United States v. Campbell

Decision Date16 February 2022
Docket NumberNo. 16-10128,16-10128
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Erickson Meko CAMPBELL, Defendant- Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Lindsay Feinberg, Michelle Lee Schieber, Tamara A. Jarrett, Graham A. Thorpe, U.S. Attorney's Office, Macon, GA, Francesco Valentini, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Jonathan Dodson, Martin J. Vogelbaum, Christina Lee Hunt, Jared Scott Westbroek, Federal Public Defender's Office, Macon, GA, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before William Pryor, Chief Judge, Wilson, Jordan, Rosenbaum, Jill Pryor, Newsom, Branch, Grant, Luck, Lagoa, Brasher, and Tjoflat,* Circuit Judges.

William Pryor, Chief Judge, filed a concurring opinion.

Newsom and Jordan, Circuit Judges, filed a dissenting opinion, in which Wilson, Rosenbaum, and Jill Pryor, Circuit Judges, joined.

Tjoflat, Circuit Judge:

Generally, issues that are not raised in a party's brief on appeal are considered abandoned. But that rule is not ironclad, and we may exercise our discretion to consider issues not raised by the parties on appeal. Erickson Meko Campbell appeals the District Court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence he claims was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Before the panel, both Campbell and the Government argued about whether a Fourth Amendment violation occurred. However, neither addressed whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule would allow the suppression of that evidence even if a Fourth Amendment violation did occur. We asked the parties in our en banc briefing notice the following question: "Is the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule a proper ground for affirming Campbell's conviction despite the government's failure to raise that alternative ground before the panel?" We conclude that we have the power to reach the good-faith exception in this case and exercise our discretion to do so. We also conclude that the good-faith exception applies in this case. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of Campbell's motion to suppress.


On the cool night of December 12, 2013, Greene County Deputy Sheriff Robert McCannon was patrolling Interstate 20 in Georgia. Around 9:00 PM that evening, McCannon saw a grey Nissan Maxima cross the fog line—the line on the side of the highway that separates the roadway from the shoulder. So, McCannon activated the camera on the dashboard of his police cruiser and began following the Maxima. After observing the Maxima cross the fog line a second time and noticing that its rear left turn signal blinked at an unusually quick pace, he pulled the car over. At that point, McCannon approached the Maxima from the passenger's side, asked the driver—Erickson Campbell—for his driver's license, and explained why he pulled him over. McCannon stated that he stopped Campbell for failing to maintain his lane and for the apparent turn signal issue. At McCannon's request, Campbell activated his left turn signal, which again flashed rapidly, and his front signal lights. McCannon informed Campbell that he most likely had a bulb out, and the two had a short conversation about the cause of the blinker problem.

After determining that the Maxima's left turn signal was malfunctioning, McCannon decided to issue Campbell a warning—but not a full-on ticket—for failing to comply with two Georgia traffic regulations: failure to maintain signal lights in good working condition1 and failure to stay within the driving lane.2 McCannon then asked Campbell to step out of the Maxima and accompany him to the patrol car while he wrote the citation. As he wrote up the warning, McCannon requested that dispatch run a check on Campbell's license. At the same time, he struck up a conversation with Campbell. He learned where Campbell worked, that Campbell was en route to Augusta to see his family, that Campbell had been arrested sixteen years ago for a DUI, and that Campbell was not traveling with a firearm. Then, McCannon asked Campbell if he had any counterfeit CDs or DVDs, illegal alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy, or dead bodies in his car. This second set of questions took about twenty-five seconds, and Campbell either shook his head or answered no in response to each inquiry. At that point, McCannon asked Campbell if he could search his car for any of those items, and Campbell consented.

While McCannon kept writing the warning, Sergeant Patrick Paquette—who had arrived on scene a few minutes earlier—began searching Campbell's car. McCannon then finished writing up the citation, had Campbell sign it, and joined Paquette in the search. The officers found a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, 9mm ammunition, a black stocking cap, and a camouflage face mask in a bag hidden under the carpet in the Maxima's trunk. Once confronted about the contents of his trunk, Campbell admitted that he lied about not traveling with a firearm because he was a convicted felon. So, Campbell was arrested.


