United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Court has before it a motion to suppress filed by the
defendant, Edward Eric Behrens (Dkt. 10). The Court held an
evidentiary hearing on May 22, 2019. For the reasons
explained below, the Court will deny the motion.
February 2, 2019, City of Boise Police Officers Connor Burch
and Andrea Matheus performed a traffic stop on a black
Chevrolet Impala while on patrol near Sunrise Rim Road in
Boise, Idaho. Officers Burch and Matheus decided to initiate
the traffic stop because the Impala did not have a
properly-affixed front license plate. Dkt. 10-1 at 2; Dkt. 12
at 2-3. After observing the Impala take several turns into
parking lots and side streets indicating an effort to
“avoid police presence, ” the officers initiated
the stop. Dkt. 10-2 at 6. At approximately 8:21:10 p.m.
Officer Burch exited his police cruiser, approached the
driver's side of the vehicle, and informed Mr. Behrens
that he had been pulled over because the Impala did not have
a front license plate. Dkt. 10-1 at 2. Mr. Behrens responded
that he had a front license plate, but that he had placed it
in the lower right corner of the front windshield.
Id. Officer Burch explained to Mr. Behrens that
according to Idaho law the license plate must be attached to
the front of the vehicle, not propped in the front
windshield. Dkt. 10-2, Ex. B, Video No. 1.
Officer Burch asked for Mr. Behrens' license,
registration, and proof of insurance. Dkt. 10-1 at 3. Mr.
Behrens acknowledged to the officer that he did not have a
license because it was suspended for failure to pay child
support. Id. Officer Burch proceeded to investigate
this potential violation as well. Dkt. 10-2, Ex. B, Video No.
1. Because Mr. Behrens did not have a license, Officer Burch
requested an alternate form of identification and Mr. Behrens
gave him a copy of the citation suspending his license, his
identification card, and the vehicle's registration. Dkt.
10-1 at 3. While waiting for Mr. Behrens to produce his
license and registration, Officer Burch inquired into Mr.
Behrens' probationary status. Id. Mr. Behrens
responded that he was on probation for distributing
methamphetamines, that he was compliant with the conditions
of his probation, and that he had been a drug user in the
past. Id. at 3-4. Officer Burch stopped questioning
Mr. Behrens as soon as he was provided with the proper
documentation. Id. at 4. In all, the exchange lasted
about 2 minutes 39 seconds. Id. Two other officers
were present during the stop: Officer Matheus, who was riding
along with Officer Burch as a trainer, and Officer Nick
Peterson, who arrived in a separate vehicle while Officer
Burch was questioning Mr. Behrens. Id.
receiving Mr. Behrens' documentation at 8:24:02 p.m.,
Officer Burch returned to his cruiser to run a check on Mr.
Behrens' lack of active license. At the same time,
Officer Matheus requested that Officer Peterson stay by the
vehicle. Dkt. 10-1 at 4. Officer Peterson engaged in small
talk with Mr. Behrens while waiting by his car. Dkt. 10-2,
Ex. B, Video Nos. 1 & 2. Several minutes passed, and at
approximately 8:30 p.m. Officer Peterson requested that Mr.
Behrens exit the vehicle. Id. at 5. When Mr. Behrens
asked why, Officer Peterson responded that the police were
bringing a drug dog by the car, and he wanted Mr. Behrens to
get out so that he “doesn't get bit.”
Id. The police walked Mr. Behrens away from his
Impala at approximately 8:31 p.m., and Officer Peterson
waited with him for approximately two minutes. Dkt. 10-2, Ex.
B, Video Nos. 1-3. Officer Matheus then inquired whether Mr.
Behrens had any weapons and then removed a knife from Mr.
Behrens' front jacket pocket. Id.
approximately 8:31:41 p.m. Officer Matthew Lane, who had
arrived in the interim, circled the vehicle with a drug dog
for approximately one minute, until 8:32:44 p.m. Dkt. 10-2,
Ex. B, Video No. 3. The dog alerted next to the driver's
side door at approximately 8:32:14 p.m. Id.
Meanwhile, the other officers kept Mr. Behrens away from his
vehicle. Id. Mr. Behrens asked Officer Peterson,
“Can I get back in my car now?” Dkt. 10, Ex. B,
Video No. 5. Officer Peterson responded, “No. Maybe in
just a few minutes.” Id.
the stop for an improperly affixed license plate, Officer
Burch learned that Mr. Behrens was driving with a suspended
license. See Dkt. 10-2, Ex. B, Video No. 1. After receiving
Mr. Behrens' proof of identification and registration,
Officer Burch returned to his police cruiser to investigate
relevant facts behind Mr. Behrens' suspended license and
prepare the citation. Id. Officer Burch arrived at
his car at 8:24:20 p.m. and the video shows him preparing the
citation until approximately 8:35 p.m. Id. The
police call records confirm that Officer Burch was
investigating outstanding warrants and confirming Mr.
Behrens' registration, insurance, and lack of active
license during that time. Dkt. 10-2 at 15-23. Nothing on the
video shows Officer Burch was in any way involved with or
delayed by the K-9 sniff. Dkt. 10-2, Ex. B at Video Nos. 1-3.
Officer Burch confirmed as much at the May 22, 2019 hearing.
The Court found Officer Burch's testimony during the May
22, 2019 hearing credible, and that it confirmed the
information available on the body camera footage and in 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).
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) (quoting
Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 536-37 (1967)).
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).
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 reasonably 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.
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
“absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to
justify detaining an individual.”). An officer may,
however, take “certain negligibly burdensome
precautions in order to complete his mission safely, ”
where the officer's safety interest “stems from the
mission of the stop itself.” Rodriguez, 135 S.Ct. at
Behrens argues that evidence obtained as a result of the
traffic stop and subsequent search should be suppressed on
the following grounds: (1) the initial stop was based on the
officer's mistake of law, and is therefore unreasonable
under Article 1, § 17 of the Idaho Constitution; (2) the
traffic stop was impermissibly abandoned, expanded, and
delayed without independent reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity; and (3) no exception to the warrant requirement
justifies the violation to Mr. Behrens' rights under the
U.S. and Idaho Constitutions. The Government responds that
the police had reasonable grounds to stop Mr. Behrens in the
first place, that the stop was not extended beyond its