U.S. v. Burton

Decision Date02 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. 01-6374.,01-6374.
Citation334 F.3d 514
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Dwight L. BURTON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Christopher E. Cotton (briefed), Assistant United States Attorney, Memphis, TN, Victor L. Ivy (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Jackson, TN, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Doris A. Randle-Holt (argued), M. Dianne Smothers (briefed), Asst. Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Tennessee, Memphis, TN, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before: KRUPANSKY, SILER, and GILMAN, Circuit Judges.


GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

A federal grand jury indicted Dwight L. Burton for possessing five grams or more of cocaine base with the intent to distribute, and for possessing a firearm both as a felon and in furtherance of drug trafficking. After the district court denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained during a December 8, 2000 search of his person and automobile, Burton conditionally pled guilty to all but the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court then sentenced him to 120 months of imprisonment, followed by 4 years of supervised release. Burton appeals, challenging the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

A. Factual background

Officer Gary Davidson was on patrol in Henderson, Tennessee on December 8, 2000, when Assistant Police Chief Dennis Haltom told him that the department had received information that two black men were selling narcotics on Baughn Street. Although Assistant Chief Haltom had received this information from a reliable confidential informant, Officer Davidson was not aware of the source at the time. Indeed, he surmised that the information was based upon an anonymous tip. Officer Davidson did know, however, that Baughn Street was a high-crime area.

At approximately 11:30 p.m. that evening, Officer Davidson arrived at Baughn Street. He circled around a parking lot and noticed an automobile turn onto the street. The automobile came to a stop approximately ten feet from a "no parking" sign. Two black men got into the back seat. The automobile did not depart. After waiting a few seconds, Officer Davidson proceeded toward the stopped automobile in his police cruiser, driving up immediately behind it. Several more seconds passed with no movement by either vehicle, at which point Officer Davidson turned on his cruiser's police lights.

Officer Davidson then exited his cruiser and approached the automobile. He asked the driver, who was later identified as Burton, to produce his driver's license. Burton supplied his license as requested. According to Davidson, he then asked Burton to step out of the automobile. After Burton complied, Officer Davidson asked him several questions, including whether he owned the automobile and whether there was anything illegal inside.

Burton was then asked if he would consent to a search of the automobile. He agreed to do so. Burton was in fact in the process of signing a consent-to-search form when Assistant Chief Haltom arrived on the scene.

Burton then acceded to Officer Davidson's request that he put his hands on his head and be patted down for safety purposes. Immediately before beginning the pat down, Officer Davidson asked Burton: "Is there anything on you I need to know about, such as needles or anything in this nature?" Burton responded by admitting that he was carrying marijuana in his pants pocket. Officer Davidson retrieved the bag of marijuana and asked Burton: "Dwight, do you have anything else?" Burton replied that he had more narcotics in his shirt pocket. Officer Davidson thereupon extracted a snuff box containing crack cocaine from Burton's shirt pocket. After completing the pat-down, Officer Davidson placed Burton under arrest for drug possession. During the ensuing search of the automobile, a firearm was discovered.

B. Procedural background

The grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Burton. Count One charged him with violating 21 U.S.C. § 841 by possessing five grams or more of cocaine base with the intent to distribute. The second and third counts charged Burton with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924 and 922 for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and while a felon, respectively. Burton filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained by Officer Davidson during the incident on Baughn Street. After conducting a hearing on this issue, the district court denied the motion. Burton then conditionally pled guilty to Counts One and Two, with the government dismissing Count Three. The district court subsequently sentenced him to 120 months of imprisonment, followed by 4 years of supervised release. This timely appeal followed.


"A district court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence is reviewed under a hybrid standard. Its findings of fact are reviewed under the `clearly erroneous' standard, but its conclusions of law are reviewed de novo." United States v. Orlando, 281 F.3d 586, 593 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 947, 123 S.Ct. 411, 154 L.Ed.2d 290 (2002).

Burton argues that Officer Davidson's initial stop of the automobile was unlawful. The Fourth Amendment, however, permits an officer who has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation is occurring to detain the automobile, regardless of the officer's subjective motivation for the stop. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 812-13, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996). In this case, Officer Davidson observed the automobile that Burton was driving parked near a no-parking sign. Burton claims that he was not violating any traffic law because he was not technically "parked" within the meaning of Henderson's municipal parking ordinance.

