United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Defendant, Andrew L Fitch, is charged by way of Indictment
with possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
The Defendant seeks to suppress evidence discovered by police
officers when he was arrested on August 20, 2016. (Mot. to
Suppress, ECF No. 32.) He contends that all of the evidence
was obtained as a result of an unlawful search of his
motorcycle. This Court referred the matter to Magistrate
Judge Susan L. Collins to review the Motion and the
Government's response, to conduct any and all necessary
evidentiary hearings, to order additional briefing, and to
issue a report and recommendation that includes proposed
findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of
the Defendant's Motion to Suppress. The Magistrate Judge
presided over an evidentiary hearing where Angola City Police
Department Officers Matthew Kling and Brandon Booth
testified. After receiving post-hearing briefs, the
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation [ECF No.
44], and advised the parties that they had fourteen days to
Report and Recommendation, issued on May 24, 2018, the
Magistrate Judge found that the search of the Defendant's
motorcycle did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
Specifically, both the automobile exception and the inventory
search exception applied to the search of the Defendant's
motorcycle on August 20, 2016. The Magistrate Judge concluded
that a third exception, which applies to searches of vehicles
incident to arrest, did not apply because the police were
searching for evidence that was not related to the crime of
arrest-resisting law enforcement. On June 5, 2018, the
Government filed its Objection to Magistrate's Report and
Recommendation [ECF No. 45]. Although the Government agreed
with the Magistrate Judge's analysis of the automobile
and inventory search exception, it submitted that the search
was also a valid search incident to arrest as recognized in
Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 351 (2009). The
Defendant has not filed any objections to the Report and
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)-(B), a magistrate judge does
not have authority to issue a final order on a motion to
suppress evidence in a criminal case. Instead, the magistrate
judge submits proposed findings of fact and recommendations
to the district court. If a party files a timely objection to
the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, §
636(b)(1) provides that
the district judge is to make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made. The court may
accept, reject, modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge also
may receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the
magistrate judge with instructions.
of a recommendation to which no party objects are reviewed
for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170
F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).
party has requested a hearing or challenged the Magistrate
Judge's recitation of the facts, and the Court ADOPTS the
findings of fact in full. The only objection is to the legal
analysis regarding one of the recognized exceptions to the
Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. The Court finds
that the record before the Magistrate Judge is sufficient to
allow this Court to make a de novo determination on that
issue. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667,
673-76 (1980) (holding that de novo review does not require a
de novo evidentiary hearing, even when witness credibility is
Fourth Amendment protects “[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. Warrantless searches “are per se
unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few
specifically established and well-delineated
exceptions.” Katz v. United States, 389 U.S.
347, 357 (1967) (footnote omitted). In its submissions to the
Magistrate Judge, the Government argued that three exceptions
to the prohibition on warrantless searches applied to the
circumstances of this case. As stated above, the Magistrate
Judge found that two of those exceptions applied-the
automobile exception and inventory search exception-but that
the search did not meet the requirements for a search
incident to the arrest of an occupant.
Court finds that the facts, as set forth in the Report and
Recommendation, support the application of the automobile
exception. The Report accurately cites the case law that
permits a vehicle search and any containers therein if
officers have probable cause to believe that they will find
evidence of criminal activity. See United States v.
Nicksion, 628 F.3d 368, 377 (7th Cir. 2010). This
evidence need not relate to the offense of arrest.
Id. Here, the facts known to the officers would
cause a reasonably prudent person to believe that the
Defendant was carrying illegal drugs and related items with
him on his motorcycle. The Defendant had just a few days
earlier evaded police on a motorcycle, fled from Officer
Kling on a motorcycle, asked for a cigarette when he was
placed in the police vehicle because he stated he was going
to be gone for awhile, had an active arrest warrant for
possession of methamphetamine, was well known as a drug
dealer among Angola officers, including Officer Kling, and
had a 2010 conviction for methamphetamine possession. The
Report adequately addressed the Defendant's complaint
that Officer Kling violated the police department's
policy regarding the types of vehicles that can be used in a
pursuit as one that was not pertinent to the Fourth Amendment
issue. Finding no clear error, the Court ADOPTS the
conclusion that the search of the motorcycle was lawful
pursuant to the automobile exception.
Inventory Search Exception
facts, as set forth in the Report and Recommendation, also
support the application of the inventory search exception.
The Report sets forth the requirements of a lawful inventory
search: “(1) the individual whose possession is to be
searched has been lawfully arrested, and (2) the search is
conducted as part of the routine procedure incident to
incarcerating an arrested person and in accordance with
established inventory procedures.” United States v.
Cartwright, 630 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing
United States v. Jackson, 189 F.3d 502, 508-09 (7th
Cir. 1999)). There was no clear error in the finding that the
exception applied, despite the Defendant's objection that
Officer Kling listed only drugs on the Impound Report, and
not the baggies, scales, and a Mason jar that he also found.
Officer Kling testified that he did not consider these items
valuable, and officers only list items of value on the form.
This distinction for items of value is consistent with the
purpose of an inventory search. See Florida v.
Wells, 495 U.S. 1, 4 (1990) (stating that inventory
searches need not be conducted in a “mechanical
‘all or nothing' fashion” but can allow for
the “exercise of judgment based on concerns related to
the purposes of an inventory search” to protect an
owner's property). Neither was there any merit in the
Defendant's argument that the inventory search should
have been conducted after the motorcycle was impounded, not
before. Finding no clear error, the Court ADOPTS the
conclusion that the search of the motorcycle was lawful
pursuant to the inventory search exception.
Search Incident ...