United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Christopher
Radford's (“Radford”) Motion to Suppress
(Filing No. 105). Radford is charged with violating
21 U.S.C. §§841(a)(1) and 841 (b)(1)(B)-possession
with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He seeks to
suppress all evidence obtained from his person and vehicle as
the result of a warrantless search during a traffic stop.
Radford asserts that the traffic stop 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 December 3, 2019, an evidentiary hearing was held
on Radford's Motion. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 12(d), the Court now states its findings of fact
and conclusions of law and determines that the Motion to
Suppress should be denied.
FINDINGS OF FACT
John Maples (“Corp. Maples”), a fifteen (15) year
veteran of the Brownsburg (Indiana) Police Department
(“Brownsburg PD”) has worked narcotics
investigations for approximately twelve (12) years. In
November 2018, Corp. Maples was a supervisor of Brownsburg
PD's street crimes unit-a unit that enforces traffic laws
in pursuit of criminal activity while in transit. A part of
his assignment was to conduct traffic stops to investigate
drug trafficking on major routes that pass through
Brownsburg, Indiana. During his career with Brownsburg PD,
Corp. Maples estimates that he has conducted “hundreds,
if not thousands” of traffic stops. On Monday, November
19, 2018, Corp. Maples was assisting the Drug Enforcement
Administration (“DEA”) and Task Force Officers in
the vicinity of Rockville Road and Bridgeport Road near the
border between Indianapolis and Avon, Indiana. Corp. Maples
had been informed by DEA surveillance units that a white Audi
had just departed a suspected drug house where DEA and other
investigators were conducting surveillance.
approximately 2:15 p.m., Corp. Maples was monitoring traffic
in his marked police cruiser from an LA Fitness parking lot
on the north side of Rockville Road. DEA surveillance units
advised over the radio that the white Audi that was the focus
of their narcotics investigation, had pulled into an Auto
Zone store, then through a gas station lot and into a strip
mall just east of his location on Rockville Road and the Audi
was traveling west on Rockville Road. Corp. Maples had
traveled to the traffic light at the end of the access road
of the LA Fitness parking lot when observed the Audi pass his
location traveling at approximately 40 to 45 miles per hour
and following the car in front of it by less than one car
length. Upon observing what he believed to be a traffic
infraction of following too closely, Corp. Maples decided to
make a traffic stop to issue a written warning, and determine
if the driver was properly licensed or has existing warrants.
Corp. Maples pulled into the flow of traffic and activated
his dashboard camera. The remaining interactions can be seen
in the video from the dashboard camera from Corp. Maples'
Audi was stopped at a red light at Rockville Road and Raceway
Road. Corp. Maples approached the vehicle in his marked squad
car and located himself behind the Audi. As the Audi began to
turn into a PNC bank parking lot, Corp. Maples activated his
overhead lights. The Audi pulled into a parking space and
Corp. Maples positioned his vehicle behind the Audi where the
vehicle could not leave. Corp. Maples approached the
passenger side window of the Audi and made contact with the
driver. The driver of the vehicle, who was later determined
to be Radford, had not observed the activated lights and was
unaware that he was being stopped by a police officer.
Radford began to open the door of the Audi and was surprised
when Corp. Maples pulled the door open. Radford had a
cellular telephone in his hand and Corp. Maples instructed
him to put the phone on the dashboard and exit the vehicle.
Radford hesitated and did not initially comply. Radford then
attempted to hold onto a second cellular telephone. A second
command was given and Radford complied. As Radford exited the
Audi, he responded to Corp. Maples' questions and denied
having any firearms. Radford is moving around and appears
nervous and places his left hand close to his belt line and
gestures as if attempting to pull up his pants. Corp. Maples,
concerned for officer safety, instructs Radford to
“stop moving around” and “stop
reaching” because “you make me nervous.” As
Corp. Maples begins to conduct a pat down Radford's left
arm tensed up and he attempted to keep his arm close to his
body. Corp. Maples advised Radford multiple times to relax
and loosen up his arms. Corp. Maples then placed a grip on
the back of Radford's left arm to prevent him from being
able to retrieve any items from his belt line or pocket. When
Corp. Maples pulled Radford toward him, he observed a clear
vacuum-sealed package containing what Corp. Maples believed
to be heroin. Radford was then placed in handcuffs for his
safety and officer safety. (Filing No. 106-4 at
Radford was secured, a search of his person and vehicle
revealed a firearm in the driver side door pocket, the
suspected heroin tested positive for Fentanyl and Radford had
an outstanding warrant out of Boone County for operating a
vehicle being a life time habitual traffic violator.
(Filing No. 106-4 at 2.)
Motion to Suppress, Radford asserts that the evidence
obtained against him as a result of the traffic stop and the
subsequent warrantless search of his vehicle violated the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.
(Filing No. 105.) Specifically, he argues that (1)
Corp. Maples lacked probable cause to conduct the traffic
stop; and (2) the warrantless search of his person and
vehicle was not supported by probable cause. In contrast, the
Government asserts that Corp. Maples had probable cause for
the stop and that the video of the traffic stop demonstrates
sufficient probable cause for the pat down and subsequent
search of Radford's person and vehicle. Because the
material facts at issue are disputed, the Court must make a
credibility determination on the evidence presented.
Need for a Hearing.
parties requested a hearing on the 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). Radford
raised disputed issues of material fact, therefore an
evidentiary hearing was held on December 3, 2019.
Validity of the Stop.
moves to suppress the evidence seized from the traffic stop.
He denies committing any traffic violations and asserts that
at all times he operated his vehicle in a safe manner, the
traffic stop was pretext and the resulting search of his
person and vehicle was unreasonable and improper.
Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The Fourth
Amendment prohibits a warrantless search unless the search
falls under one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant
requirement. United States v. Denney, 771 F.2d 318,
320 (7th Cir. 1985). If a search is conducted without a
warrant, the Government bears the burden to prove that an
exception to the warrant requirement existed at the time of
the search, or it will be deemed unreasonable and
unconstitutional. United States v. Rivera, 248 F.3d
677, 680 (7th Cir. 2001). When an officer effectuates a
traffic stop and detains a person, no matter the length of
time, it constitutes a “seizure” of
“persons” under the Fourth Amendment, and thus
must be reasonable. Whren v. United States, 517 ...