782 F.3d 289 (6th Cir. 2015), 13-6349, United States v. Winters

Docket Nº:13-6349
Citation:782 F.3d 289
Opinion Judge:BOGGS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. PATRICK J. WINTERS, Defendant-Appellant
Attorney:C. Mark Pickrell, THE PICKRELL LAW GROUP, P.C., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Terra L. Bay, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellee. C. Mark Pickrell, THE PICKRELL LAW GROUP, P.C., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Terra L. Bay, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFF...
Judge Panel:Before: BOGGS and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges; and HOOD, District Judge.[*]
Case Date:March 31, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 289

782 F.3d 289 (6th Cir. 2015)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

PATRICK J. WINTERS, Defendant-Appellant

No. 13-6349

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 31, 2015

Argued: December 3, 2014

Page 290

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 291

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga. No. 1:12-cr-00102-1-Harry S. Mattice, Jr., District Judge.

ARGUED:

C. Mark Pickrell, THE PICKRELL LAW GROUP, P.C., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Terra L. Bay, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

C. Mark Pickrell, THE PICKRELL LAW GROUP, P.C., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Terra L. Bay, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: BOGGS and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges; and HOOD, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

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BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-Appellant Patrick J. Winters appeals from the district court's denial of his motion to suppress drug evidence discovered by the police following a traffic stop and dog sniff. In August 2012, a Chattanooga, Tennessee police officer stopped a rental car, in which Winters was the passenger, for speeding. During the stop, the occupants' nervous behavior, inconsistent and implausible travel plans, and suspicious rental arrangement led the officer to believe that the occupants may have been trafficking contraband. After he had completed issuing a warning ticket for speeding, the officer extended the traffic stop for four minutes to retrieve his drug-detection dog from his cruiser. Twenty-four minutes after the stop was initiated, the officer deployed his dog around the rental car, and the dog alerted to the presence of narcotics. Upon searching the vehicle, the officer discovered a one-kilogram package of heroin in Winters's bag on the back seat. Winters was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin. He later moved unsuccessfully to suppress the drug evidence and entered a conditional guilty plea that reserved his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion.

On appeal, Winters asserts that the officer unreasonably extended the traffic stop of the rental car in order to conduct a dog sniff, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, Winters argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409, 185 L.Ed.2d 495 (2013), establishes that a dog sniff of an automobile must be justified by probable cause, and not mere reasonable suspicion.

We hold that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified extending the stop for a few minutes to conduct a dog sniff using a drug-detection dog that was already on the scene. Furthermore, the Supreme Court's decision in Jardines is premised on a trespass rationale involving the special protection accorded to the home and, therefore, it does not alter the analysis for traffic stops. In any event, the officer was entitled to reasonably rely in good faith on the binding precedent existing at the time of the traffic stop, which established that the use of a drug-detection dog during a lawful traffic stop does not require probable cause. As a result, we affirm the denial of Winters's motion to suppress.

I

A

Winters was arrested in connection with a traffic stop conducted by Chattanooga Police Officer Jason Duggan on August 9, 2012. Following the use of a drug-detection dog during that stop, Officer Duggan discovered a one-kilogram package of heroin in Winters's bag on the back seat of the rental car in which he was traveling. Winters later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), on the condition that he preserve his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress the drug evidence.

The magistrate judge assigned to consider Winters's motion held an evidentiary hearing on December 21, 2012, at which Officer Duggan testified. Following the hearing, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation recounting the largely undisputed facts and finding, among other things, that the stop was not unreasonably extended when Officer Duggan conducted a dog-sniff inspection after he completed the warning ticket for speeding.

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United States v. Winters, No. 1:12-CR-102, 2013 WL 1498075 (E.D. Tenn. Jan. 22, 2013). Although the original purpose of the traffic stop was concluded, the magistrate judge determined that Officer Duggan developed reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified extending the stop beyond what was originally permissible based on the speeding violation alone. See Id. at *10. Winters did not object to the facts outlined in the magistrate judge's report, only to the legal conclusions regarding, inter alia, the reasonableness of the dog sniff. The district court subsequently adopted the report and recommendation and denied Winters's motion to suppress on April 10, 2013. United States v. Winters, No. 1:12-CR-102, 2013 WL 1482925 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 10, 2013). The factual background presented below is largely derived from the magistrate judge's report and recommendation.

