United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge
Smith was arrested for providing false information to the
police. During a search incident to arrest, police officers
found cash, a gun, drugs, and scales. Defendant has filed a
motion to suppress, arguing that these items were discovered
and seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Dkt. .
For the reasons stated below, the motion is
Terre Haute police officers went to a Motel 6 in connection
with an investigation of an individual named Evan Sapp, who
was reported to be armed and dangerous. Dkt. 29-2; dkt. 36-1
¶ 4. One of the officers, Sergeant Lockard, saw Sapp
standing next to Defendant, James Smith, outside the Motel 6.
Dkt. 29-2. Sergeant Lockard observed Defendant walking back
and forth, looking over his shoulder, and frequently changing
his direction of travel. Id. Sergeant Lockard
notified the other officers by radio of Defendant's odd
behavior. Dkt. 36-1 ¶ 6.
LaFave heard the report from Sergeant Lockard, saw Defendant,
and also concluded that Defendant was acting suspiciously.
Id.; dkt. 29-2. Detective LaFave, with his gun
holstered and his badge visible, approached Defendant outside
of the Motel 6 shortly after Defendant exited the building.
Dkt. 29-2; dkt. 36-1 ¶ 7. He asked Defendant if he could
talk to him, and Defendant agreed. Dkt. 36-1 ¶ 8.
LaFave asked Defendant for his name, and Defendant replied,
“Nick Smith.” Id.; dkt. 29-2. Detective
LaFave thought he recognized Defendant from an investigation
of an individual named James Smith. Dkt. 29-2; dkt. 36-1
¶ 8. Detective LaFave pulled up a picture of James Smith
on his phone and recognized him as the man he was speaking
with who had just identified himself as Nick Smith. Dkt. 36-1
¶ 8. Detective LaFave also noticed a unique tattoo on
Defendant that matched one of James Smith's tattoos.
Id. ¶ 9; dkt. 29-2.
LaFave told Defendant he did not believe his name was Nick
Smith and continued to ask him his name. Dkt. 29-2; dkt. 36-1
¶ 10. Defendant, starting to sweat and looking nervous,
insisted that his name was Nick Smith. Dkt. 29-2; dkt. 36-1
¶¶ 9, 10. Defendant also claimed that he did not
have a middle name. Dkt. 36-1 ¶ 10. Detective LaFave
then asked Defendant to show him the tattoo again, but
Defendant refused. Dkt. 29-2. Convinced that Defendant was
trying to mislead him, Detective LaFave arrested Defendant
for False Informing. Dkt. 36-1 ¶ 12.
a search incident to arrest, officers recovered $1, 064 in
U.S. currency from Defendant's pockets and a gun,
methamphetamine, marijuana, digital scales, two cell phones,
and two hotel room keys from his backpack. Dkt.
was indicted for possession with intent to distribute,
carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime,
and felon in possession of a firearm. Dkt. 1. Defendant filed
a motion to suppress, seeking to exclude the evidence
obtained from the search. Dkt. 29.
Fourth Amendment protects citizens “against
unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. Amend.
IV. The principal remedy for a violation of this right is the
exclusionary rule, which “requires trial courts to
exclude unlawfully seized evidence in a criminal
trial.” Utah v. Strieff, 136 S.Ct. 2056, 2061
(2016). Here, Defendant argues that the exclusionary rule
applies because he was subjected to an unlawful investigatory
stop and thereafter unlawfully searched. The Court addresses
each argument in turn.
Detective LaFave's conversation with Defendant
contends he was subjected to an unlawful investigatory stop,
also known as a Terry stop, when Detective LaFave
asked if he would speak with him. But “law enforcement
officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely
approaching an individual on the street or in another public
place . . . .”, Fla. v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429,
434 (1991) (quoting Fla. v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497
(1983)), and “a seizure does not occur merely because a
police officer approaches an individual and asks him or her
questions, ” United States v. Smith, 794 F.3d
681, 684 (7th Cir. 2015). No. justification is needed for
consensual encounters because participation is voluntary and
a “reasonable person would feel free to disregard the
police and go about his or her business.”
Id. So long as the police-citizen encounter is
consensual, there is no Fourth Amendment scrutiny.
determine whether an encounter between police and a citizen
in a public place is consensual, the “crucial
test” is whether a reasonable person would believe that
he or she was not free to ignore the police and leave.
Bostick, 501 U.S. at 437. A court considers all
facts and circumstances, such as: (1) “the threatening
presence of several officers, ” (2) whether the police
officers display their weapons, (3) any “physical
touching of the private citizen, ” (4) the “use
of forceful language or tone of voice, ” (5) the
location of the encounter, (6) “whether police made
statements to the citizen intimating that he or she was a
suspect of a crime, ” (7) “whether the
citizen's freedom of movement was intruded upon in some
way, ” and (8) “whether the officers informed the