United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
F. Cox United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress (Doc. # 26). The Court held a hearing on this motion
on October 20, 2017. For the reasons below, the Court
concludes that the police did not violate the Fourth
Amendment when they initiated a consensual police-citizen
encounter. Therefore, the Court shall DENY Defendant's
Antoine Woods is charged with being a felon in possession of
a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On
September 1, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress (Doc.
# 26). The Government has responded to his motion (Doc. #
parties do not dispute the pertinent facts. Two Detroit
Police officers were on patrol when they observed Defendant
and a passenger sitting in a lawfully parked vehicle. Due to
the vehicle's close proximity to a bar, the officers
decided to conduct a welfare check and pulled alongside
Defendant's vehicle. The officers did not exit the car,
activate their emergency lights, draw their weapons, or give
any commands or orders. One officer, Officer Kue, gestured to
Defendant to roll down his window and, when he did, asked
what he was doing. Immediately thereafter, the officers
smelled a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the
Kue illuminated Defendant with his flashlight and observed
him moving his hands towards the floor of the vehicle. Based
on his training and experience, Officer Kue believed
Defendant was hiding contraband. The officers had Defendant
exit the vehicle. When he did so, the officers saw a black
handgun on the floor where Defendant had been seated. The
officers also recovered two bags of marijuana from the center
are three types of permissible encounters between the police
and citizens: “(1) the consensual encounter, which may
be initiated without any objective level of suspicion; (2)
the investigative detention, which, if non-consensual, must
be supported by a reasonable, articulable suspicion of
criminal activity; and (3) the arrest, valid only if
supported by probable cause.” United States v.
Avery, 137 F.3d 343, 352 (6th Cir. 1997). The parties
agree that the issue here is whether the officers initiated a
consensual encounter or an investigative detention when they
approached Defendant's vehicle and engaged him in
enforcement officers may approach an individual and ask
general questions without having any reasonable suspicion of
criminal activity, so long as the officers refrain from the
type of intimidating behavior that would lead a reasonable
person to believe that the person was not free to
leave.” United States v. Waldon, 206 F.3d 597,
603 (6th Cir. 2000). A police-citizen interaction changes
from a consensual encounter to a seizure “only if, in
view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a
reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to
leave.” United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S.
544, 554; 100 S.Ct. 1870; 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980).
Circumstances that might indicate a seizure include
“the threatening presence of several officers, the
display of a weapon by an officer, some physical touching of
the person of the citizen, or the use of language or tone of
voice indicating that compliance with the officer's
request might be compelled.” Id.
the officers approached Defendant's vehicle, gestured to
him to roll down the window, and asked him a question. The
simple act of pulling next to a vehicle where a citizen is
lawfully present does not constitute a seizure. Otherwise all
police-citizen encounters would be seizures. See Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16; 88 S.Ct. 1868; 20 L.Ed.2d
889 (1968) (“[N]ot all personal intercourse between
policemen and citizens involves ‘seizures' or
persons.”). Instead, the Court must assess whether,
under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person
would have believed he was not free to leave.
officers did not activate their emergency lights, act in a
threatening manner, display a weapon, or physically touch
Defendant. The officers also parked their car without
blocking Defendant's egress. See United States v.
Dingess, 411 Fed. App'x. 853, 856 (6th Cir. 2011)
(consensual encounter when the officers parked their car
without blocking the defendant's egress and approached
the defendant to initiate conversation). The totality of the
circumstances indicate that the officers merely approached
Defendant to ask him questions. Under these circumstances, a
reasonable person would believe that he was free to leave.
The Sixth Circuit has repeatedly held that similar
police-citizen interactions are consensual encounters, not
seizures. See, e.g., United States v. Foster, 376
F.3d 577, 584 (6th Cir. 2004) (consensual encounter when
officer asked the defendant his name, what he was doing
there, and whether he had any identification on him);
Waldon, 206 F.3d at 603-04 (consensual encounter
when the officer approached the defendant and asked him what
he was doing in the area); United States v.
Matthews, 278 F.3d 560, 562 (6th Cir. 2002) (the
defendant was not detained when the officer yelled “Hey
buddy, come here.”). And although Defendant argues that
he interpreted the officer's gesture for him to open the
window as a demand, this gesture, absent other indicia of
coercion, did not transform the consensual encounter into a
seizure. See United States v. Falls, 553 Fed.
App'x 505, 508 (6th Cir. 2013) (holding the officer's
“use of the words ‘stop' and ‘come
here, ' without any other evidence of coercion, did not
convert the consensual encounter into a seizure.”).
Therefore, the Court concludes that the initial interaction
between Defendant and the officers was a consensual encounter
for which reasonable suspicion was not required.
final question is whether reasonable suspicion and probable
cause existed for the subsequent seizure and search of
Defendant. See United States v. Crumb, 287 Fed.
App'x. 511, 513 (6th Cir. 2008). The Sixth Circuit has
consistently held that the smell of marijuana, by itself, is
sufficient to provide probable cause to lawfully search a
vehicle. Id. at 514 (citing cases); see also
United States v. Simpson, 520 F.3d 531, 543 (6th Cir.
2008) (stating that the odor of marijuana provided reasonable
suspicion to detain a vehicle). When Defendant rolled down
his window, the officers immediately smelled a strong odor of
marijuana emanating from the vehicle. At that moment, the
officers had reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant and
probable cause to search his vehicle. Their search, which
yielded a firearm, did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
reasons above, the Court concludes that the police-citizen
encounter here did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
Therefore, the ...