United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DKT. NO.
68] AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS [DKT. NO.
M. KEELEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case arises out of a traffic stop of Trevor Townsend
(“Townsend”), who was transporting as a passenger
the defendant, Emory Chiles (“Chiles”), a
convicted felon. During the stop, an officer frisked Chiles
and discovered both a firearm and a significant amount of
heroin. Pending is Chiles's motion to suppress that
evidence, which he claims was obtained in violation of his
Fourth Amendment rights. For the following reasons, the Court
ADOPTS the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation (Dkt. No. 68), and DENIES
Chiles's motion (Dkt. No. 49).
February 6, 2018, a grand jury sitting in the Northern
District of West Virginia returned a three-count indictment
against Chiles, charging him with Possession with Intent to
Distribute Heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C); Use of a Firearm During and in
Relation to a Drug Offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(i); and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2)
(Dkt. No. 1). After receiving four extensions of time in
which to do so, Chiles moved to suppress the relevant
evidence on March 27, 2018 (Dkt. No. 49). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636, the Court referred the motion to the
Honorable Michael J. Aloi, United States Magistrate Judge,
for initial review and the preparation of a report and
recommendation (“R&R”) (Dkt. No. 50).
March 29 and April 2, 2018, the magistrate judge conducted an
evidentiary hearing on the motion (Dkt. Nos. 56; 59). The
Government presented testimony from Monongalia County
Sheriff's Department Sergeants Daniel E. Oziemblowsky and
Randall Stockett, and Chiles presented the testimony of
Federal Public Defender Investigator Russell Semplice. The
Court has reviewed the audio recording of the suppression
hearing, the transcript of the suppression hearing, and the
body camera videos recorded by both Sergeant Oziemblowsky and
R&R entered on April 11, 2018, Magistrate Judge Aloi
recommended that the Court deny Chiles's motion to
suppress (Dkt. No. 68). The facts adduced at the evidentiary
hearing are set forth and summarized fully throughout the
R&R. The magistrate judge reasoned that Chiles had been
lawfully detained pursuant to a traffic stop, which was
justified at its inception and remained reasonable in scope.
Id. at 9-19. Further, he concluded that the officers
had reasonable suspicion that Chiles was armed and dangerous
when they frisked him. Id. at 19-24. Chiles filed
timely objections to the R&R on April 12, 2018 (Dkt. No.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
considering a magistrate judge's R&R made pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court must review de
novo those portions to which objection is timely made.
Otherwise, “the Court may adopt, without explanation,
any of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which
the [defendant] does not object.” Dellacirprete v.
Gutierrez, 479 F.Supp.2d 600, 603-04 (N.D.W.Va. 2007)
(citing Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir.
1983)). Courts will uphold portions of a recommendation to
which no objection has been made unless they are
“clearly erroneous.” See Diamond v. Colonial
Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th
Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons . . . and effects . . . against
unreasonable . . . searches and seizures.” U.S. Const.
amend. IV. “The overriding function of the Fourth
Amendment is to protect personal privacy and dignity against
unwarranted intrusion by the State.” Sims v.
Labowitz, 877 F.3d 171, 177 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 767 (1966)).
As the Supreme Court has stated time and again,
“[r]easonableness is always the touchstone of Fourth
Amendment analysis, and reasonableness is generally assessed
by carefully weighing the nature and quality of the intrusion
on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against
the importance of the governmental interests alleged to
justify the intrusion.” Cty. of Los Angeles, Calif.
v. Mendez, 137 S.Ct. 1539, 1546 (2017) (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
conducted a de novo review of the record and the
R&R in light of Chiles's objections, the Court
concludes that his motion to suppress is without merit.
An investigatory detention must be “justified at its
inception.” United States v. Vaughn, 700 F.3d
705, 709 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v.
Rusher, 966 F.2d 868, 875 (4th Cir. 1992)).
“Observing a traffic violation provides sufficient
justification for a police officer to detain the offending
vehicle for as long as it takes to perform the traditional
incidents of a routine traffic stop.” United States
v. Branch, 537 F.3d 328, 335 (4th Cir. 2008). “The
Defendant concedes that portions of the video from Deputy
Oziemblowsky's body camera appear to show the right tail
light emitting less red light than the left tail light”
(Dkt. No. 73 at 1). Because the officers had reasonable
suspicion that the tail light was not in “proper
working condition, ” the stop was justified at its
inception. See Syl. Pt. 2, Strick v.
Cicchirillo, 683 S.E.2d 575 ( W.Va. 2009) (citing W.Va.
Code § 17C-15-1(a) (2004)); State v. Hill, No.
16-0168, 2017 WL 11365231, at *3-*4 ( W.Va. Apr. 10, 2017)
A traffic stop may only persist for the length of time
“the officers are completing tasks related to the
traffic infractions.” United States v. Hill,
852 F.3d 377, 381 (4th Cir. 2017). The officers did not act
in a “deliberately slow or inefficient manner, ”
but worked diligently to verify the vehicle's
registration and information about Townsend and Chiles.
Id. at 382, 284. The officers permitted Townsend to
arrange for a tow of the vehicle and were waiting for
transportation backup when they conducted the dog sniff.
Therefore, they did not unreasonably extend the traffic stop
rather than place Townsend under arrest for driving on a
revoked license; the “authority for the seizure”
continued for a reasonable amount of time while the officers
carried out “tasks tied to the traffic