. Id. Trooper Whited's partner, Trooper Kemerer, assisted Trooper Whited in handcuffing Barnes. Id. In total, Barnes took several minutes to exit the vehicle.

         After Barnes was handcuffed, Trooper Whited searched his person, finding a Ziploc bag. Id. at 11. Trooper Kemerer then examined the tied-off plastic baggie, but did not open it. Id. at 20. Trooper Kemerer testified that he “immediately recognized the substance inside as suspected marijuana” from the feel of the baggie. Id. at 28. The officers then searched the vehicle, finding more illegal drugs and firearms. Id. at 11-12.


         In general, warrantless searches and seizures presumptively violate the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

U.S. const. amend IV.

         However, several exceptions to the warrant requirement exist, including an exception for searches incident to a lawful arrest. Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 338 (2009). The rationale for the exception is derived from the interest in protecting officers and preserving evidence. Id.

         The Supreme Court has delineated two bases on which officers can search a vehicle incident to a lawful arrest. First, if the “arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search, ” police can search the vehicle. Id. at 343. This exception is meant to ensure that the arrestee cannot destroy evidence or obtain weapons. Second, if it is “‘reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle, '” then the vehicle can be searched even if the arrestee has been safely secured and is not within reaching distance of the vehicle's passenger compartment. Id. at 343-44 (quoting Thornton v. United States, 541 U.S. 615, 632 (2004) (Scalia, J., concurring)).


         Barnes argues that the troopers did not have probable cause to arrest him and thus that the search of the vehicle was not incident to a lawful arrest. In response, the Government asserts that the ...

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