On August 13, 2014, a grand jury indicted Campbell for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). A few months later, Campbell filed a motion to suppress claiming that the evidence found in the search of his car was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Campbell first contended that the seizure was unreasonable because McCannon lacked reasonable suspicion to believe that a traffic violation had occurred. The rapidly blinking turn signal, Campbell argued, did not supply reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop. In Campbell's view, all that O.C.G.A. § 40–8–26 requires is that the turn signal "indicat[e] a driver's intention to change lanes," and the Maxima's left turn signal was able to do that. That the signal did not blink as designed was irrelevant, Campbell said, because the statute did not require that a turn signal "(1) blink in unison with the other turn signal, (2) blink at a certain pace, or even, (3) blink as intended by the vehicle manufacturer."

But even if there was reasonable suspicion, Campbell argued that the seizure was nevertheless unreasonable because McCannon prolonged the stop by asking questions unrelated to the purpose of the stop. Specifically, he challenged questions on the following topics:

McCannon asked ... : (1) where [Campbell] was going, (2) who he was going to see, (3) where he worked, (4) if he had time off work, (5) when his last traffic ticket was, (6) if he had ever been arrested, (7) how old his car was, (8) how good of [a] deal he got on his car, (9) whether he had any counterfeit merchandise in the car, and, (10) if he had a dead body in the car.

Relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Rodriguez v. United States , 575 U.S. 348, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 191 L.Ed.2d 492 (2015), Campbell maintained that if McCannon prolonged the stop at all through these inquiries, the stop became unlawful. And if the seizure was an unreasonable seizure, Campbell concluded, any consent he had given the officers to search his car was tainted, requiring that the evidence uncovered during the search be suppressed.

The District Court held an evidentiary hearing on Campbell's motion to suppress in May 2015. McCannon—whom the Government called to the stand—was the lone witness. Aside from his testimony, the Court had the benefit of the video created by McCannon's dashboard camera. The video portrays what transpired between McCannon's activation of the camera and Campbell's arrest, including the questioning Campbell complains of as unrelated to the purpose of the stop:

0:00: McCannon activates the camera.
2:05–16: McCannon provides the Sheriff's Office dispatcher with the car's license plate number. The dispatcher runs the number and informs him that it belongs to Erickson Campbell, an "active felon."
2:31: McCannon activates his patrol car's flashing lights.
2:36–58: Campbell pulls over.
3:25–32: McCannon approaches the car from the passenger side and requests Campbell's driver's license.
3:34–4:42: McCannon explains to Campbell that he stopped him for "weaving in [his] lane" and because his left turn signal was blinking rapidly. McCannon says the rapid blinking means "you've got a bulb out somewhere." He then checks the lights in the front and back of the car, none of which are out. McCannon says it must be that the turn signal is "starting to go bad," but that he won't write a ticket for that—just a warning.
4:43–5:09: McCannon asks Campbell where he is going. Campbell says he is traveling to Augusta, Georgia. McCannon asks why he is going there, and Campbell responds that he is going to see his family.
5:10–13: McCannon asks Campbell to step out of the car and walk with him to the patrol car where he will write the warning.
5:48: McCannon begins writing the warning.
6:02–10: Campbell asks McCannon about the weather, and the two discuss a rainstorm from the previous week.
6:13–29: McCannon asks Campbell about his family in Augusta, adding that he knows a little about Augusta. Campbell says he does not know much about Augusta; he just has family there. McCannon continues writing the warning.
6:30–57: McCannon asks Campbell what type of work he does. Campbell says that he works for American Woodlawn, building for Home Depot and Lowes. McCannon continues to write the citation.
7:07–27: McCannon asks Campbell where his family lives in Augusta. Campbell responds that his family lives off of Watson Road. McCannon indicates he knows approximately where that is; he continues writing the citation.
7:48–8:30: McCannon stops writing to retrieve his jacket from the patrol car.
8:32–38: McCannon asks Campbell if he is traveling with a firearm. Campbell shakes his head no.
9:07: McCannon acknowledges Sergeant Paquette, who has just arrived off camera.3
9:12–18: McCannon asks Paquette to "come here and let me ask you about this location." McCannon tells Campbell that Paquette is

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