United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS
TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Kenneth Reed's ("Mr. Reed") Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 25) and Motion for Hearing (Filing No. 27). Mr. Reed seeks to suppress any and all evidence obtained from a warrantless search of his vehicle during a routine traffic stop. He also requests a hearing to support his version of the facts. The Court finds there is no material dispute concerning the facts and the motion raises a purely legal question; therefore no evidentiary hearing is required. For the reasons set forth below the Motion to Suppress is DENIED. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d), the Court now states its findings and conclusions.
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
On October 7, 2013, Columbus Police Lieutenant Dan Meister ("Lieutenant Meister") observed Mr. Reed disregard a traffic signal on State and Reo Street in Columbus, Indiana. Mr. Reed was driving a vehicle he borrowed from a friend. After stopping Mr. Reed, Lieutenant Meister asked for his driver's license and registration. Mr. Reed stated that he left his license at home, but gave Lieutenant Meister the name of Joshua Reed and a date of birth. Patrolman Paul Garnett ("Officer Garnett") arrived at the scene and ran the information in his computer but could not match Mr. Reed's information. Mr. Reed provided Lieutenant Meister with another year for the date of birth. When the information again did not match up, Lieutenant Meister asked Mr. Reed to step out of the vehicle and directed him to the back of the police vehicle. Mr. Reed provided a telephone number so that the officers could contact a family member to verify his identity, but the number came back as disconnected. While at the rear of the police vehicle, Lieutenant Meister noticed that Mr. Reed had a wallet in his back pocket and asked to see it. Inside the wallet Lieutenant Meister found an Indiana Department of Correction card with the name Kenneth Reed and a photograph. The officers verified Mr. Reed's identity in the computer and Lieutenant Meister determined that Mr. Reed had been lying about his identity and that his driver's license was suspended. Lieutenant Meister placed Mr. Reed under arrest for the misdemeanor offenses of driving with a suspended license and false informing.
Following the arrest, Lieutenant Meister conducted a warrantless search inside Mr. Reed's vehicle and found a large quantity of cash and two bags with a crystal like substance, which was later determined to be crystal methamphetamine.
Mr. Reed was transported to the Columbus Police Department and was interviewed by Detective Josh McCrary ("Detective McCrary"). The interview was very brief because Mr. Reed requested to have a lawyer present. Following the interview, Detective McCrary asked Mr. Reed if there was anyone who could pick up the vehicle so that it would not be towed and Mr. Reed provided the telephone number of a female friend. The female friend informed Detective McCray that she was unable to pick up the vehicle because she was in Seymour, Indiana and she did not have a ride. Detective McCrary advised the female friend that the vehicle would be towed to Pro Tow and she could pick it up in the morning. Detective McCray then contacted Lieutenant Meister and requested that he dispatch a wrecker to pick up the vehicle.
Officer Toby Combest completed a tow form and the vehicle was towed, inventoried and impounded. (Filing No. 34-2). The Columbus Police Department maintains a departmental policy regarding the inventory of motor vehicles being towed by the department. (Filing No. 34-1). The policy includes a requirement that "all closed containers found in the vehicle shall be opened for purposes of inventory" and that "contraband or evidence discovered during the course of a motor vehicle inventory shall be processed as evidence..." (Filing No. 34-1 at ECF p.2).
Mr. Reed was charged with one-count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of mixture or substance containing methamphetamine in violation of Title 21, United States Code, sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii). Mr. Reed contends the evidence seized from his vehicle should be suppressed because it was obtained during a warrantless search, thus violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Need for a Hearing
"District courts are required to conduct evidentiary hearings only when a substantial claim is presented and there are disputed issues of material fact that will affect the outcome of the motion." United States v. Curlin, 638 F.3d 562, 564 (7th Cir. 2011). The Government does not dispute Mr. Reed's version of the facts and Mr. Reed has not raised any disputed issue of material fact. Mr. Reed asserts that a hearing will be necessary "to establish that his vehicle was not going to be towed by the police and inventoried". However, Mr. Reed does not develop any factual scenario or provide evidence to support his contention. Rather, Mr. Reed's statement of facts agree that the vehicle was towed because Mr. Reed had no one to pick it up from the side of the road. Because there is no dispute about the material facts, no evidentiary hearing is required in this case.
B. Fourth Amendment Standard
Because a traffic stop constitutes a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment, it is "subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be unreasonable' under the circumstances." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996). "Searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the 4th Amendment - subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967). The products of an unconstitutional search are subject to suppression. See, e.g., United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 348 (1974). When a warrantless seizure has occurred, the Government bears ...