188 F.3d 860 (7th Cir. 1999), 98-4297, United States v. Brown

Docket Nº:98-4297
Citation:188 F.3d 860
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RONALD D. BROWN, JR., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 18, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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188 F.3d 860 (7th Cir. 1999)



RONALD D. BROWN, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 98-4297

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 18, 1999

Argued May 20, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 98 CR 84--Sarah Evans Barker, Chief Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.


Ronald Brown pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of five or more grams of cocaine base ("crack") with intent to distribute and was sentenced to 120 months in prison. As part of his plea agreement and under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2), he reserved his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence on the grounds that the drugs were seized as part of an illegal pat- down search. He appeals, and we affirm.

This case began in the early afternoon of June 8, 1998, in Indianapolis, Indiana, when Indiana State Trooper Dean Wildauer received a radio call from the FBI. The FBI asked Wildauer to find and stop a blue Chevy sports utility vehicle with a certain license plate number, which the FBI believed was involved in a large-scale drug operation, and to identify the occupants of the car. Shortly thereafter, Wildauer

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saw a blue Chevy with that license plate number going eastbound on 38th Street near Arlington Avenue. He believed that it was speeding, but was not close enough to get a reading. He followed and when he was close enough, he determined that the car was going 48 m.p.h. in a 40 m.p.h. zone and also that it was following other cars too closely in violation of Indiana traffic laws. Wildauer flashed his lights and pulled the Chevy over east of Alcase Street on 38th Street, a high crime area where there was drug and gang activity and where there had recently been several shootings. The car did not stop immediately but drove about another 50 yards.

Wildauer exited his patrol car and approached the driver's side of the Chevy. Through its tinted windows he saw, in addition to the driver, two passengers, one in the front and one in the rear seat. Wildauer identified himself, explained that he had pulled the Chevy over for traffic offenses, and requested the driver's license and registration. Brown, the defendant here, produced these documents. While standing by the driver's window, Wildauer smelled a very strong scent of marijuana smoke, an odor he was trained to recognize and was familiar with from hundreds of drug arrests. Wildauer asked Brown to get out of the Chevy and approach the patrol car. Brown did so, but appeared very nervous to Wildauer, more nervous than would be called for in a routine stop for speeding. Brown would not make eye contact and kept glancing back to the Chevy. As Wildauer spoke with Brown, he noticed that the passengers in the Chevy had lowered the tinted windows. Wildauer got into the patrol car and called for backup, telling the dispatcher that he had stopped a car and that illegal drugs might be involved.

Wildauer asked Brown if he was carrying any "guns, knives, or pistols" or any marijuana. Despite Brown's denials, Wildauer decided to make a pat-down search of Brown's clothing. Brown was wearing baggy clothes and several layers of pants. In this initial search, Wildauer found two hard objects either of which he thought might be a weapon. The first was in Brown's left front pants pocket and the second was in his groin area, which, Wildauer's experience told him, is a common place to carry a pistol. This second object he estimated to be about the...

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