We find this argument unpersuasive for two reasons. First, Burton failed to raise it in the district court. This court has held that "a defendant who fails to raise a specific issue as the basis for suppression has waived the right to raise that issue on appeal." United States v. Critton, 43 F.3d 1089, 1093 (6th Cir.1995) (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, in his motion to suppress, Burton himself referred to the incident in question as "an ordinary traffic stop [in this instance a parking violation]...." (Brackets in original.) He also acknowledged that "[i]n the present case," a police officer saw "a vehicle which appeared to be parked in a `no parking' area."

Second, the traffic laws of both Henderson and the state of Tennessee fail to support Burton's argument. Burton cites § 15-601 of the Henderson traffic code for the proposition that an automobile must be left unattended to be considered parked. But § 15-601 provides no such definition. Rather, it sets forth an independent rule that "[n]o person shall leave any motor vehicle unattended on any street without first setting the brakes thereon...." More on point is the state statute that defines parking as "the standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, otherwise than temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading." Tenn.Code Ann. § 55-8-101(38). Both Henderson and the state of Tennessee ban parking where a sign prohibits it. Henderson, Tn. Ordinances ch. 6, § 15-604 ("No person shall park a vehicle in violation of any sign placed or erected by the state or city...."); Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-160(a)(14) (forbidding stopping, standing, or parking "[a]t any place where official signs prohibit stopping"). Because he observed the automobile driven by Burton stopped near a no-parking sign while not actually engaged in loading or unloading, Officer Davidson had probable cause to believe that Burton was violating local and state traffic laws.

Burton argues alternatively that even if the initial stop was justified, its scope exceeded that which is constitutionally permissible. He relies on United States v. Mesa, 62 F.3d 159 (6th Cir.1995), where this court stated: "Once the purposes of the initial traffic stop were completed, there is no doubt that the officer could not further detain the vehicle or its occupants unless something that occurred during the traffic stop generated the necessary reasonable suspicion to justify a further detention." Id. at 162. Burton contends that "Davidson admitted that once he gave Mr. Burton's license back to him, he could have simply given him a citation for parking in a no-parking zone." Any further detention, Burton argues, was unlawful absent reasonable suspicion that other criminal activity was afoot.

The Mesa court's statement, however, no longer accurately represents the law. In Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 117 S.Ct. 417, 136 L.Ed.2d 347 (1996), the Supreme Court considered whether a motorist's Fourth Amendment rights were violated where, after initially being stopped for a traffic violation, the motorist was ordered out of his automobile by the police officer and asked if he would consent to a search of the vehicle for illegal contraband. Id. at 35-36, 117 S.Ct. 417. Because the officer's question had exceeded the scope of the traffic stop's initial purpose, the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that the consent subsequently obtained was invalid. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Fourth Amendment required only that the detention and question be reasonable under the particular facts of the case. Id. at 39, 117 S.Ct. 417. Following Robinette, this court in United States v. Guimond, 116 F.3d 166 (6th Cir.1997), read Mesa to apply on its facts — where the motorist's consent was obtained only after she had been detained in a locked police cruiser for a considerable period of time after the initial stop — rather than as setting forth an inflexible rule. Id. at 171 (quoting the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
73 cases
  • U.S. v. Bohanon
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Tennessee
    • April 17, 2009
    ...extend the stop's duration." Arizona v. Johnson, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 781, 788, 172 L.Ed.2d 694 (2009); accord United States v. Burton, 334 F.3d 514, 518-19 (6th Cir.2003); United States v. Ellis, 497 F.3d 606, 613-14 (6th Cir.2007); Hill, 195 F.3d at 268. It is also well established an ......
  • Reid Machinery, Inc. v. Lanzer
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • April 30, 2009
    ...Fourth Amendment if the officer has probable cause to believe that the motorist has violated the traffic laws. See United States v. Burton, 334 F.3d 514, 516 (6th Cir.2003); U.S. v. Garrido 467 F.3d 971, 977-978 (6th Cir.2006). The Court concludes that the numerous facts which established a......
  • United States v. Noble
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • August 8, 2014
    ...incorrectly, that Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 39, 117 S.Ct. 417, 136 L.Ed.2d 347 (1996), abrogates Mesa); United States v. Burton, 334 F.3d 514, 517 (6th Cir.2003) (same); see Robinette, 519 U.S. at 38, 117 S.Ct. 417 (expressly declining to address whether the stop exceeded its lawful s......
  • State v. Washington
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • December 31, 2008
    ...a suspect while his license was being checked did not unreasonably delay the detention and was thus permissible); United States v. Burton, 334 F.3d 514, 518-19 (6th Cir.2003) (holding that a handful of questions asked, including requesting a search of the defendant's vehicle, was not "unusu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT