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United States v. Hylmon

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

August 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DANIEL KEITH HYLMON

          MEMORANDUM OPINON AND ORDER

          RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the report and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Clifton L. Corker filed on June 26, 2019, recommending that this Court deny defendant Daniel Keith Hylmon's motion to suppress. [Doc. 31]. On July 10, 2019 defendant filed his objections to the report and recommendation. [Doc. 35]. The government responded. [Doc. 37]. The matter is ripe for review. For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report, ADOPTS the Recommendation, [Doc. 31], and DENIES defendant's motion to suppress, [Doc. 27].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 10, 2018, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against defendant charging him with possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a)(1), (b)(1)(A), possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), and being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e), all arising from a January 29, 2018 incident. [Doc. 1].

         Defendant filed a motion to suppress. [Doc. 27]. The Magistrate Judge held an evidentiary hearing on June 25, 2019. At the suppression hearing, the government presented Johnson City Police Officers, Alex Garrison and Hannah Farmer, as witnesses. [Doc. 33 at 6-45]. Defendant testified on his behalf. [Id. at 45-48].

         On June 26, 2019, the Magistrate Judge filed his Report, recommending defendant's motion to suppress be denied. [Doc. 31]. Defendant filed timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, and the government responded. [Docs. 35; 37].

         Defendant did not object to the basic facts outlined in the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, but he did object to the findings and legal conclusions related to those facts. After reviewing the record before the Court and finding the facts to be consistent with the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, the Court ADOPTS BY REFERENCE the facts as set out in the report and recommendation. [Doc. 31 at 2-3]. See United States v. Winters, 782 F.3d 289, 295 n.1 (6th Cir. 2013). The Court will refer to the facts only as necessary to analyze the issues raised on objection.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 59, "[a] district judge may refer to a magistrate judge for recommendation a defendant's . . . motion to suppress evidence." Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(1). Within fourteen days after being served with a copy of the report and recommendation on a motion to suppress, "a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations." Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(2). "A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3).

         This Court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the report and recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers, Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987). “The district court is not required to review - under a de novo or any other standard - ‘any issue that is not the subject of an objection.'” Brown v. Bd. Of Educ., 47 F.Supp. 665, 674 (W.D. Tenn. 2014) (emphasis added) (quoting Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985)). After reviewing the evidence, this Court is free to “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations” of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Defendant argues in his objections that the Magistrate Judge erred in determining that: (1) the police had probable cause to seize and search the vehicle; (2) the reliability of the drug dog; and (3) defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were not violated in his expectation of privacy in a locked box. [Doc. 35].

         A. Probable Cause to Initiate the Traffic Stop

         Defendant argues the Magistrate Judge erred in determining that Officer Garrison had probable cause to initiate the traffic stop. [Doc. 35]. Specifically, defendant argues that Officer Garrison intended to stop defendant's vehicle even if the license plate had been registered to that vehicle. [Id. at 1-2]. Moreover, defendant contends that as soon as Officer Garrison pulled out behind defendant's vehicle, defendant was seized and believed he had no choice but to pull over. [Id. at 2]. Defendant maintains he was seized at this point even though Officer Garrison had not yet activated his blue lights. [Id.].

         A 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); United States v. Guajardo, 388 Fed.Appx. 483, 487 (6th Cir. 2010) ("The Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government 'extend[s] to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest.'" (quoting United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002))). While Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 254 (2007), holds a driver can be seized when the police make a traffic stop, the traffic stop alone does not amount to a seizure. "A person is seized by the police and thus entitled to challenge the government action under the Fourth Amendment when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, terminates or restrains his freedom of movement." United States v. McCauley, 548 F.3d 440, 443 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Brendlin, 551 U.S. at 254). Measured by an objective standard, a seizure occurs if an ...


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