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United States v. Howard

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DVANNE K. HOWARD

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 17). The Government filed a response (Doc. No. 18), and the Defendant filed a reply (Doc. No. 20). Through the Motion, Defendant seeks to suppress items recovered from the search of his residence pursuant to a search warrant. The Court held a hearing on the Motion on July 24, 2019. After the hearing, the Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs. The parties have now filed those briefs. (Doc. Nos. 33, 34, 35).

         II. FACTS

         The events in question occurred on July 17, 2018, between approximately 9:00 p.m. and sometime after midnight. The four Metro Nashville Police detectives involved, Michael Freels, Jonathan Jones, Bradley Hambrick, and Justin Miller, testified as witnesses at the hearing on the motion. (Doc. No. 32). The detectives also testified at preliminary hearing in state court on July 24, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 17-4, 17-5, 17-6). In addition, the detectives documented the events in question in reports filed on July 19, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 17-1, 17-2, 17-3).

         The officers testified that on July 17, 2018, at approximately 8:45 p.m., detectives Jonathan Jones and Michael Freels were conducting surveillance of a house believed to be involved in narcotics trafficking. (Doc. No. 32 at PageID# 222). The detectives observed a gray Nissan Altima arrive and park in front of the house under surveillance. (Id.) An individual, later identified as Dvanne Howard, exited the vehicle, went inside one of the residences for a “very brief period, ” got back in the Nissan and drove off. (Id. at PageID# 222-23).

         Freels radioed his fellow officers, Detectives Bradley Hambrick and Justin Miller, to see if they could “get a traffic stop” of the Nissan. (Id.) Hambrick and Miller observed the Nissan speeding and attempted to conduct a traffic stop.[1] (Id. at PageID# 263-64). The Nissan stopped briefly, and Mr. Howard exited the Nissan from the passenger side and ran off. (Id. at PageID# 264). Miller exited the police car and called out “stop police” several times. (Id. at PageID # 300). Miller testified that he “detected an obvious and strong odor of marijuana coming from the car.” (Id.) Hambrick, who was in the driver's seat with the door and window closed and the air conditioning running, testified that he detected a “very strong odor of marijuana in the air” when Miller opened his door. (Id. at PageID# 264, 281). He emphasized, “I mean, it was very strong.” (Id. at PageID# 264).

         The detectives did not pursue the Nissan, but instead searched the general area for Mr. Howard. (Id. at PageID# 265). Freels and Jones saw an individual matching Mr. Howard's description walking a few blocks from the location of the attempted traffic stop. (Id. at PageID# 312). Freels and Jones radioed Hambrick and Miller, who responded to the location.

         Hambrick testified that once he identified the pedestrian as the same person who fled from the Nissan, “Detectives Freels and Jones kind of pulled in front of him. And when they went to get out of their car, Mr. Howard was going to run again. He turned and started to run back towards us, but we pulled up behind him, at which point he threw his hands up and laid down.” He continued, “Once he laid down, he was placed into handcuffs, stood up. A search was conducted. No weapons or contraband was found on him.” (Id. at PageID# 266). When asked why he would conduct a search, Hambrick responded, “I mean, just - based on the odor of marijuana. I could detain him based on that. The odor of marijuana coming from the car would make me be able to detain him and search his person for illegal narcotics, which a weapon would fall into the scope of that search.” (Id. at PageID# 266-67).

         Hambrick testified at the preliminary hearing in general session court that when he saw Mr. Howard, he got out of the car “began giving verbal commands to get on the ground.” (Doc. 17-4 at PageID# 70).

Q: And so you seized him?
A: Yes.
Q: He was not free to leave?
A: No sir.
Q: He was under arrest?
A: At that point yes sir.
Q: What had he done earlier that would have justified an arrest?
A: The odor of marijuana that was observed whenever we - when Detective Miller opened the door would have given probable cause to seize the car and the people in it; so, when he fled on foot that was my reason for ...

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