United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PRESTON BAILEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
day, the above-styled matter came before this Court for
consideration of the Report and Recommendation Recommending
that Defendant's Motion to Suppress be Denied [Doc. 41].
Pursuant to this Court's Local Rules, this action was
referred to Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi for submission
of a proposed report and recommendation
(“R&R”). Magistrate Judge Aloi filed his
R&R on March 1, 2019. In that filing, the magistrate
judge recommended that this Court deny the defendant's
Motion to Suppress [Doc. 28]. This Court has also reviewed
the briefs on the Motion as well as the transcript of the
February 11, 2019, hearing. For the reasons that follow, this
Court ADOPTS the R&R.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c), this Court is required to
make a de novo review of those portions of the
magistrate judge's findings to which objection is made.
However, the Court is not required to review, under a de
novo or any other standard, the factual or legal
conclusions of the magistrate judge as to those portions of
the findings or recommendation to which no objections are
addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
In addition, failure to file timely objections constitutes a
waiver of de novo review and the right to appeal
this Court's Order. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Snyder v. Ridenour, 889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir.
1989); United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94
(4th Cir. 1984). Here, objections to Magistrate Judge
Aloi's R&R were due within fourteen (14) days of
receipt, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). After this
Court granted an extension of time, defendant timely filed
his objections on May 18, 2019 [Doc. 56]. Accordingly, this
Court will review the portions of the R&R to which
objection was made under a de novo standard of
review. The remaining portions of the R&R will be
reviewed for clear error.
Factual and Procedural History
conducting a hearing on the Motion to Suppress on February
11, 2019, Magistrate Judge Aloi made certain findings of fact
that this Court hereby adopts [See D o c . 41 at
3-12]. This Court does not find it necessary to rehash them.
defendant was charged with three counts of possession with
intent to distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), possession of
a firearm during and in relation to a drug offense in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and
924(c)(1)(A)(I), and three counts of unlawful possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and
924(a)(2) [Doc. 2 at 1-8].
January 31, 2019, the defendant filed a Motion to Suppress
[Doc. 28], requesting this Court to suppress all of the
Government's evidence related to two incidents occurring
on August 1, 2017, and November 30, 2018. In support of the
motion, the defendant argues that the detention waiting for a
K-9 dog sniff was unreasonable and that the defendant was
subjected to questioning following this detention in which
defendant allegedly made incriminating statements, which he
argues are statements obtained as fruit of an illegal traffic
stop. Second, defendant argues the November 30, 2018, search
of his vehicle was illegal and beyond the scope of the stop.
February 8, 2019, the Government filed its Response in
Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Suppress [Doc. 34].
In its opposition, the Government argues that the August 1,
2017, traffic stop was initiated following two
violations-littering and obstruction of a license plate,
which created probable cause that the defendant had committed
a traffic infraction. Additionally, the Government argues
that the dog sniff occurred during the traffic stop and the
stop was not unreasonably extended. As to the November 30,
2018, stop, the Government argues probable cause existed
because the license plate had expired, the vehicle was parked
immediately off the main road and the engine still running,
which indicated the vehicle had traveled to the parking spot.
March 1, 2019, Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi entered his
R&R, in which he found that all the evidence seized by
the police is admissible and recommended that this Court deny
the Motion to Suppress [Doc. 41 at 22]. On May 18, 2019, the
defendant timely filed his objections to the magistrate
judge's R&R [Doc. 56].
Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. A vehicle stop without articulable,
reasonable suspicion violates an individual's Fourth
Amendment rights. United States v. Wilson, 205 F.3d
720, 724 (4th Cir. 2000). “As a general matter, the
decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police
have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has
occurred.” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 810 (1996) (internal citations omitted). “Any
ulterior motive [that] a police officer may have for making
the traffic stop is irrelevant.” United States v.
Digiovanni, 650 F.3d 498, 506 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing
Whren, 517 U.S. at 810). Under the objective test
adopted by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Fourth
Circuit”), when a police officer observes unlawful
conduct, such as a traffic offense, the police officer's
subsequent traffic stop is reasonable for purposes of
analysis under the Fourth Amendment; this is true regardless
of any subjective motives or suspicions that the police
officer may have regarding unrelated criminal activity by the
occupants of the vehicle. United States v. Hassan
El, 5 F.3d 726, 730-31 (4th Cir. 1993).
reasonableness of a traffic stop is analyzed under a two
prong analysis. Id. (relying on Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)). The Court must analyze whether
the police officer's conduct was justified at the time of
the stop and whether the subsequent actions taken by the
police officer were “reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances that justified the stop.” Id. A
police officer's observation of a traffic violation
provides sufficient justification for detainment of
“the offending vehicle for as long as it takes to
perform the traditional incidents of a routine traffic
stop.” Branch, 537 F.3d at 335 (internal
a trained dog sniff the perimeter of a vehicle that has been
lawfully stopped in a public space is not a search for
purposes of Fourth Amendment analysis. United States v.
Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707 (1983). However, an
“alert” by a trained narcotics dog constitutes
probable cause for a search. United States v.
Jeffus, 22 F.3d 554, 557 (4th Cir. 1994). Such a canine
sniff, even if the K-9 Unit is called to the scene of a
routine traffic stop, is “constitutionally acceptable
if performed within ‘the time reasonably required'
to issue a traffic citation.” Branch, 537 F.3d
at 335. The Fourth Circuit has specifically held that a
fifteen minute time period between a traffic stop and a
search of the vehicle based upon probable cause from an
“alert” by a trained narcotics dog “[does]
not constitute an unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth
Amendment.” Jeffus, 22 F.3d at 557.
the “automobile exception” to the Fourth
Amendment's warrant requirement, once probable cause to
search a vehicle that is readily mobile has been established,
police officers may conduct a warrantless search of the
vehicle. Maryland v. Dyson, 527 U.S. 465 (1999).
Such a warrantless search may be “as thorough as a
magistrate judge could authorize in a warrant
‘particularly describing the place to be
searched.'” United States v. Ross, 456