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United States v. Arnold

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

August 31, 2017

BILLY ARNOLD, Defendant.



         This matter is before the court on defendant Billy Arnold's motion to suppress all items seized without a warrant following his arrest on September 26, 2015, and for the entry of an Order suppressing all data and information acquired from the seizure and search of six cellular telephones based on a search warrant later obtained. The court held oral argument on the motion on August 31, 2017. For the reasons stated in this order, defendant's motion to suppress is DENIED.

         I. Facts

         In September 2015, the FBI was investigating the Seven Mile Bloods (SMB) street gang for a variety of crimes, including racketeering, murder, non-fatal shootings, weapon possession and narcotics distribution. The FBI became aware that several SMB members were planning to attend a party on September 25, 2015 for one of their deceased members, Devon McClure, who had been murdered on May 1, 2015. The party was held at the Crazy Horse Adult Entertainment Club in Detroit.

         The FBI, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police Department set up surveillance on the club to identify SMB members, to identify vehicles they were driving, and to arrest any individuals who may have outstanding arrest warrants. Slightly before midnight, law enforcement witnessed defendant Arnold and co-defendant Steven Arthur arrive together in a blue 2002 Chevy Trailblazer. Law enforcement entered the license plate number into its database and the vehicle came back as reported stolen in Detroit on September 6, 2015. The FBI case agent alerted all of the surveillance teams about the stolen vehicle and it was decided to attempt to stop the vehicle for further investigation when it left the parking lot. Arthur and Arnold left the club together in the early morning of September 26, 2015, with Arthur driving and Arnold in the front passenger seat.

         A marked Detroit Police patrol car activated its lights to alert the individuals in the Trailblazer of its intent to pull the vehicle over. Instead, Arthur sped up and led the officers on a high speed chase at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour on I-94 in Detroit. The chase ended when the Trailblazer exited from I-94 onto I-75. Arthur lost control of the vehicle and it ran up the embankment of the exit's curve. Both tires on the left side of the vehicle were deflated and the Trailblazer stopped on the slope above the road.

         Arthur ran from the vehicle and was caught after a short foot chase. Arnold remained in the Trailblazer until ordered out of the vehicle by Detroit Police Officer Nick Dedeluk. Arnold was put on the ground and handcuffed. Detroit Police officer, Sergeant Craig Schrameck, approached the Trailblazer and began to search the Trailblazer. Upon lifting the tailgate, Sergeant Schrameck found an AR-15 rifle. Because Arnold and Arthur were known to be previously convicted felons, the weapon was turned over to the FBI for federal prosecution. FBI Task Force officer Jeremy McCullough then collected several cell phones within the Trailblazer. There is a dash cam video of the chase, stop and seizure.

         The Trailblazer was removed from the highway and impounded. The FBI obtained a signed consent from the vehicle's owner to search the vehicle on October 5, 2015.

         II. Argument

         A. Probable Cause to Stop Trailblazer

         The government admits that as a passenger in the vehicle, Arnold has standing to challenge the stop and detention and can argue that the evidence should be suppressed as fruits of illegal activity. A warrantless arrest of an individual for a felony or misdemeanor committed in an officer's presence in a public place is constitutional only if supported by probable cause. Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366 (2003) (citation omitted). An officer may arrest an individual if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed or is committing a felony based on the totality of the circumstances. United States v. Caicedo, 85 F.3d 1184, 1192 (6th Cir. 1996).

         Defendant Arnold argues that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him for being in possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Probable cause is “reasonable grounds for belief supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion.” United States v. Bennett, 905 F.2d 931, 934 (6th Cir. 1990).

         In this case, the officers ran a LIEN report on the Trailblazer's license plate when the vehicle arrived at the Crazy Horse. Based on the information in the report, they knew the vehicle had been reported stolen as of September 6, 2015 and remained in that status through September 25 or 26, 2015. This information alone provided probable cause to stop the Trailblazer in order to investigate a felony - possession of a stolen motor vehicle. See M.C.L.A. § 750.535. The fact that the Trailblazer turned out not to have been stolen on the date of the traffic stop is not material when the police are reasonable in believing that the car was stolen.

         As soon as the Detroit Police attempted to pull the Trailblazer over, Arthur sped up and led the numerous law enforcement units on a high speed chase, going over 100 miles per hour on I-94. This action gave law enforcement probable cause to stop the Trailblazer for both traffic violations and felony offenses occurring right in front of them. See M.C.L.A. ยงยง 257.626 (reckless driving); 257.602a ...

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