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United States v. McPhaul

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 10, 2015

DJUANE L. McPHAUL, Defendant.



This matter is before the Court on Defendant Djuane L. McPhaul's ("Mr. McPhaul") Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 40). Mr. McPhaul is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)-felon in possession of a firearm-and 18 U.S.C. § 931(a)(1)-violent felon in possession of body armor. He seeks to suppress all evidence obtained from a warrantless search of his vehicle during a traffic stop. Mr. McPhaul asserts that the traffic stop was pretext and the search and seizure of his vehicle and person was made without probable cause and in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, justifying suppression of the evidence found during the search. On July 2, 2015, an evidentiary hearing was held on Mr. McPhaul's Motion. For the reasons set forth below, Mr. McPhaul's Motion to Suppress is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


On December 21, 2013, at approximately 3:15 a.m., Ball State University Police Department ("BSUPD") Officer Andrew Sell ("Officer Sell") observed a white Cadillac sedan near Ball State University campus and observed the driver turn right from the straight lane of traffic on two occasions. Officer Sell ran a report on the vehicle's license plate and learned that the vehicle was registered to Djuane McPhaul, who had a suspended driver's license. Officer Sell noted that the vehicle's driver was a Black male, which matched the race and gender on the registration. Officer Sell determined that he would initiate a traffic stop so he continued to follow the vehicle for a short period of time. After witnessing a third traffic infraction Officer Sell initiated a traffic stop by activating his police lights to direct the driver to pull over. The driver did not speed up or slow down, but just continued south. After between 50 and 100 yards, Officer Sell hit his siren "a couple times to try to get the driver's attention." When the driver did not stop, Officer Sell activated his siren. The driver continued driving for approximately.9 miles at speeds from 15 to almost 40 miles per hour. Officer Sell reported over his police radio that he was in a "slow-speed pursuit."[1] The driver made four turns before finally stopping at a gas station and pulling his vehicle into a parking space.

Muncie Police Department ("MPD") officers Matt Berger ("Officer Berger"), James Lenox and Ball State University Officer David Barnes ("Officer Barnes") and several other officers converged in the parking lot. Officer Sell ordered Mr. McPhaul to turn the vehicle off and show his hands. Mr. McPhaul did not immediately comply with orders but instead remained in the vehicle for approximately 60 seconds, and it appeared to Officer Sell that Mr. McPhaul was placing something in the center console or glove box. Mr. McPhaul was ordered to place the car keys on the roof of the vehicle to which he complied. As he exited the vehicle, officers noticed that Mr. McPhaul had items in his hands. Once out of the vehicle, Mr. McPhaul was instructed to place the items he was holding on the ground, and again he complied. These items were his wallet, cell telephone, and an Indiana driver's license belonging to Johnny Jerome Bennett.

Officer Barnes placed Mr. McPhaul in handcuffs and immediately began a pat down and search of his person for officer safety. Officer Barnes found $245.00 in Mr. McPhaul's pants pocket and discovered that Mr. McPhaul was wearing KDH class 3a body armor with trauma plates. After Mr. McPhaul was secured, Officer Barnes began the search of Mr. McPhaul's person. Approximately ten officers can be seen in the dash cam video from Officer Barnes' police car converging on the vehicle and searching Mr. McPhaul's person and the interior and trunk of the car (Gov. Exhibit #3). Mr. McPhaul was placed under arrest for resisting law enforcement in a vehicle.

Officers Sell and Barnes, along with Muncie Police Department officers Matt Berger and James Lenox conducted a warrantless search of Mr. McPhaul's vehicle pursuant to BSUPD General Order and Policy # 5.5 (Filing No. 48-4) and MPD Inventory Search Policy 1.2.4.IV.H (Filing No. 48-5). While conducting the search of the vehicle, the officers discovered a stolen, loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun and ammunition located in the center console. Officers also conducted a warrantless search of Mr. McPhaul's trunk where they located a locked Sentry brand safe. Officers located a key to the safe on Mr. McPhaul's key ring; thereafter they opened and searched the safe. The safe contained $2, 000.00 in cash.

Mr. McPhaul's vehicle was towed and impounded. The contents that were not designated as contraband or evidence were catalogued in a BUSPD Tow-In/Boot Report. Mr. McPhaul was transported to Delaware County Jail. State charges were brought and then dismissed against Mr. McPhaul. On October 7, 2014, Mr. McPhaul was indicted on charges under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 931(a)(1).

In April 2013 Mr. McPhaul had a previous encounter with officers of the BSUPD wherein he alleges that he was illegally detained and assaulted. As a result of that encounter, Mr. McPhaul filed a civil rights complaint against BSUD and four officers for false arrest and illegal detention without probable cause.


A. Need for a Hearing

Mr. McPhaul requested a hearing on his Motion to Suppress. "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). Mr. McPhaul raised disputed issues of material fact, therefore an evidentiary hearing was held on July 2, 2015.

B. Validity of the Stop

Mr. McPhaul moves to suppress the evidence seized from the traffic stop. He asserts that officers unlawfully detained and arrested him and conducted an illegal search and seizure of his vehicle. Mr. McPhaul contends that there was no probable cause to stop him, and therefore, the officers' actions were in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Specifically, he argues that the traffic stop was pretext and the resulting search of his person and ...

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