B

At 12:04 a.m. on August 9, 2012, Officer Jason Duggan, patrolling with his dog, Red, in a K-9 unit assigned to the Chattanooga Police Department's Highway Interdiction Team, stopped a rental car on I-24 for driving 72 mph in a 55 mph zone. Officer Duggan approached the car at 12:06 a.m., and spoke with the driver, Jessica Harris, who acknowledged that she was driving in excess of the speed limit. Ms. Harris appeared nervous when questioned by Officer Duggan. She apologized to Patrick Winters, who was the only passenger in the car, for speeding, and trembled as she produced her license. Ms. Harris informed Officer Duggan that she was en route to Memphis from Georgia.

When Officer Duggan requested the contract for the rental car, Winters handed him all of the vehicle's registration paperwork and stated that he was responsible for the car even though it was rented in his cousin's name. When Officer Duggan returned to his patrol car to examine the rental contract, he learned that the car was rented in Atlanta, Georgia by Robin Winters at 7:45 p.m. on August 8, roughly four hours before the stop was made; Robin Winters was the only authorized driver; and the rental car was due to be dropped off in Chicago, Illinois at 5:00 p.m. that evening, August 9. Officer Duggan found this information suspicious, as Ms. Harris had stated that she was going to Memphis, not Chicago; neither Ms. Harris nor Winters was an authorized driver; and a car rented for less than a day was making an out-of-the-way journey through Memphis en route to Chicago.

At 12:12 a.m., Officer Duggan had Ms. Harris get out of the car and began to write her a warning ticket for speeding. He further questioned Ms. Harris regarding her travel plans and learned the following: 1) Winters was Ms. Harris's cousin and he frequently traveled from Chicago to Atlanta; 2) they were traveling to Memphis to visit Ms. Harris's family and then rest, and would continue on to Chicago where Winters would remain; 3) Ms. Harris would fly back to Atlanta from Chicago after a day or so; and 4) the car was rented by another cousin. Ms. Harris did not mention Chicago as their destination until Officer Duggan asked where she was traveling after Memphis. Officer Duggan's suspicions were further aroused by Ms. Harris's descriptions of her travel plans, which involved a significant detour of 200 miles to Memphis during a trip from Atlanta to Chicago, all within the period of less than 24 hours for which the car was rented. He believed that these plans were implausible and inconsistent with Ms. Harris's statement that she was traveling to Memphis to visit family and rest.

At 12:17 a.m., Officer Duggan informed Ms. Harris that he would finish the warning

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citation after speaking to Winters about the rental contract. At the evidentiary hearing held by the magistrate judge, Officer Duggan testified that, by 12:17, he had " addressed" the speeding violation, though he had not yet completed the section of the warning ticket regarding consent to search the vehicle, which he completes on every ticket that he writes.

Officer Duggan then left Ms. Harris near his patrol car and returned to the rental car to question Winters. As Officer Duggan approached, Winters was speaking on his cell phone but abruptly hung up. Winters told Officer Duggan the following: 1) Winters and Ms. Harris were going to Memphis for about two days (which conflicted with Ms. Harris's initial statements and the rental agreement); 2) Ms. Harris would fly back to Atlanta from Memphis (and not from Chicago as Ms. Harris claimed); 3) Winters would travel alone to Chicago; and 4) Winters's cousin who rented the car could easily add time to the rental contract or pay a late fee. Winters " nervously engaged in excessive talking" throughout the encounter, and, like Ms. Harris, he did not mention traveling to Chicago until Officer Duggan asked where they were going after Memphis. Ms. Harris herself continued to pace and move around nervously as she waited outside the car while Officer Duggan spoke to Winters. Suspicious that criminal activity was afoot, Officer Duggan radioed for backup at 12:21 a.m. He then returned to speak with Ms. Harris.

Around 12:22 a.m., Officer Duggan obtained Ms. Harris's telephone number to include on the warning ticket. Ms. Harris seemed surprised when Officer Duggan told her that Winters claimed they were staying in Memphis for two days...

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