United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS AND
DENYING DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS
T. Fowlkes, Jr. United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Jonathan Shelton's Motion to
Suppress Evidence Obtained from Unlawful Stop and Warrantless
Search, filed on February 8, 2019, to which Defendant United
States filed its Response opposing the Motion on February 22,
2019. (ECF Nos. 98 & 102.) The Motion was referred to the
Chief Magistrate Judge, (ECF No. 101), who held a hearing on
the matter on March 28, 2019. (See ECF Nos. 109
& 126.) On April 1, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a
Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress, suggesting that the Motion should be denied because
the stop and seizure of the vehicle Defendant was riding in
was valid insofar as it resulted from officers having a
reasonable suspicion that Defendant was committing an
ongoing, misdemeanor traffic offense. (See ECF No.
119, 9-10.) The Defendant filed untimely Objections to the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on April 16,
2019. (ECF No. 121.)
following reasons, the Court finds that the Magistrate's
Report and Recommendation should be ADOPTED and
Defendant's Objections should be DENIED.
Report and Recommendation, the Chief Magistrate Judge
provides, and this Court adopts and incorporates, proposed
findings of fact in this case. (ECF No. 119, 3-5.)
passed 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) “to relieve some of the
burden on the federal courts by permitting the assignment of
certain district court duties to magistrates.”
United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir.
2001). Pursuant to the provision, magistrate judges may hear
and determine any pretrial matter pending before the Court,
except various dispositive motions. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A). Regarding those excepted dispositive motions,
magistrate judges may still hear and submit to the district
court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for
disposition. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Upon hearing a
pending matter, “[T]he magistrate judge must enter a
recommended disposition, including, if appropriate, proposed
findings of fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1); see also
Baker v. Peterson, 67 Fed.Appx. 308, 310 (6th Cir.
2003). Any party who disagrees with a magistrate's
proposed findings and recommendation may file written
objections to the report and recommendation. Fed.R.Civ.P.
standard of review that is applied by the district court
depends on the nature of the matter considered by the
magistrate judge. See Baker v. Peterson, 67
Fed.Appx. 308, 310 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted)
(“A district court normally applies a ‘clearly
erroneous or contrary to law' standard of review for
nondispositive preliminary measures. A district court must
review dispositive motions under the de novo
standard.”). Motions to suppress evidence are among the
motions in criminal cases that are subject to de
novo review. See 28 U.S.C. § 636
(b)(1)(A); U.S. Fid. & Guarantee Co. v. Thomas
Solvent Co., 955 F.2d 1085, 1088 (6th Cir. 1992). Upon
review of the evidence, the district court may accept,
reject, or modify the proposed findings or recommendations of
the magistrate judge. Brown v. Board of Educ., 47
F.Supp.3d 665, 674 (W.D. Tenn. 2014); see also 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court “may also receive
further evidence or recommit the matter to the [m]agistrate
[j]udge with instructions.” Moses v. Gardner,
No. 2:14-cv-2706-SHL-dkv, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29701, at *3
(W.D. Tenn. Mar. 11, 2015). A district judge should adopt the
findings and rulings of the magistrate judge to which no
specific objection is filed. Brown, 47 F.Supp.3d at
issue presented by Defendant's Motion is whether Memphis
Police Department officers were justified in detaining the
motor vehicle that Defendant was a passenger in, for the
purpose of conducting a field comparison test to determine if
said vehicle was operating in violation of Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 55-9-107. (ECF No. 98, 3; see also ECF No.
119, 3.) The Chief Magistrate Judge recommends the denial of
Defendant's Motion to Suppress because the stop and
seizure of Defendant's vehicle was validly based on a
reasonable suspicion of an ongoing, misdemeanor traffic
offense. (See ECF No. 119, 9-10.) This Court agrees.
traffic stop is a “seizure” subject to the
reasonable requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Whren v.
United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996). To initiate
a traffic stop for an ongoing, misdemeanor traffic offense,
such as a window tint violation under Tenn. Code Ann. §
55-9-107, officers must have a reasonable suspicion of the
ongoing misdemeanor. United States v. Monroe, No.
17-20025-SHM-dkv, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220641, at *15-17
(W.D. Tenn. Nov. 30, 2017). Moreover, if at the time of the
stop the officer had a reasonable suspicion that the target
was violating a traffic law or ordinance, “then it
simply does not matter whether [the officer] intended to stop
[the defendant] on the basis of that traffic violation”
or instead intended to stop the defendant because he
suspected criminal activity was afoot. United States v.
Hughes, 606 F.3d 311, 316 (6th Cir. 2010).
Detective Tate, an MPD officer with substantial prior
experience enforcing traffic regulations (including tint
comparison tests), estimated that the darkness of the tinted
windows on the car Defendant was riding in violated Tenn.
Code Ann. § 55-9-107 and, accordingly, stopped the
vehicle on suspicion of the violation. (See ECF
No. 119, 9-10; see also Tenn. Code Ann. §
55-9-107(A) (making it illegal for anyone to operate a motor
vehicle with window tint that results in visible light
transmittance of less than 35%).) With the Chief Magistrate
Judge finding the MPD officers' testimony credible, it
becomes clear that there was a reasonable suspicion of an
ongoing misdemeanor traffic offense sufficient to support the
traffic stop. United States v. Shank, 543 F.3d 309,
313 (6th Cir. 2008) (holding that the officers had a proper
basis to initiate a traffic stop “[d]ue to the
officers' familiarity with window tinting” and
their estimate that the windows were tinted darker than
permitted by law); States v. Monroe, No.
17-20025-SHM-dkv, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220641, at *17 (W.D.
Tenn. Nov. 30, 2017). Unlike Defendant contends, photos of
exterior of the vehicle are not needed. (ECF No. 98, 5.)
Moreover, as it turned out, the window tint of the car
Defendant was riding in was below the legal limit in
Tennessee. (ECF No. 119. 10.) For these reasons, the Court
finds that the Chief Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation should be ADOPTED.
objects to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation by arguing that the record contains no
objective, specific, and articulable facts supporting
reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop on the basis of
unlawful window tint; Defendant cites United States v.
Shank for the proposition. (ECF No. 121, 1-2.) The
argument is not well-taken. In Shank, the court
found a proper basis for officers to initiate a traffic stop
for illegal window tint because the officers, who had
substantial prior experience enforcing traffic violations for
illegal tint, observed dark tint on a particular vehicle make
and estimated that the tint did not allow the legal percent
of light to pass through the windows. Shank, 543
F.3d at 313. Here, Detective Tate testified that he had
substantial prior experience over the past ten years
enforcing window tint requirements under Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 55-9-107(A); this experience came in the form of
checking the tint on windows over a hundred times and
conducting more than twenty (20) tint comparison tests, both
under the supervision of a field training officer and on his
own accord. (ECF No. 126, 18:13- 20:15; see ECF No.
119, 9-10.) Detective Tate identified the car Defendant was
driving by make and model, and estimated that the
vehicle's windows appeared to be below the legal limit.
(ECF No. 126, 18:13-20:15; see ECF No. 119, 9-10.)
Detective Tate's story was corroborated by Detective
Parks. As it turned out, the window tint of the ...