U.S. v. Kimball

Decision Date07 January 1994
Docket NumberNo. 93-1755,93-1755
Citation25 F.3d 1
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Aaron KIMBALL, Defendant, Appellant. . Heard
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Peter Clifford, Kennebunkport, ME, by Appointment of the Court, for appellant.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Jay P. McCloskey, U.S. Atty., and George T. Dilworth, Asst. U.S. Atty., Portland, ME, were on brief, for appellee.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA and STAHL, Circuit Judges.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

Aaron Kimball was charged in a single count indictment with burglarizing a United States Post Office in North Waterboro, Maine, on October 2, 1992, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 2115 and 2. Kimball moved to suppress 1) physical evidence seized from the car in which he was riding and 2) all statements made to police by his codefendants on October 3, 1992, the morning of his arrest. The district court denied Kimball's motion. Kimball then entered a conditional plea of guilty to the indictment. Kimball now appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. We affirm.

A. Facts

We view the facts in the light most favorable to the district court's ruling with respect to Kimball's motion to suppress. See United States v. Maguire, 918 F.2d 254, 257 (1st Cir.1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 950, 111 S.Ct. 1421, 113 L.Ed.2d 474 (1991).

There were four night-time burglaries of schools and a church in western York County, Maine in late September 1992. The York County Sheriff's Department issued a crime bulletin related to these burglaries and distributed it to deputies in the Sheriff's department. The names "Huertas" and "Kimball" were handwritten on the bottom of the bulletin. It was apparently standard practice of the York County Sheriff's Department to write the names of suspects on the bottom of crime bulletins. No evidence was presented, however, as to specifically who wrote the names on the bottom of the bulletin or why these two men were thought to be suspects. The bulletin stated that the same modus operandi was used in all four burglaries: using a crow bar to pry doors, latches, and file cabinets open.

Just after midnight on October 3, 1992, Deputy Thomas Word saw an automobile in the Massabesic High School parking lot. As the vehicle pulled out of the school parking lot, Deputy Word recognized the vehicle as belonging to Gregory Huertas. Deputy Word knew that Huertas had previously been convicted of burglary, and that Huertas was a suspect in the recent burglaries. Deputy Word then pulled the vehicle over, and advised the York County dispatcher that he had stopped a suspicious vehicle that had been on school property. Deputy Word then approached the vehicle and saw Huertas in the driver's seat and Kimball in the right front passenger's seat. A man later identified as Michael Brochu was sitting between Huertas and Kimball in the front seat. Deputy Word shined his flashlight into the car, at which point he saw a crowbar and flashlight on the floor in the back seat.

Deputy Word requested that Huertas show him his license, Huertas complied, and Deputy Word returned to his car to run a license check. Before receiving a response from the dispatcher, Deputy Word went back to Huertas' vehicle and asked Huertas to step out of the car. Several other officers, including Deputy Philip Weymouth, arrived at the scene and informed Deputy Word that Huertas' license to operate an automobile had been suspended. Huertas was arrested and taken to the York County Sheriff's office. The deputies then asked Kimball and Brochu whether they would also go to the Sheriff's office, and they agreed to do so.

At the police station, after being given their Miranda rights, Huertas and Brochu were interviewed separately. They both admitted that they had burglarized the North Waterboro Post Office earlier that evening. Kimball did not speak to any of the officers and did not make a statement.

At the scene of the initial vehicle stop, Deputy Weymouth arranged to have Huertas' vehicle towed, and conducted an inventory search of the vehicle before it was towed. Deputy Weymouth recorded on the inventory form that he found two crowbars, a flashlight, a hammer, a pair of bolt cutters, and assorted screwdrivers in the vehicle.

B. Proceedings Below

Kimball filed a motion to suppress the introduction of evidence of the tools found in Huertas' vehicle and the statements made by Huertas and Brochu, claiming that the evidence obtained was the fruit of an unconstitutional stop of the car in which he was riding. The district court denied the motion, finding that the circumstances reasonably justified Deputy Word's initial stop of Huertas' vehicle and the initial detention of the vehicle's occupants. The court found that the scope of the stop was limited and reasonably related to the reasons that justified it. The court also found that the tools were seized as part of a lawful inventory search of the car.

