United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Danville Division
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge
December 8, 2016, I heard arguments related to
Defendant's Motion to Suppress. I have considered the
briefs, heard testimony and the parties' arguments, and I
now make the following findings of fact and conclusions of
November 20, 2015, Deputy Hugh Wyatt, a sworn Task Officer
with the U.S. Marshall's Service, was in an unmarked
police vehicle, conducting surveillance on a residence
located at 623 Wimbish Drive in Danville, Virginia. Deputy
Wyatt was conducting surveillance on the house due to
information that he had received that Bradley Lamont Price, a
fugitive, was spending time at the Wimbish Drive residence.
At one point, a man, later known to be Edward Jaimaal Price,
but suspected to be Bradley Lamont Price, exited the
residence and left in a 2004 Buick vehicle. At this point,
Deputy Wyatt radioed Deputy Todd Carroll, an officer with the
Virginia Department of Corrections and member of the
Marshall's Task Force, to provide assistance.
Wyatt began to follow Defendant and, while doing so, noticed
that the thirty-day temporary registration on the Buick was
expired. Deputy Wyatt effectuated a traffic stop when
Defendant pulled into a gas station, parking his vehicle
behind Defendant's and activating the vehicle's blue
lights. According to testimony, Deputy Carroll caught up to
Deputy Wyatt and Defendant seconds before Wyatt stopped
Defendant. Deputy Carroll parked his vehicle in front of
Defendant's to prevent Defendant from leaving.
Wyatt testified that he exited the vehicle and saw Defendant
“slump” in his seat as if he was reaching for
something under his seat. For safety purposes, Wyatt drew his
weapon and ordered the Defendant to put his hands up. The
Defendant only complied for a short while before Wyatt had to
again order him to put his hands up. When he again failed to
comply, Deputy Wyatt removed the driver from the vehicle for
officer safety. Defendant contests this version of events,
stating that Wyatt drew his weapon immediately after exiting
his vehicle. It is unclear which version of events is
correct, but it does not affect my conclusions.
Deputy Wyatt removed Defendant from his vehicle, Deputy Wyatt
smelled a strong odor consistent with unsmoked, raw marijuana
coming from Defendant's person. Defendant was placed on
the ground and handcuffed before being brought back up to his
feet. Deputy Carroll, in trying to identify Defendant, whom
both deputies still suspected may be Bradley Lamont Price,
asked Defendant whether he had any identification. Defendant
made a slight head motion towards his right front pocket. To
confirm, Deputy Carroll touched Defendant's right front
pocket. Defendant nodded, and Deputy Carroll asked if he
could reach into the pocket to retrieve the Defendant's
identification. Defendant nodded. Deputy Carroll testified
that he reached into the pocket and removed all contents,
finding what was later confirmed to be 74 ounces of
crack-cocaine. Defendant was then placed under arrest.
Supreme Court has stated, “[s]ubjective intentions play
no role in ordinary probable-cause Fourth Amendment
analysis.” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 813 (1996). The outdated temporary registration on
Defendant's vehicle gave rise to probable cause that a
traffic infraction was being committed, giving Deputies
Carroll and Wyatt lawful authority to conduct a traffic stop.
Defendant was removed from his vehicle during a time where
the deputies still believed Defendant to potentially be an
armed fugitive, and in his testimony, Defendant did not deny
that he failed to keep his hands raised. Their decision to
remove Defendant from the vehicle and restrain him was
is a well-established exception to the warrant requirement.
Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219 (1973).
Here, Deputy Carroll asked Defendant for identification to
ascertain whether Defendant was Bradley Lamont Price.
Defendant first gave a slight head nod towards his right
front pocket. Deputy Carroll asked Defendant if he was
indicating that his identification was in his right front
pocket. Defendant again nodded towards his pocket. Deputy
Carroll then asked Defendant if he could reach into his
pocket to retrieve his identification. Defendant gave an
affirmative nod. Given these facts, it is clear that
Defendant consented to the search, which led to the discovery
of the 74 grams of crack-cocaine. Importantly, Defendant has
not contradicted this portion of the government's
Defendant did not consent, however, the search was a lawful
search incident to arrest based on Deputy Wyatt's
testimony that he detected a strong odor of marijuana coming
from Defendant's person. As the Fourth Circuit has held
in Humphries, the odor of marijuana is sufficient to
establish probable cause that a suspect is in possession of
marijuana if the smell can be localized to that specific
suspect. United States v. Humphries, 372 F.3d 653,
659 (4th Cir. 2004). In this case, Defendant was the sole
occupant of the vehicle, and there was no one else in the
immediate vicinity of Defendant and law enforcement. The
Fourth Circuit has held that a search of a suspect
immediately before his formal arrest satisfies the
requirement that a lawful search incident to arrest be
closely related in time to that arrest. United States v.
Miller, 925 F.2d 695, 698-99 (4th Cir. 1991). If, in
fact, Defendant did not actually consent to the search, the
search can be viewed as a search incident to arrest
immediately preceding the arrest based on the probable cause
provided by the odor of marijuana.
basis of these findings, Defendant's Motion to Suppress
the narcotics found ...