United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge
before the Court is Defendant Michael John Wrobel's
Motion to Suppress. While driving northbound on I-15 at
approximately 7:11 pm on April 8, 2017, Mr. Wrobel was pulled
over by Idaho State Police Trooper Kenneth Peeples for
failing to signal for five seconds before changing lanes.
During the traffic stop, Trooper Peeples asked Mr. Wrobel to
exit his vehicle, conducted a patdown, and then conducted a
canine search of the exterior and interior of Mr.
Wrobel's car. Based on the behavior of his K-9 Partner,
Trooper Peeples determined he had probable cause to search
the vehicle. During the search, Trooper Peeples discovered a
substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine and
arrested Mr. Wrobel. Mr. Wrobel moves to suppress the
evidence obtained from Trooper Peeples's search of the
vehicle on the grounds that Trooper Peeples violated his
Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully prolonging the traffic
stop and conducting a search of his vehicle.
Court heard testimony at an evidentiary hearing on December
5, 2017, and received closing briefs from the parties on
December 11, 2017. For the reasons explained below, the Court
will grant the motion.
patrolling I-15 on April 8, 2017, Trooper Peeples observed
Mr. Wrobel change lanes without signaling for five seconds,
as required by Idaho law. Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 3,
Dkt. 18-2. Trooper Peeples pulled Mr. Wrobel over, and
approached the passenger side window of the vehicle.
Id. When he arrived at the vehicle, Trooper Peeples
noticed that Mr. Wrobel had rolled down both front windows.
Id. Trooper Peeples explained why he had stopped Mr.
Wrobel, and asked him for his license, registration, and
insurance. Id. As Mr. Wrobel retrieved the relevant
documents, Trooper Peeples invited him to roll up the
driver's side window, and asked him where he was
“headed up to now.” Def.'s Br. Ex. B
at 19:13:13, Dkt. 18-3. Mr. Wrobel rolled the window
halfway up, and informed Trooper Peeples he was going to see
a friend in Montana. Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 3, Dkt.
18-2. When Trooper Peeples asked how long he would
be in Montana, Mr. Wrobel replied he was going for about
three days. Id.
spoke, Trooper Peeples noticed the strong smell of air
freshener coming from the vehicle, and that Mr. Wrobel's
upper lip quivered when he spoke. Id. He again
invited Mr. Wrobel to roll up the driver's side window,
which was still halfway down, and Mr. Wrobel complied.
Id. Trooper Peeples also noticed a lighter and used
ashtray in the center console, and identified the program
playing on the car radio as a Mormon religious music program.
Wrobel handed Trooper Peeples the documents he requested,
including his rental agreement. Id. The agreement
showed that the vehicle was rented in Los Angeles on April 4,
2017 and had a return date of April 25, 2017. Id.
Trooper Peeples then asked Mr. Wrobel to close his eyes.
Id. After a moment, Trooper Peeples returned to his
patrol car. Id. At this point, Trooper Peeples had
developed a suspicion that Mr. Wrobel was involved in
criminal activity based on his actions, the answers he gave
to Trooper Peeples's questions, and Trooper Peeples's
observations of him in comparison with other interactions he
had in the past. Id. Specifically, Trooper Peeples
relied on the following facts: 1) The strong smell of air
freshener in the vehicle; 2) the fact that Mr. Wrobel was
driving a rental vehicle; 3) the fact that Mr. Wrobel rolled
down both windows, and didn't immediately roll up the
driver's side window all the way when invited; 4) the
fact that Mr. Wrobel planned to be in Montana for about three
days but had rented the car for three weeks; 5) the fact that
Mr. Wrobel's lip quivered when he spoke; and 6) the fact
that he was playing Mormon religious music, which Trooper
Peeples believed could indicate that Mr. Wrobel was
overcompensating by attempting to affiliate with the local
religious community. Id.
Trooper Peeples returned to his patrol car, he reviewed the
documents briefly and asked dispatch to conduct a wants and
warrants check and a prior controlled substance criminal
history check on Mr. Wrobel. Id. He then exited his
patrol car and returned to Mr. Wrobel's vehicle.
Id. Trooper Peeples testified that when he decided
to approach the vehicle for the second time, he was already
suspicious that Mr. Wrobel was involved in criminal activity.
He stated that he intended to conduct the dog sniff unless
Mr. Wrobel's acted in some way to dispel that suspicion.
