United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
F. COX, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Terin Edwards has moved to suppress evidence obtained after
the car in which he was a passenger was stopped and searched
by police officers. Edwards argues that the officers violated
the Fourth Amendment by searching the car and detaining him
after the purpose of the stop had been completed. Because of
these alleged Constitutional violations, Edwards seeks to
suppress the gun that was found under his seat and statements
that he made while detained. For the reasons below, the Court
will deny Edwards's motion.
16, 2019, a grand jury indicted Edwards on one count of
felon-in-possession of a firearm. (ECF No. 12). On August 28,
2019, Edwards filed this motion to suppress all evidence
obtained from a traffic stop that occurred on May 31, 2019.
(ECF No. 18). Edwards argues that his continued detention,
the manner in which he was detained, and the search of the
car violated the Fourth Amendment. The Government responded,
(ECF No. 21) and Edwards filed a reply. (ECF No. 24). The
Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 11, 2019.
hearing, the Government called two witnesses: Sergeant Eric
Hix and Deputy Paul Flaviani, both of the Oakland County
Sheriff's Department. It also introduced five exhibits:
(1) the Department's case report for the May 31, 2019
stop, (2) a copy of the Department's impound policy, (3)
the impound slip for the car in which Edwards was a
passenger, (4) dash-cam video from Hix's patrol car, and
(5) video from the rear passenger seat of Flaviani's
patrol car. Edwards did not call any witnesses or introduce
having heard and observed the witnesses who testified at the
evidentiary hearing, allowing for the Court to assess
credibility, having considered the exhibits submitted by the
parties, having considered the arguments presented
by counsel, and having applied the governing legal
principles, the Court makes the following findings of fact
and conclusions of law.
31, 2019, Sergeant Eric Hix was patrolling an area of
Pontiac, Michigan in a fully marked patrol car. As he turned
left onto Emerson Avenue, he passed a blue Chevrolet Impala
that was stopped at a red light. Hix recognized the
Impala's driver, Jacquan Fletcher, and the passenger,
Defendant Terin Edwards.
knew both Fletcher and Edwards. Hix had previously stopped
Fletcher in that same Impala and recovered a handgun from
under the passenger seat. In a separate incident, Fletcher
had led Hix on a car chase that resulted in a crash and
Fletcher's arrest after he continued the chase on foot.
And Fletcher's name had come to Hix's attention again
in the days leading up to May 31, 2019, when another officer
informed Hix that Fletcher was somehow connected to an
ongoing investigation. The officer had informed Hix that
Fletcher was wanted on an outstanding warrant and that his
driver's license was suspended.
had a similarly unpleasant history with Hix. Edwards's
name had come up in several of Hix's investigations, and
Hix was present when Edwards was arrested on a parole
violation related to possessing a firearm. During the
execution of that arrest, officers found a gun in
with the knowledge that Fletcher had an outstanding arrest
warrant and was driving without a license, Hix turned his car
around and began following the Impala. At this point, Hix had
decided to stop the car and arrest Fletcher but, because of
the men's criminal history, Hix did not want to make the
stop and arrest on his own. He radioed for back-up and
continued to follow the Impala.
plan to wait for backup was cut short when Fletcher turned
into the parking lot of an apartment complex. Hix,
uncomfortable with the idea of the men leaving the Impala,
turned on his overhead lights. Immediately after the lights
went on, Hix saw Edwards “dip” his shoulder, as
if he was concealing or retrieving something from under his
seat. This movement gave Hix a heightened level of concern
for his safety.
parked the Impala in the apartment complex's driveway.
Hix left his patrol car and, as he approached Fletcher on the
driver's side of the car, looked at Edwards diagonally
through the rear window. He saw that Edwards's hands were
empty. Hix informed Fletcher about why he had stopped the
car, and Fletcher admitted that he had a suspended license
and outstanding warrants. Hix ordered Fletcher to step out of
the car and placed him under arrest.
was arresting Fletcher, Edwards began grabbing at the door
handle and asking whether he could or should leave the car.
Hix told him to stay in the car and to keep his hands in
sight. Despite these instructions, Edwards
“bladed” away from Hix and Hix lost sight of his
hands. Hix put his hand on his gun and ordered Edwards to
point, other Oakland County Sheriff's deputies, including
Deputy Flaviani, arrived on the scene. As Hix led Fletcher to
his patrol car, he informed his fellow officers that he
suspected that Edwards had hidden something under his seat.
Deputies Wilson and Flaviani approached Edwards, ordered him
to step out of the vehicle, and immediately handcuffed him.
At the evidentiary hearing, Hix explained that Edwards was
handcuffed for officer safety.
Wilson led Edwards to a patrol car, Flaviani ducked his head
into the car through the open passenger door. He immediately
saw a handgun under the front passenger seat. At this point,
Edwards was either being put in the backseat of a patrol car
or had been already placed in the backseat of a patrol car.
When the gun was found, roughly two minutes and fifteen
seconds had elapsed from the initiation of the traffic stop,
and roughly thirty five seconds had elapsed since Edwards had
been handcuffed. The deputies placed Edwards under arrest for
carrying a concealed weapon and for being a felon in
possession of a firearm.
determined that the Impala needed to be towed and impounded
because it had been used in a crime, there was no available
driver, and the car was blocking access to the apartment
complex. The deputies searched all areas of the car to
inventory its contents. During this search, a white SUV
attempted to drive out of the apartment complex, but the