United States v. Johnson, 112315 FED6, 14-2549

Docket Nº:14-2549
Opinion Judge:COLE, Chief Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SAMUEL DUANE JOHNSON, JR., Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:BEFORE: COLE, Chief Judge; DAUGHTREY and DONALD, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 23, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellant,


SAMUEL DUANE JOHNSON, JR., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 14-2549

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 23, 2015



BEFORE: COLE, Chief Judge; DAUGHTREY and DONALD, Circuit Judges.


COLE, Chief Judge.

The United States appeals the district court's order suppressing a firearm found in defendant Samuel Johnson's car during a traffic stop. The district court ruled that because the police had unconstitutionally seized Johnson before he rolled through a stop sign, this traffic violation could not justify the stop. Considering all the facts and circumstances, we conclude that Johnson's actions did not objectively demonstrate that he had submitted to police authority before he ran the stop sign, and he therefore was not seized before this violation. Accordingly, we reverse.

I. Background

Johnson worked as a pizza delivery manager in Flint, Michigan. He left work just before 1:45 a.m. the morning of May 25, 2012, and dropped off a co-worker before proceeding home.

Around 1:48 a.m., Johnson was driving east on Cooper Avenue. Johnson says that as he approached the stop sign at the intersection of Cooper Avenue and Wisner Street, he saw a Michigan State Police cruiser stopped about a block away, facing south. Johnson says he put on his blinker, came to a complete stop, then turned right and proceeded south on Wisner Street.

The Michigan State Police cruiser was being driven by Sergeant (then-Trooper) Bradley Ross. Ross's account differs from Johnson's. Ross says he was driving west on Cooper when he passed Johnson's car, which was headed east. Ross testified that Johnson rolled through the stop sign at the intersection of Cooper and Wisner. Ross then turned his car around to head back east on Cooper, turned south on Wisner, and followed Johnson.

With Ross in the patrol car was his partner, Trooper Jason Walters. Walters does not recall seeing Johnson roll through the stop sign at Cooper and Wisner, nor does he remember Ross turning the car around to pursue Johnson. According to Walters, one reason he could not remember the details of this particular stop was that he and Ross had been on a "directed patrol, " where the state police proactively patrol neighborhoods-especially high crime neighborhoods like the one where Johnson was driving. Under directed patrol, police officers strictly enforce traffic laws, making as many as 30 stops in a night.

Regardless of whether Johnson actually rolled through the stop sign or not, the police began following him south on Wisner, a long block measuring approximately 600 feet. The police activated their lights somewhere between half and two-thirds of the way down the block. Johnson, purportedly fearing police brutality, decided not to stop on Wisner, which was dark, deserted, and in a dangerous neighborhood. Johnson continued driving the remaining few hundred feet to the end of the block, activated his turn signal, and turned right onto Myrtle Avenue. In making this turn onto Myrtle, Johnson did not come to a full stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Wisner and Myrtle. He then turned right into the BP gas station about a hundred feet down the block on Myrtle, where he pulled up to a gas pump and stopped his car.

Once Johnson was stopped, Ross and Walters exited their vehicle and approached Johnson's car. Ross asked Johnson for his driver's license. Johnson, who had been without a valid license for several years, handed Ross a Michigan identification card instead. Because Johnson had not produced a driver's license, Ross asked Johnson to step out of his car. Johnson initially refused but eventually agreed after Ross repeated his instruction.

As Johnson exited the vehicle, Ross saw a revolver lying on the car's floor by the open door. Ross immediately attempted to handcuff Johnson. Johnson, however, broke...

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