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United States v. Haskell

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 30, 2018



          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Court Judge


         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Dkt. 27). The Government filed a Response to the Motion (Dkt. 32) on January 19, 2018 and the Defense did not file any Reply. The Court heard testimony at an evidentiary hearing on February 26, 2018. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny the motion.


         On January 21, 2017 at 4:35 p.m., Caldwell Police Officers Matthew Hodnett and Larry Hemmert were dispatched to a traffic accident involving Defendant Haskell. Def.'s Br. at 1-2, Dkt. 27-1. Officer Hemmert arrived first. Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 1, Dkt 27-2. After determining the crash to be minor, with no injuries, Officer Hemmert had the parties move the vehicles out of traffic and onto an access road leading to the parking lot of the Sage Valley Middle School. Id. When Officer Hodnett arrived, Mr. Haskell was seated in the driver's seat of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, which was parked on the access road, partially in the roadway. Id; Def.'s Br. Ex. C at 16:56-16:58.[1] At some point, the officers obtained Mr. Haskell's license and registration. Id. Officer Hodnett proceeded to ask Mr. Haskell a series of questions, including whether the car was insured. Def.'s Br. Ex. C at 16:56-16:58. Mr. Haskell responded that he did not know whether the car was insured, but that he personally had SR-22 insurance. Id. He did not have proof of insurance with him. Def.'s Br. Ex. B at 1, Dkt 27-3.

         The officers ran Mr. Haskell's information and determined that his driver's license had been suspended. Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 1, Dkt 27-2; Ex. B at 1, Dkt. 27-3. At some point, Officer Hemmert also ran a criminal background check on Mr. Haskell and determined he had a prior felony conviction. Officer Hodnett then returned to Mr. Haskell's vehicle, and informed Mr. Haskell that his license was suspended, and someone else would need to pick up the car. Def.'s Br. Ex. C at 16:58. Mr. Haskell asked if he could park the car out of the way. Id. Officer Hodnett advised Mr. Haskell he would have to wait until Officer Hodnett completed the paperwork. Id.

         At the hearing, Officer Hodnett testified that he intended to allow Mr. Haskell to move the vehicle to the parking lot of the Sage Valley Middle School. Officer Hodnett further testified that there were increased reports of accidents that day, due to the snowy conditions, and that as such he intended to return to patrol rather than to wait for a third party to retrieve the vehicle.

         Officer Hodnett returned to the vehicle with the written citations, and gave Mr. Haskell back his license and the vehicle registration. Def.'s Br. Ex. C at 17:14. Officer Hodnett asked if there was anything in the car that he needed to know about. Mr. Haskell shook his head. Officer Hodnett asked whether he could “take a look.” Id. Mr. Haskell shrugged and said, “I don't see why not.” Id. This exchange took four seconds.

         Officer Hodnett gestured for Mr. Haskell to exit the vehicle, and Mr. Haskell complied. Id. Officer Hodnett showed Mr. Haskell the written citations, and explained that he was being cited for following too close and driving on a suspended license. Id. Officer Hodnett also informed Mr. Haskell that the citation indicated he did not have proof of insurance, but that he could bring such proof to court. Id. Officer Hodnett then handed the citations to Mr. Haskell and directed him to stand near the rear of the vehicle while Officer Hodnett searched the vehicle. Id. Mr. Haskell informed Officer Hodnett that there was a shotgun in the vehicle. Id. Officer Hemmert noted that Mr. Haskell was a prohibited person due to his prior felony conviction, placed him in handcuffs, and read him his rights. Id. The officers proceeded to search the vehicle and discovered the shotgun. Def.'s Br. Ex. A at 1, Dkt. 27-2.

         Mr. Haskell does not challenge the constitutionality of the initial seizure, nor that the search of the vehicle was conducted with his valid consent. Rather, Mr. Haskell only challenges the constitutionality of Officer Hodnett's request for consent to search. He argues that Officer Hodnett impermissibly prolonged the seizure by four seconds when he asked to search the vehicle rather than proceeding to issue the citations detailed above.


         “The 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). 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' within the meaning of [the Fourth Amendment].” Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996).

         “[T]here is ‘no ready test for determining reasonableness other than by balancing the need to search (or seize) against the invasion which the search (or seizure) entails.'” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968). Generally, “searches and seizures conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions.” Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 372 (1993). “[A] search conducted pursuant to a valid consent is constitutionally permissible.” Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 222 (1973). Further, “[a] seizure for a traffic violation justifies a police investigation of that violation.” Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015).

         To determine whether the length of a particular stop is reasonable, courts must look to the purpose of the stop. Id. (“the tolerable duration of police inquiries . . . is determined by the seizure's mission . . .”). A stop becomes unlawful when it is prolonged “beyond the time reasonable required” to complete the tasks necessary to effectuate the mission of the stop. Id. at 1614-15. Thus, an officer's authority to detain an individual ends when those tasks are, or reasonably should be, completed. Id. at 1614. When an officer prolongs a stop to conduct an unrelated inquiry, he may do so only on the basis of “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 21; see also Rodriguez, 135 S.Ct. at 1615 (finding that an officer may not prolong an otherwise lawful traffic stop to conduct unrelated checks ÔÇťabsent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify ...

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