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United States v. Hinds

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

April 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL HINDS, Defendant.

          Mona K. Majzoub, Magistrate Judge.

          ORDER SUSTAINING THE GOVERNMENT'S OBJECTIONS IN PART; REJECTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          Victoria A. Roberts, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Around midnight on November 23, 2017, two Detroit Police Department officers drove a marked police vehicle and observed a minivan parked in front of a vacant house. Officers noted the minivan appeared to be filled with smoke. Officers suspected marijuana use. They stopped the patrol car alongside the minivan and asked whether the occupants were “smoking it up” and whether they had “mags.” The occupants told the officers they were smoking cigarettes and denied having “mags.” The officers exited their patrol car to conduct an “informational encounter.” One officer approached the driver's window and the other approached the passenger side. Defendant Michael Hinds sat in the front passenger seat. Officers concluded the occupants were only smoking tobacco products, but simultaneously observed Hinds rolling a marijuana blunt. Officers also saw vials “commonly used for packaging marijuana” in the center console. Hinds told the officers he had a marijuana card, but the officers said even with the card, he was transporting marijuana illegally. Hinds attempted to produce his medical marijuana card several times but was stopped by officers.

         The officers then detained the occupants and searched the minivan. They uncovered a bag containing various types of drugs and a handgun. They seized the gun and drugs and referred the case for federal prosecution. The seized evidence forms the basis of the federal charges against Hinds.

         Hinds faces one Count of Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance - Cocaine Base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); one Count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and one Count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

         Hinds filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence. He claims his status as a medical marijuana cardholder under the Michigan Medical Marihuana[1] Act (“MMMA”) protected him against the seizure which led to his federal prosecution.

         The Court REJECTS the Report and Recommendation filed by the Magistrate Judge to whom the Motion to Suppress was assigned. The Court ACCEPTS the Government's objections in part and DENIES Hinds' Motion to Suppress.

         II. DISCUSSION

         This Court is required to make a de novo determination of those portions of a Report and Recommendation to which specific objections have been made, and may accept, reject, or modify any or all of the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3).

         a. The Government's Second Objection Is Sustained - The MMMA Does Not Create an Exception to the Probable Cause Standard Under the Fourth Amendment.

         The Government says the Magistrate Judge erred in her conclusion that Hinds' status as a medical marijuana patient creates an exception to the well-established rule: a police officer who sees marijuana in a car has probable cause to search the vehicle. See Carter v. Parris, 910 F.3d 835, 839 (6th Cir. 2018); U.S. v. McGhee, 672 F.Supp.2d 804, 812 (S.D. Ohio, 2009). The Government says that while the MMMA creates limited immunity from arrest, prosecution, or penalty under Michigan law for a qualifying patient who is in full compliance, the statute is silent on whether probable cause can exist to search vehicles when potential violations of federal law may be presented. The Court agrees.

         Police officers found Hinds in a car filled with smoke late at night. Circumstances were such that further investigation was reasonable. Hinds offered to produce his medical marijuana identification card. Police officers declined his offer and in the course of their investigation saw that Hinds was not only rolling a joint, but also had what appeared to be several vials of marijuana readily accessible in the front console. Police officers conducted a search of his automobile based on these observations.

         Hinds relies heavily on People v. Latz,318 Mich.App. 380 (2016), to argue that a violation of the MMMA is a civil infraction rather than an arrestable offense, and it cannot form the ...


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