United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District
Diangelo Vales filed a Motion to Suppress evidence that he
contends was obtained during an unlawful search. [Filing
No. 23.] After a hearing, the Court issued its Order
denying that Motion on October 4, 2017. [Filing No.
42.] After conducting additional discovery, Mr. Vales
has gathered evidence that he believes warrants
reconsideration and a second hearing regarding his Motion to
Suppress. Presently pending before the Court is Mr.
Vales' Motion to Reconsider, [Filing No. 57],
which is now fully briefed and ripe for the Court's
review. For the reasons that follow, the Court
DENIES Mr. Vales' Motion to Reconsider
and his request for a hearing on the matter.
Vales has been indicted with being a felon in possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
[Filing No. 1.] On June 5, 2017, Mr. Vales filed a
Motion to Suppress evidence that he argued was obtained as
the result of an unlawful search, as well as a statement that
he contended was derivative of that search. [Filing No.
23.] On September 21, 2017, the Court held an
evidentiary hearing on Mr. Vales' Motion to Suppress,
during which the Court heard testimony from Indianapolis
Metropolitan Police Department (“IMPD”)
Officers Richard Faulkner, Trent Fortson, and Dane Elkins.
[SeeFiling No. 45.]
the suppression hearing, the Court found the following facts,
as established by the testimonial and written evidence.
14, 2016 at approximately 8:14 p.m., Officer Faulkner was
driving his marked police vehicle behind Mr. Vales, who was
driving northbound on Kenwood Avenue in Indianapolis,
Indiana. [Filing No. 22-1 at 2.] While turning
eastbound on 34th Street, Mr. Faulkner observed
Mr. Vales disregard a stop sign. [Filing No. 22-1 at
2.] Officer Faulkner immediately initiated a traffic
stop of Mr. Vales' vehicle. [Filing No. 22-1 at
2.] 34th Street contained three lanes of
traffic moving eastbound, and Mr. Vales brought his vehicle
to a stop in the southernmost open lane, next to a vehicle
that was parallel parked adjacent to the curb.
Faulkner approached the vehicle and asked Mr. Vales, who was
the only occupant of the vehicle, for his driver's
license. [Filing No. 22-1 at 2.] After receiving it,
at approximately 8:16 p.m., Officer Faulkner requested Mr.
Vales' driving record information using the laptop
computer in his police vehicle. [Filing No. 22-1 at
2; Filing No. 22-2 at 2.] Officer Faulkner, via
his laptop, received information that Mr. Vales had a
suspended driver's license. Because Mr. Vales was the
only occupant of the vehicle, had a suspended license, and
the car was stopped in a lane of traffic (as opposed to
legally parked), Officer Faulkner determined that the vehicle
should be towed from the scene. At approximately 8:17 p.m.,
Officer Faulkner radioed for backup. [See Filing No. 22-2
approximately 8:18 p.m., backup Officer Trent Fortson arrived
at the scene of the traffic stop, and Officer Faulkner
advised Officer Fortson of the need to tow the vehicle. The
officers approached the vehicle and asked Mr. Vales to exit.
Both officers testified that Mr. Vales became argumentative
and initially would not exit the vehicle. When he did exit
the vehicle, and remained argumentative, the officers placed
him in handcuffs “for the safety” of both the
officers and Mr. Vales. [Filing No. 22-1 at 2.]
Officer Faulkner then commenced an inventory search of the
vehicle, as required by IMPD policy, prior to the
impoundment. [Filing No. 22-1 at 2.] During that
search, Officer Faulkner discovered a loaded handgun in the
console of the vehicle. [Filing No. 22-1 at 2.] At
approximately 8:23 p.m., Officer Faulkner radioed for the
assistance of a gun liaison officer. Officer Faulkner
obtained a summary of Mr. Vales' criminal history and was
informed that Mr. Vales did not have a valid handgun permit
and had been previously convicted of a felony offense. Mr.
Vales was placed under arrest for carrying a handgun without
a license with a prior conviction and possession of a handgun
by a serious violent felon, and the handgun was seized.
[Filing No. 22-1 at 3.] Mr. Vales was read his
Miranda rights and stated that he understood them.
[Filing No. 22-1 at 3.] Mr. Vales knowingly waived
those rights and voluntarily stated that the handgun belonged
to him, and that he carried it for protection.
Motion to Suppress, Mr. Vales argued that Officer Faulkner
conducted a warrantless search of Mr. Vales' vehicle that
was not permitted by any exception to the warrant
requirement, such as a search incident to arrest or the
search of a vehicle upon probable cause of a crime. He
contended that Officer Faulkner characterized the search
after the fact as an inventory search in order to prevent the
exclusion of the evidence obtained. Mr. Vales pointed to two
factors as being indicative of an improper search: (1) the
timeline of events during the traffic stop; and (2) that
impoundment was not necessary, because Mr. Vales could have
called someone to assist in moving the vehicle.
the timeline, after considering and crediting Officer
Faulkner's testimony, the Court concluded that there was
nothing constitutionally infirm or pretextual about the
timeline of events leading to the search of Mr. Vales'
vehicle. [Filing No. 42 at 5.] The Court also
concluded that the objective evidence supported the
conclusion that Officer Faulkner intended to tow the vehicle
prior to conducting the search. [Filing No. 42 at
6.] As to the propriety of impounding Mr. Vales'
vehicle, the Court concluded that the decision to tow Mr.
Vales' vehicle was reasonable and consistent with
existing IMPD policies. [Filing No. 42 at 6.] The
Court accordingly denied Mr. Vales' Motion to Suppress.
[Filing No. 42.]