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United States v. Jeffers

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 30, 2019



          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Laquay Lee Jeffers' Motion to Suppress [Doc. No. 15], seeking either the suppression of any items seized during the April 4, 2018 stop and search, or in the alternative, a hearing on the Motion. The government responded [Doc. No. 18]. On October 17, 2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the motions. Defendant appeared personally and through appointed counsel, David B. Autry. The government appeared through Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Altshuler. The Court heard testimony from Sergeant Charles McMackin (“McMackin”) and received government exhibits Nos. 1-4 . The parties presented their arguments, generally adopting the positions presented in their written briefs. Upon consideration of the evidence, the case record, and the parties' arguments, the Court rules as follows.


         In a one-count Indictment, Defendant Laquay Lee Jeffers was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) [Doc. No. 1]. On April 4, 2018, McMackin, a Sergeant with the Oklahoma City Police Department, saw a Ford Fusion travel on the white lane line for roughly one-hundred feet. See Doc. No. 15 at 1; Doc. No. 18 at 2. McMackin engaged his emergency lights and siren and followed the vehicle. Doc. No. 15 at 1.

         The driver of the Ford Fusion, later determined to be Defendant, ignored the emergency lights and drove into a parking lot. Doc. No. 18 at 2. The Ford Fusion circled a light pole approximately three times. Id. Defendant then continued through the apartment complex, traversing grassy areas and sidewalks before finding himself boxed between two buildings. Id.

         At that point, McMackin exited his patrol car, approached the Ford Fusion, and commanded Defendant to get on the ground and show his hands. Id. Defendant moved from the driver's door to the passenger's door. Id. As McMackin closed his distance, Defendant attempted to move back to the driver's side door. Id. McMackin reached through the front passenger side window, which was halfway down, and deployed his taser to Defendant's back. Id.

         As McMackin opened the front door commanding Defendant to get on the ground, McMackin saw a handgun on the passenger seat near Defendant. Id. at 3. A backup officer subsequently seized the gun, once Defendant was in handcuffs. Id.


         The purpose of a suppression hearing is “to determine preliminarily the admissibility of certain evidence allegedly obtained in violation of defendant's rights under the [Fourth Amendment].” United States v. Merritt, 695 F.2d 1263, 1269 (10th Cir. 1982). “The proper inquiry is whether [the challenged action] violated the Fourth Amendment rights of [the] criminal defendant making the challenge.” United States v. Allen, 235 F.3d 482, 489 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Erwin, 875 F.2d 268, 270 (10th Cir. 1989)).

         “The proponent of a motion to suppress has the burden of adducing facts at the suppression hearing indicating that his own rights were violated by the challenged search.” Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 132 (1978); United States v. Eckhart, 569 F.3d 1263, 1274 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Allen, 235 F.3d at 489). The burden is then on the government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any warrantless search or seizure that occurred was lawful. U.S. v. Roberts, 14 F.3d 502 (10th Cir 1993), cert denied, 514 U.S. 1043 (1995). The controlling burden of proof at a suppression hearing is proof by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974); accord United States v. Maurek, 131 F.Supp.3d 1258, 1261-62 (W.D. Okla. 2015) (DeGiusti, J.).


         I. As Defendant did not stop once McMackin engaged his emergency lights, he was not seized under the Fourth Amendment.

         Defendant argues that he did not commit an in-fact violation of Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 47, § 11-309 and therefore, McMackin's stop could not be justified at its inception. As such, the search of Defendant's car was unlawful. Doc. No. 15 at 2.

         Because a traffic stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, it must be justified at its inception-when the officer intrudes on the motorist's liberty interest. United States v. Martinez, 512 F.3d 1268, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008). A traffic stop is justified at its inception “if the officer has (1) probable cause to believe a traffic violation has occurred; or, (2) a reasonable articulable suspicion that ‘this particular motorist violated any one of the multitude of applicable traffic and ...

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