Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Drakeford

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

April 22, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TREMAYNE LAMONT DRAKEFORD, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MAX O. COGBURN JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's pro se Motion to Suppress (#14), Motion to Dismiss (#71), and Motion for Franks Hearing (#72). Having considered Defendant's motions and reviewed the pleadings, the Court enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order.

         FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

         I. Motion to Suppress

         Defendant challenges the detective's approach of himself and his vehicle in the stereo warehouse parking lot, the detention and investigative search conducted by Detective Suhr, and the warrantless search and seizure of his person and vehicle. He argues detectives exceeded the bounds of protective pat-down for weapons under Terry v. Ohio and violated his right to privacy. See 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968) (holding a police officer “must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the seizure.]”). Defendant seeks to suppress all evidence resulting from such violations as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

         Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress (#14) on September 27, 2018. A suppression hearing was held on December 19, 2019, at which time the Government presented testimony from Detective Hepner and body camera footage confirming his account of the situation. Detective Hepner was present at, but did not conduct, the search-in-question. During the suppression hearing, the Government informed the Court that it originally planned to call Detective Suhr, who conducted the search, as a witness. However, Detective Suhr was not able to attend the suppression hearing due to unforeseen medical issues. The Court recessed the suppression hearing in the hopes that Detective Suhr would be able to testify before this matter was tried.

         A second suppression hearing was held on April 1, 2019, at which time the Government presented testimony from Detective Suhr and additional video footage from Detective Suhr's body camera. After having reviewed two videos of the search from two different viewpoints, the Court determined that the detectives' actions leading up to and during the warrantless search and seizure were appropriate under the circumstances. For the reasons stated below and in open court on April 1, 2019, the Court denies defendant's Motion to Suppress (#14).

         A. The Approach of the Vehicle

         Defendant challenges the detective's approach of himself and his vehicle in the stereo warehouse parking lot. As an initial matter, an officer or agent may approach any persons in public places and attempt to engage them in purely voluntary conversation. “Absent special circumstances, the person approached may not be detained or frisked but may refuse to cooperate and go on his way.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 34 (1968) (White, J., concurring). But an officer may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop when the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Id. at 30.

         Based on the information provided by the confidential informant, observations of Defendant during several recent surveillance operations, and Detective Murphy's observation of the hand-to-hand transaction just before detectives approached Defendant, detectives reasonably believed that criminal activity was afoot. Detectives reasonably believed they would find narcotics, money, and/or drug related paraphernalia on Defendant's person or in Defendant's vehicle at the time of the investigatory stop. Detective Hepner and Detective Suhr were, therefore, justified in approaching Defendant, stopping his vehicle from leaving, and asking him to step outside the vehicle to talk with detectives.

         B. The Detention of Defendant and Pat Down

         Defendant also challenges the detention and investigative search conducted by Detective Suhr. “Police may conduct a patdown search without a warrant if, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer has an articulable, reasonable suspicion that a person is involved in criminal activity and that he is armed.” United States v. Raymond, 152 F.3d 309, 312 (4th Cir. 1998); see generally Terry, 392 U.S. 1 (finding officer did not exceed reasonable scope of search in patting down outer clothing of defendants without placing his hands in their pockets or under outer surface of garments, until he had felt weapons, and then merely reached for and removed guns). “[T]he standard justifying a frisk is not onerous.” United States v. Swann, 149 F.3d 271, 274 (4th Cir. 1998). Evasive behavior is a pertinent factor in determining reasonable suspicion. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000) (“[W]e cannot reasonably demand scientific certainty from judges or law enforcement officers where none exists. Thus, the determination of reasonable suspicion must be based on commonsense judgments and inferences about human behavior.”); United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 885 (1975); Florida v. Rodriguez, 469 U.S. 1, 6 (1984).

         Here, Defendant had just been observed engaging in a hand-to-hand transaction. Defendant also exhibited nervous behavior during his interactions with detectives soon thereafter. In the body camera footage played in court, Detective Suhr can be heard asking Defendant whether he possessed any weapons or drugs. Defendant's body language in the tape appears to suggest he was not being entirely forthcoming to officers. Defendant can also be seen attempting to place his hands in his pockets at one point during the conversation. Detectives testified that this behavior, combined with Defendant's criminal history and known affiliation with the distribution of narcotics, made officers concerned that Defendant was carrying a weapon. See United States v. Perrin, 45 F.3d 869, 873 (4th Cir. 1995) (“[I]t is certainly reasonable for an officer to believe that a person engaged in the selling of [narcotics] may be carrying a weapon for protection.”).

         Body camera footage corroborated the detectives' testimony that the circumstances reasonably suggested Defendant may have been armed and that a pat-down search was needed to ensure officer safety. United States v. Sakyi, 160 F.3d 164, 169 (4th Cir. 1998) (finding a brief pat-down is permitted when officers “perceive an appropriate level of suspicion of criminal activity and apprehension of danger”); see also Terry, 392 U.S. at 27 (“The officer need not be absolutely certain that the individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger.”). When faced with an uncooperative and seemingly agitated individual suspected of narcotics distribution, a prudent officer would remove that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.