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United States v. Harris

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

December 8, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANDREW LARRY HARRIS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [1]

          JOHL B. TOOMEY United States Magistrate Judge

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence and Statements (“Motion”) (Doc. 47), the Government's Response thereto (Doc. 48), Defendant's post-hearing Memorandum of Law Regarding Motion to Suppress (“Memorandum”) (Doc. 71), and the Government's Response thereto (Doc. 72). The undersigned held an evidentiary hearing on October 24, 2017. (See Transcript (“Tr.”) at Doc. 69.)

         Defendant seeks to suppress all items, including cocaine and heroin, seized from his vehicle and person, as well as any statements made to law enforcement, following a traffic stop during which his vehicle was searched after a drug dog alerted on it.[2] (Doc. 47.) Defendant argues that the seizure was illegal because law enforcement prolonged the stop in order to conduct the dog sniff.[3] (Doc. 71.) For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion be DENIED.

         I. Legal Principles

         “Upon a motion to suppress evidence garnered through a warrantless search and seizure, the burden of proof as to the reasonableness of the search rests with the prosecution.” United States v. Freire, 710 F.2d 1515, 1519 (11th Cir. 1983). “The Government must demonstrate that the challenged action falls within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement, thereby rendering it reasonable within the meaning of the [F]ourth [A]mendment.” Id. “[T]he controlling burden of proof at suppression hearings should impose no greater burden than proof by a preponderance of the evidence.” United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974).

         As the United States Supreme Court has stated:

[T]he tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure's “mission”-to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop, and attend to related safety concerns. Because addressing the infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate th[at] purpose.” Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are-or reasonably should have been-completed. . . .
An officer . . . may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop. But . . . he may not do so in a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual.
Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer's mission includes “ordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop.” Typically such inquiries involve checking the driver's license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile's registration and proof of insurance. These checks serve the same objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly.
A dog sniff, by contrast, is a measure aimed at “detect[ing] evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” . . .
The critical question, then, is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, . . . but whether conducting the sniff “prolongs”-i.e., adds time to-“the stop.”[4]

Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614-16 (2015) (citations omitted).

         II. Analysis

         On July 26, 2016, Trooper Joshua Earrey of the Florida Highway Patrol initiated a traffic stop on Defendant's vehicle at the request of Detective Darrell Hickox of the Nassau County Sherriff's Office, who was surveilling Defendant in connection with a drug investigation. (Tr. 7-10, 14, 52-57.[5] Prior to the stop, Detective Hickox had informed Trooper Earrey that Defendant's driver's license was suspended and that Defendant was not wearing a seat ...


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