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United States v. Smith

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

September 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
HENRY SMITH, Defendant.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO SUPPRESS (DOC. #13)

          VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Oakland County Sherriff’s Deputies (“officers”) arrested Henry Smith (“Smith”) when a search in connection with a traffic stop revealed a firearm in the car and cocaine in Smith’s pocket.

         The United States charged Smith with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and possession of a controlled substance, in violation of U.S.C. § 844(a). Smith’s indictment stems from citizen complaints that xxx Ditmer was being used as a drug and illegal gambling house.

         Before the Court is Smith’s Motion to Suppress Evidence Based on Illegal Arrest, Search, and Seizure [ECF No. 13].

         The court finds (1) there was probable cause to stop the vehicle in which Smith was a passenger; (2) officers had reasonable suspicion that Smith was engaged in criminal activity; (3) officers lawfully conducted a pat down search of Smith after he was removed from the vehicle; (4) officers lawfully searched the vehicle for weapons because Smith could have been armed and dangerous; (5) officers had probable cause to arrest Smith.

         Smith’s motion is DENIED.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Smith argues that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they searched and arrested him. Smith says officers did not have reasonable articulable suspicion to pull over the Durango, nor probable cause to conclude that he was engaged in criminal activity at the time of his arrest. Smith states the Court must suppress all evidence obtained as fruit of an illegal search and seizure.

         Given the totality of the circumstances and giving due weight to the factual inferences drawn by the police officers, the Court finds that the officers had probable cause to stop of the vehicle. They also had reasonable suspicion to detain him, search him, and probable cause to arrest him.

         A. Police had Probable Cause to Stop The Durango

         When police officers stop a vehicle – regardless of the duration and purpose of the stop – it must comport with the Fourth Amendment requirement of reasonableness. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996). “An automobile stop is considered reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.” United States v. Copeland, 321 F.3d 582, 592 (6th Cir.2003) (internal citations omitted). Probable cause is defined as “reasonable grounds for belief, supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion.” United States v. Ferguson, 8 F.3d 385, 392 (6th Cir.1993). The subjective motives or intentions of a police officer are not relevant. Whren, 517 U.S. at 813. An officer may “stop vehicles for any infraction, no matter how slight, ” even if the traffic violation is being used as a pretext for the stop. Id.

         While stopped on a public street, the Durango blocked a roadway – a violation of Michigan law. MCL 257.676b; see also United States v. Winters, 782 F.3d 289, 296 (6th Cir. 2015)(“It is well-established that where an officer has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred or was occurring, the resultant stop is not unlawful and does not violate the Fourth Amendment”). These circumstances provided probable cause for officers to conclude the Durango violated Michigan law.

         B. Officers Briefly Seized Smith and Had Reasonable Suspicion That Smith Was Engaged in Criminal Activity

         Smith argues his initial seizure was unreasonable. The government says the ...


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