Kimball now appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. Kimball contends that the district court erroneously concluded that 1) Deputy Word had the requisite reasonable suspicion necessary to stop Huertas' vehicle; 2) the stop was reasonable in its duration and scope; and 3) the physical evidence and incriminating statements were not legally attributable to an unlawful stop.

A. Does Kimball Have Standing 1 To Challenge the Stop?

As a threshold matter, the Government argues that Kimball lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of the stop of Huertas' vehicle. 2 We disagree.

Fourth Amendment rights are personal, and a proponent of a motion to suppress must prove that the challenged governmental action infringed upon his own Fourth Amendment rights. United States v. Soule, 908 F.2d 1032, 1034 (1st Cir.1990) (citing Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 131 n. 1, 99 S.Ct. 421, 424 n. 1, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978)). A police officer's act of stopping a vehicle and detaining its occupants constitutes a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1395-96, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979); see also Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 450, 110 S.Ct. 2481, 2485, 110 L.Ed.2d 412 (1990); United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 682, 105 S.Ct. 1568, 1573, 84 L.Ed.2d 605 (1985). Such a stop affects an occupant's interest in freedom from random, unauthorized, investigatory seizures. Prouse, 440 U.S. at 657, 99 S.Ct. at 1397-98. An occupant's interest in avoiding the substantial anxiety that such stops may create is also affected. Id.

When a police officer effects an investigatory stop of a vehicle, all occupants of that vehicle are subjected to a seizure, as defined by the Fourth Amendment. The fact that a defendant is a passenger in a vehicle as opposed to the driver is a distinction of no consequence in this context. The interest in freedom of movement and the interest in being free from fear and surprise are personal to all occupants of the vehicle, and an individual's interest is not diminished simply because he is a passenger as opposed to the driver when the stop occurred. See United States v. Erwin, 875 F.2d 268, 270 (10th Cir.1989). Both driver and passenger:

have their travel interrupted by the sight of a state patrol cruiser or police car looming large in the rear view mirror, are detained on the side of the road, have their identifying documents inspected by the trooper or policeman, and may even be asked to leave their vehicles for the duration of the questioning....

United States v. Powell, 929 F.2d 1190, 1195 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 584, 116 L.Ed.2d 609 (1991). Moreover, once a car is stopped, a passenger may feel no more free to leave the scene than the driver, without first being allowed to do so by the police officer. Erwin, 875 F.2d at 270 (citing Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 436, 104 S.Ct. 3138, 3148, 82 L.Ed.2d 317 (1984)). Rather, the passenger is subjected to the demands and control of the police officer, just as the driver is. Because a passenger's own interests are affected when the vehicle in which he is riding is stopped, he has standing to challenge the stop of that vehicle. United States v. Roberson, 6 F.3d 1088, 1091 (5th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1230, 127 L.Ed.2d 574 (1994); Erwin, 875 F.2d at 270; United States v. Portwood, 857 F.2d 1221, 1222 (8th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1069, 109 S.Ct. 2073, 104 L.Ed.2d 638 (1989); United States v. Durant, 730 F.2d 1180, 1182 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 843, 105 S.Ct. 149, 83 L.Ed.2d 87 (1984); see also Powell, 929 F.2d at 1194-95. 3 Thus, if the initial stop of the vehicle was illegal, evidence seized by virtue of that stop, such as the tools in this instance, may be subject to exclusion under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine. See, e.g., Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-85, 83 S.Ct. 407, 415-16, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963).

B. Was the Stop Constitutionally Valid?

As a preliminary matter, we set forth the applicable standard of review. Whether police activity is reasonable in any particular context depends on the facts which are unique to that incident. See United States v. Rodriguez-Morales, 929 F.2d 780, 783 (1st Cir.1991), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 868, 116 L.Ed.2d 774 (1992). The trial court has a superior sense of what actually transpired during an incident, by virtue of its ability to see and hear the witnesses who have first hand knowledge of the events. Id.; see also United States v. Karas, 950 F.2d 31, 35 (1st Cir.1991). Appellate oversight is therefore deferential, and we review "the district court's findings of fact following a suppression hearing, including mixed fact/law findings, under the clearly erroneous test." Rodriguez-Morales, 929 F.2d at 783 (citations omitted). If the district court applies...

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