United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a motion to suppress all evidence (DE 32) filed
by Defendant Andrew Fitch. Fitch seeks to suppress evidence
discovered by police officers during an encounter on August
20, 2016, contending that all of the evidence was obtained as
a result of violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. After
considering the evidence and argument submitted by the
parties in this matter, I RECOMMEND that Fitch's motion
to suppress all evidence be DENIED.
November 18, 2016, Fitch was indicted by way of a
single-count indictment and charged with possessing with the
intent to distribute methamphetamine, a Schedule II
Controlled Substance, in violation 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). (DE 1). On December 20, 2016, Fitch pleaded not
guilty. (DE 15). On November 13, 2017, Fitch filed the
instant motion. (DE 32). This matter was referred to the
undersigned Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). (DE 36). An
evidentiary hearing on this matter was held on January 9,
2018. (DE 38). On March 7, 2018, Fitch filed a post-hearing
brief in support of his motion to suppress. (DE 41). The
Government filed its response on April 9, 2018. (DE 42). On
April 23, 2018, Fitch filed his reply brief. (DE 43).
FINDINGS OF FACT
evidentiary hearing, the Government offered the testimony of
Angola City Police Department (“ACPD”) Officer
Matthew Kling (“Officer Kling“) and ACPD Officer
Brandon Booth (“Officer Booth”). (DE 40,
Transcript of Motion to Suppress Hearing (“Tr.”)
2). Fitch did not offer the testimony of any witnesses and
did not meaningfully contest the officers' testimony in
any way, and I FIND their testimony to be credible.
morning of August 20, 2016, Officer Kling was working patrol
shift, driving along I-69 freeway, traveling southbound. (Tr.
9-11). That night, Officer Kling was wearing a police
uniform, and driving a Ram Truck,  which was fully marked and
identified as an ACPD police vehicle. (Tr. 9-10).
around 4:43 a.m., Officer Kling observed a motorcycle coming
up about a quarter of a mile behind him, and catching up with
him quickly. (Tr. 10-11, 39). The speed limit on that stretch
of freeway was 70 miles per hour. (Tr. 11). Officer
Kling's radar indicated that the motorcycle was
approaching him at 87 miles per hour. (Tr. 11-12). At that time,
Officer Kling decided to perform a traffic stop on the
motorcycle for speeding. (Tr. 12-13).
Kling slowed his vehicle down and proceeded to the exit ramp
to U.S. route 20. (Tr. 14-15). The motorcycle did the same.
(Tr. 14-15). After the motorcycle passed Officer Kling, he
activated the emergency lights on his truck and began
following the motorcycle. (Tr. 15-16; Ex. 1 at 2:18-28). The
motorcycle turned right off the ramp onto U.S. route 20, and
Officer Kling believed that the motorcycle was pulling into a
local store where people often stop. (Tr. 16-17).
after turning, the motorcycle accelerated rapidly away from
Officer Kling in an attempt to evade him. (Tr. 17; Ex. 1 at
2:55). Officer Kling pursued the motorcycle, reaching speeds
of 106 miles per hour. (Tr. 17). Eventually, the motorcycle
attempted to make a turn onto a dirt road, but because it was
traveling too fast the driver, later identified as Fitch,
lost control of the motorcycle and laid it down beneath him.
(Tr. 18; Ex. 1 at 5:15).
Kling approached Fitch with his gun drawn, commanded Fitch to
lay down, which Fitch did, and kept his gun trained on Fitch
until Officer Booth arrived. (Tr. 20). Once Officer Booth
arrived, Officer Kling approached Fitch and handcuffed him.
(Tr. 20-21, 57). At some point, Officer Brian Snyder
(“Officer Snyder”) also arrived on the scene.
(Tr. 62). Officer Kling performed a pat down of Fitch's
outer clothing, which did not produce any contraband or
weapons. (Tr. 21, 57). Officer Booth then placed Fitch in his
police vehicle. (Tr. 22, 57).
driver license did not have a motorcycle endorsement, which
is required under Indiana law to operate a motorcycle. (Tr.
23). Officer Kling checked the registration of the motorcycle
and found that it was registered to Luther Fitch. (Tr. 22).
After running Fitch's information, Officer Kling learned
that Fitch had an active arrest warrant in DeKalb County,
Indiana, for possession of methamphetamine. (Tr. 23; Ex. 1 at
10:27-32). Fitch also had a conviction for possession of
methamphetamine in 2010. (Tr. 25). Additionally, Officer
Kling was familiar with reports that Fitch was involved in
trafficking methamphetamine and that he had been the driver
in another motorcycle pursuit a few days earlier but was not
apprehended. (Tr. 24).
Kling called a tow truck to impound Fitch's motorcycle.
(Tr. 28-29, 30, 41). When impounding a vehicle, Angola City
Police Standard Operating Guidelines provide:
An inventory of the vehicle will take place. The inventory is
solely for the purpose of identifying and document any items
of value that may be within the vehicle, . . . . Officers are
authorized and should open any container located within the
vehicle that may be capable of containing anything of value.
Any items of value that are located within the vehicle should
be noted in the proper location on the approved impound form.
(Ex. 3). Officer Kling testified that he searched the
motorcycle, including a bag or compartment near the gas tank
of the motorcycle pursuant to ACPD policy. (Tr. 30-31, 41;
see Ex. A). Officer Kling did so before the impound
truck arrived, and he testified that such pre-impound
searches are standard ACPD practice. (Tr. 31, 44, 53).
the compartment Officer Kling found a large quantity of pills
that were later identified as Sudafed, and small baggies.
(Tr. 31). Officer Kling testified that, based on his
experience, Sudafed is commonly used to manufacture
methamphetamine and small baggies are commonly used to
distribute small amounts of drugs. (Tr. 31). The compartment
also contained electronic scales, ...