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United States v. Reid

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

March 6, 2018

JOSEPH REID, Defendant.



         Before the court by order of reference is defendant Joseph Reid's Motion to Suppress Evidence, filed on January 5, 2018. (ECF No. 18) The government filed a response on January 16, 2018, and a supplement to its response on January 29, 2018. (ECF Nos. 20 & 22.) The parties appeared before the court for an evidentiary hearing on January 30, 2018. (ECF No. 23.) For the following reasons, it is recommended that Reid's motion be denied.


         The following proposed findings of fact are based upon the testimony of the three police officer witnesses who testified at the evidentiary hearing, all of whom the court finds to be credible.

         At around 5:00 p.m. on November 30, 2016, Lieutenant Andre Pruitt of the Memphis Police Department (“MPD”) was conducting an enhanced patrol of the Douglas neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee. (ECF No. 27 at 12.) According to Lieutenant Pruitt, he was directed to patrol that neighborhood because it was a high-crime area well known for drugs and shootings. (Id. at 13; 19.) Lieutenant Pruitt, who was driving an unmarked police vehicle, was parked across the street from 3118 Chelsea Avenue, when he observed a group of black men standing outside of a vacant building next door to a convenience store. (Id. at 13-14; 20.) Lieutenant Pruitt observed the men “loitering, ” walking back and forth between the store and the vacant building next door. (Id. at 13-14.) Lieutenant Pruitt was aware that behind the store was a known “drug house” that MPD officers had been to numerous times over the past year. (Id. at 13-14.) After about twenty minutes of observing the men, Lieutenant Pruitt called for additional officers to come to the scene and attempt to initiate a consensual encounter with the men to find out why they were loitering on the lot and, if possible, to check for any outstanding warrants. (Id. at 15.) When the officers drove past the store in marked squad cars, the group of men “scattered” in different directions. (Id. at 16.)

         As the police cars drove by, Lieutenant Pruitt observed one of the men, later identified as defendant Joseph Reid, quickly enter the store. (Id. at 16; 17-18; 31.) Lieutenant Pruitt exited his vehicle and followed Reid into the store. As Lieutenant Pruitt approached Reid inside the store, he noticed the smell of marijuana emanating from Reid's person. (Id. at 17; 31.) There were “[m]aybe two” other people inside the store besides Reid when Lieutenant Pruitt entered. (Id. at 31.) Lieutenant Pruitt then escorted Reid out of the store and turned him over to Detective Cody Mills, who had arrived at the store to provide support. (Id. at 17-18; 32.) Detective Mills also noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from Reid's person. (Id. at 82-82.) Detective Mills handcuffed Reid for his own safety, walked Reid to his squad car, and conducted a pat down. (Id.) Lieutenant Pruitt testified that, based on his experience, individuals involved in drug trafficking sometimes carry firearms, and that was one of the reasons for the pat down. (Id. at 18-19.) Detective Mills found a handgun, two bags of marijuana, two pills believed to be Xanax, and $196 in cash on Reid's person. (Id. at 58.) Reid was later indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (ECF No. 1.)


         A. Legal Standard

         The Fourth Amendment provides, in part, that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]” U.S. Const. amend. IV. “A warrantless search or seizure is ‘per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment -subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.'” United States v. Roark, 36 F.3d 14, 17 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967)). “[T]here are three types of permissible encounters between police and citizens: consensual encounters in which contact is initiated by a police officer without any articulable reason whatsoever and the citizen is briefly asked questions; a temporary involuntary detention or Terry stop, which must be predicated upon ‘reasonable suspicion;' and arrests which must be based on probable cause.” United States v. Alston, 375 F.3d 408, 411 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Bueno, 21 F.3d 120, 123 (6th Cir. 1994)).

         Under the first type of permissible encounter, officers may approach and ask citizens basic questions without implicating the Fourth Amendment. See Bennett v. City of Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 821 (6th Cir. 2005). It is only when an officer restrains an individual's liberty “by means of physical force or show of authority” that Fourth Amendment protections attach. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16 (1968). A person's liberty is restrained if a reasonable person in the circumstances would not believe that he were free to leave and ignore the officer's requests. See Bennett, 410 F.3d at 821 (citing United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554 (1980)).

         Under the second type of permissible encounter, “an officer may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop when the officer has a reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.” Wardlow, 528 U.S. at 123 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 31). The constitutionality of a Terry stop is evaluated by a two-step analysis: first, there must be a proper basis for the stop; second, the degree of intrusion must be reasonably related in scope to the situation at hand. United States v. Davis, 514 F.3d 596, 608 (6th Cir. 2008). To be constitutionally proper, a Terry stop must

be justified by some objective manifestation that the person stopped is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity . . . the totality of the circumstances - the whole picture - must be taken into account. Based upon that whole picture the detaining officers must have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.

United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18 (1981); see also District of Columbia v. Wesby, 138 S.Ct. 577, 588, (2018); United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (“When discussing how reviewing courts should make reasonable-suspicion determinations, we have said repeatedly that they must look at the ‘totality of the circumstances' of each case to see whether the detaining officer has a ‘particularized and objective basis' for suspecting legal wrongdoing.”). During a Terry stop, an officer may frisk a citizen for weapons if the officer has reason to believe that the individual is armed and dangerous. Terry, 392 U.S. at 27; see also Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 118 (1998).

         Reid contends that the Terry stop, which began when Lieutenant Pruitt grabbed Reid inside the store, was unconstitutional because it was not supported by a reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. (ECF No. 27 at 100-01.) Reid submits that Lieutenant Pruitt's suspicion consisted solely of the facts that (1) Lieutenant Pruitt observed him standing idle in front of a vacant building with some other individuals and (2) Reid moved into the store next door when a marked police car drove by. Reid argues that these facts are insufficient, under a totality of the circumstances analysis, to provide ...

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