Specifically, Trooper Peeples testified that he intended to
conduct the dog sniff unless Mr. Wrobel's nervousness
Trooper Peeples approached the car for the second time, he
asked Mr. Wrobel if there was anything illegal inside the
car. Id. Mr. Wrobel responded “no, no,
no.” Id. Trooper Peeples then asked whether
his K-9 partner, Apollo, would alert to the odor of drugs
coming from the car. Id. Mr. Wrobel shook his head.
Id. Trooper Peeples asked Mr. Wrobel to exit the
vehicle. Id. Mr. Wrobel asked why he needed to exit
the vehicle. Id. Trooper Peeples explained that he
was going to have Apollo walk around the car. Id.
the keyless ignition fob in his hand, Mr. Wrobel pressed the
ignition button on the dash of the car. Id. Trooper
Peeples testified that he heard the engine turn over, and
asked why Mr. Wrobel turned the car on. Mr. Wrobel stated he
was turning it off. Id. Trooper Peeples noted that
the key fob did not have a rental car tag on it. Id.
Mr. Wrobel exited the vehicle and consented to a pat down
search, which Trooper Peeples performed. Id. at 4.
As Trooper Peeples completed the pat down search, dispatch
informed him there were no outstanding warrants for Mr.
Wrobel. Def's Br. Ex. B at 19:17:41, Dkt. 18-3.
Trooper Peeples then retrieved his K-9 partner from the car,
and walked him on the leash around the vehicle.
Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 4, Dkt. 18-2.
Peeples and his K-9 partner are certified in drug detection.
Id. When he approached the vehicle, Apollo jumped on
his hind legs and sniffed inside the open passenger window.
Def's Br. Ex. B at 19:18:11-19:18:34, Dkt. 18-3.
He also jumped on his hind legs near the trunk of the car,
and sniffed the driver's side door handle. Id.
at 19:18:34-19:18:50. Apollo then walked back to the
passenger window, and jumped through the window into the car.
Id. at 19:18:55. Trooper Peeples assisted Apollo
into the vehicle, and called for backup. Id.
According to Trooper Peeples, he then observed Apollo engage
in a trained response, which indicated the presence of
illegal drugs on the driver's side floorboard.
Def.'s Br. Ex. A. at 4, Dkt. 18-2. Trooper
Peeples returned Apollo to his patrol car, and conducted a
search of the vehicle, during which he discovered the
methamphetamine at issue. Id.
Fourth Amendment prohibits ‘unreasonable searches and
seizures' by the Government, and its protections extend
to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall
short of traditional arrest.” United States v.
Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (internal quotations
omitted). Thus, the “[t]emporary detention of
individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police,
even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose,
constitutes a seizure of persons” subject to the Fourth
Amendment. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806,
seizure for a traffic violation justifies a police
investigation of that violation.” Rodriguez v.
United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015). But an
officer's authority for such a seizure ends “when
tasks tied to the traffic infraction are-or reasonably should
have been-completed.” Id. “The
Government's endeavor to detect crime in general or drug
trafficking in particular cannot justify prolonging an
ordinary traffic stop.” United States v.
Gorman, 859 F.3d 706, 715 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal
quotations omitted) (citing Rodriguez, 135 S.Ct. at
1616). Thus, an officer may prolong a traffic stop to conduct
an investigatory action only where he has “independent
reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. United
States v. Evans, 786 F.3d 779, 788 (9th Cir. 2015).
obtained as a result of an unreasonable search or seizure is
“ordinarily tainted by the prior illegality and thus
inadmissible, subject to a few recognized exceptions.”
Gorman, 859 F.3d at 716 (internal quotations
omitted). Where an “illegal stop was the impetus for
the chain of events” that led to the discovery of the
evidence in question, that evidence is inadmissible.
Id. The burden of demonstrating that evidence
obtained as a result of an extrajudicial search or seizure is
admissible rests with the Government. See id
(“the burden of showing admissibility rests on the
Wrobel argues that the evidence of methamphetamine found in
his vehicle must be suppressed because Trooper Peeples did
not have reasonable articulable suspicion to prolong the
traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff. The government has
conceded that Trooper Peeples prolonged the traffic stop when
he conducted the dog sniff after dispatch returned the wants
and warrants check on Mr. Wrobel. Pl.'s Br. at
7, Dkt. 23. The Defense contends, however, that Trooper
Peeples abandoned the ...