United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE
M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
David Arnold was arrested for and charged with possession of
a firearm by a felon after the Detroit police found a stolen
handgun in the glovebox of the car he was driving. The police
stopped the car because the temporary license tag was not
legible. The government attempts to justify the warrantless
search of the glovebox under the inventory search exception,
but the timing of the events does not support that argument,
and the police officers' testimony on that score is not
credible. Nonetheless, because the car would have been
impounded and inventoried regardless of the illegal search,
the inevitable discovery rule precludes application of the
exclusionary rule to the fruits of the search. Therefore, the
Court will deny Arnold's motion to suppress the firearm.
Also, because Arnold's incriminating statements were
obtained lawfully, the Court will deny the motion to suppress
those as well.
to the testimony at the evidentiary hearing held on August 7,
2019, Detroit Police Officers Kairy Roberts and Timothy
Oravetz were on routine patrol at about 9:15 p.m. on February
6, 2019, traveling on Vernor Highway when they spotted the
white Dodge Charger Arnold was driving. The car had no
permanent license plate, and the temporary tag on the back of
the vehicle was obscured by road grime. In Michigan, driving
a car with an obscured license tag is a civil infraction.
Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.225(2), (7). Roberts initiated a
dash camera and body camera evidence admitted at the hearing
show that as Roberts approached the Charger, Arnold was in
the driver's seat. Arnold's girlfriend, Simone
Bascomb, was in the passenger seat. After Roberts introduced
himself, the following exchange took place:
Roberts: Uh . . . we just can't see no temp tag or
nothing on your car. . . .
Arnold: Temp tag?
Roberts: It's like scraped off or something, man.
Arnold: The tag?
then walked to the back of the car and examined the plate. He
returned to the driver's side and told Arnold,
“Yeah, I got it. It's just real dark, bro.”
Arnold and Bascomb rummaged through papers in search of the
vehicle's registration, Roberts scanned the interior of
the vehicle from the outside with the aid of a flashlight.
Arnold stated that he had a driver's license and denied
having any weapons in the car; he also said he did not hold a
concealed pistol license. Arnold then handed Roberts an
identification card, which, upon inspection, prompted Roberts
to ask Arnold to unlock the car, take his seatbelt off, and
place his hands on the steering wheel. Arnold complied, and
Roberts assisted him out of the vehicle.
then placed cuffs on Arnold's wrists, informed him,
“I'm going to detain you real quick, alright,
bro?” and questioned whether Arnold understood that he
cannot drive without a license:
Arnold: I'm not - I got a license.
Roberts: You gave me ID though.
Roberts: That's the wrong one.
Arnold: . . . I have a license, though. You can run it.
walking Arnold to the patrol car, Roberts asked Arnold
whether he is on probation “or anything” and
whether he has ever been to jail. Arnold responded to both
questions in the negative. Roberts told Arnold that he was
not going to make him wait in the cold. Arnold explained to
Roberts that he and his girlfriend were on their way to her
place of work, as she apparently had been called in to close
the shop for the night. Roberts then placed Arnold in the
back seat of the patrol car, assuring him, “Let me try
to get you all on your way real quick.”
after Roberts took his seat to run Arnold's information
through his computer, his partner, Timothy Oravetz, who had
been attending to Ms. Bascomb, slid into the patrol car's
passenger seat with her identification card and other
paperwork. Roberts then volunteered to stand outside with
Bascomb while Oravetz ran their information through the
system. Bascomb was smoking a cigarette near the hood of the
patrol car a few feet behind the stopped vehicle; she
informed Roberts that she was going to be late for work.
Unprompted, she initiated the following exchange:
Bascomb: This is my car. Everything is registered in my name.
Everything is good.
Bascomb: No. Everything is - swear to God, we literally were
about to close my job, leaving my house, my kids. We good
Roberts: I know.
Roberts: Tags looked a little obscured, that's all, if
you can see it.
Bascomb: I know.
then walked toward the vehicle, pausing at the front
passenger side. He once again scanned the interior using his
flashlight. Roberts then opened the front passenger door and
popped open the glovebox. He retrieved a firearm from the
glovebox and proceeded to remove the cartridges. He walked
back to where Bascomb was standing and told her,
“I'm going to detain you real quick, alright,
” at which point the camera temporarily blacked out.
the recording resumed, Bascomb was seated in the backseat of
the patrol car and a backup patrol car had arrived on scene;
Arnold no longer was seated in the primary patrol car.
Roberts obtained a screwdriver from the second patrol car to
take the temporary tag off of Arnold's vehicle. He then
walked toward the rear of Arnold's vehicle and squatted
down near the trunk. At that point, the temporary tag is
visible in the recording. The tag was covered in a grimy
film. Although the tag was easily readable in the courtroom,
Roberts testified that he could not make out the writing when
the tag was affixed to the car.
revealed by the dash camera recording, while detained in the
primary patrol car, Arnold admitted to the other officer that
he is on parole for an armed robbery conviction from 2010.
thereafter, Bascomb was placed in the backseat next to him in
Arnold: What's going on?
Bascomb: They say they found the gun in the car.
Arnold: Oh no . . . that ain't our gun.
remainder of their exchange is somewhat unintelligible. It
seems that Arnold's cousin Darnell had control of the car
at some point, and Arnold believed that the gun was his.
unprompted, Bascomb began talking to Officer Oravetz, who was
seated in the front seat (not visible):
Bascomb: Sir, I did not have nothing to do with this . . .
Swear to God.
Arnold: I swear to God that is not her gun . . . sir . . .
Bascomb: Like, I literally have to close my job now - I
don't know nothing about nothing. Swear to God.
Bascomb: I don't even carry my own gun. I got a gun, but
I don't even carry my own.
Arnold: (muffled) . . . That's not your gun.
Bascomb: I know that's not.
Oravetz: So where did this come from then?
Arnold: That's (muffled) . . . Darnell's . . .
Bascomb: I was --- just woke up to my boss calling me telling
I gotta go close.
Arnold: My girl . . . (muffled) . . . close the shop.
Bascomb: I don't know - I don't have a clue about - I
swear to God I just woke up my damn self.
Oravetz: I mean, who else - who else drives that car?
Arnold: The million dollar - Darnell. That's my cousin .
Bascomb: And he let his cousin drive my car ...