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United States v. Spence

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT DALE SPENCE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress and the Government's Response thereto. (See Dkt. Nos. 16, 17.)

         I. Introduction

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on October 24, 2019, which established the following facts:

         On February 13, 2019, just before 9 a.m., Woodward Police Officer Christopher Gregory observed a white van begin driving down the street and specifically recognized the driver, Tanya Baker, from his previous interactions with her. From these interactions-the most recent of which occurred between Dec. 14, 2018, and Jan. 11, 2019-Officer Gregory suspected that Baker was driving with a suspended license and initiated a traffic stop based on this.[1] Before pulling the van over, Officer Gregory also recognized Defendant as one of the passengers. Upon this recognition, Officer Gregory recalled that Defendant was a felon, and that the Woodward Police had recently received a tip that Defendant was in possession of a firearm.

         So Officer Gregory initiated a traffic stop of the van. Once the van pulled over, Officer Gregory instructed Baker out of the vehicle and arrested her for driving with a suspended license. During this time, Officer Gregory noticed that the remaining occupants in the van were moving around a lot, so he instructed Officer Emmett Duncan-who had recently appeared on the scene-to have Defendant exit the vehicle. As Defendant did so, Officer Duncan approached Defendant, who, in Officer Duncan's view, was acting nervous and kept attempting to reach into his own pockets. He was also resisting Officer Duncan's commands to put his hands behind his back. Officer Duncan also noticed that Defendant was wearing a gun holster with bullet loops around his neck. During this time, Defendant confessed to having a gun on his person. And at some point thereafter, Officer Duncan, now joined by Sergeant Adam Martin, ultimately handcuffed Defendant and extracted a loaded gun from his person.

         Defendant now stands charged by a one-count indictment of being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. His trial is currently set to begin in November. He now moves the Court to suppress the gun recovered from his person from being presented as evidence against him. In his view, the Woodward Police violated his Fourth Amendment rights in obtaining the evidence and the Government should therefore be prohibited from using it. The Government denies these charges.

         II. Standard

         It is well established that the protections of the Fourth Amendment “extend to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest.” United States v. Williams, 403 F.3d 1203, 1206 (10th Cir. 2005). Routine traffic stops are analyzed under the two-part test announced by the United States Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20 (1968). Id. First, the Court must determine whether the stop was “justified at its inception.” Id. Second, the Court must determine whether the officers' conduct during the traffic stop was reasonably related in scope and duration to the circumstances giving rise to the initial traffic stop. Id.

         A. Terry's First Prong-Justified at Inception.

“[A] traffic stop is valid under the Fourth Amendment if the stop is based on an observed traffic violation or if the police officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that a traffic or equipment violation has occurred or is occurring.” United States v. Botero- Ospina, 71 F.3d 783, 787 (10th Cir. 1995). That the officer may have had some other subjective motivation for conducting the stop is irrelevant. United States v. Hunnicutt, 135 F.3d 1345, 1348 (10th Cir. 1998).

         B. Terry's Second Prong-Reasonable Duration.

         A traffic stop must be of limited duration; it must “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983). Nevertheless, a traffic stop may be extended beyond the reasonable time necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop if the trooper has an objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion that illegal ...


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