United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
RICHARDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc.
No. 25, âthe Motionâ). Via the Motion, Defendant seeks to
suppress all evidence obtained by Metropolitan Nashville
Police Department officers as a result of a warrantless stop
and search of his person and vehicle on December 5, 2018,
because he alleges that the evidence was obtained in
violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Government has
filed a response (Doc. No. 26). Defendant did not reply.
Therefore, this matter is ripe for decision.
December 2018, after a several months-long investigation,
detectives with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
Specialized Investigations Unit, decided to arrest Defendant.
On December 5, 2018, detectives established surveillance at
Defendant's residence to effectuate his arrest. The
detectives observed Defendant exit his residence and enter
the driver's seat of a silver Nissan Pathfinder
(“the vehicle”). Defendant was the sole occupant
of the vehicle. The detectives then observed Defendant drive
the vehicle through the parking lot of a Mapco gas station to
avoid a red light, and the detectives initiated a traffic
stop. As the detectives approached the vehicle, they observed
Defendant throw a plastic bag that appeared to contain a gray
and white powdery substance onto the floorboard of the
passenger side of the vehicle. Upon this observation, the
detectives detained Defendant and retrieved the plastic bag
from the passenger side floorboard. The plastic bag contained
two smaller plastic bags, and a field test of their contents
conducted by the detectives at the scene revealed positive
test results for heroin and cocaine. The arresting officer
also discovered a firearm under the dashboard between the
driver's seat and the passenger seat.
basis of Defendant's motion to suppress is that the
detectives did not have probable cause or reasonable
suspicion of a crime when they conducted a warrantless
traffic stop of Defendant; therefore, according to Defendant,
the stop was in violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment
rights and all evidence seized as fruits of the illegal stop
should be suppressed.
circuit-except for the Sixth Circuit-has held that reasonable
suspicion suffices to justify an investigatory stop for a
traffic violation. United States v. Simpson, 520
F.3d 531, 540 (6th Cir. 2008) (collecting cases). The Sixth
Circuit, however, applies “the probable cause standard
to ‘completed' misdemeanor traffic
violations.” United States v. Jeffries, 457
Fed.Appx. 471, 477 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing United States
v. Hughes, 606 F.3d 311, 316 n.8 (6th Cir.
Sixth Circuit defines probable cause as “reasonable
grounds for belief, supported by less than prima
facie proof but more than mere suspicion.”
United States v. Bennett, 905 F.2d 931, 934 (6th
Cir. 1990). If an officer has probable cause to believe that
a “completed” traffic violation has occurred, the
resulting stop is not unlawful and does not violate the
Fourth Amendment, regardless of whether the traffic violation
was the true motivation for the stop. See Heien v. North
Carolina, 135 S.Ct. 530, 539 (2014) (citing Whren v.
United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996)).
Metropolitan Ordinance 12.16.210 states, “[t]he driver
or operator of any vehicle shall not drive upon or through
any private property or upon or through any driveway not a
part of the street or roadway for the purpose of avoiding
obedience to any traffic regulation or ordinance of the
metropolitan government.” The Government argues that
Defendant's act of driving through the Mapco parking lot
to avoid a red light, which the detectives observed, violated
this ordinance and clearly gave the detectives probable cause
to initiate a traffic stop of Defendant. (Doc. No. 26 at 2).
Motion, Defendant does not dispute the fact that he drove
through the Mapco parking lot to avoid a red
light. Instead, he argues that the detectives did
not have the requisite probable cause of a crime to render
any subsequent traffic stop constitutional because he
“did not commit a crime in driving by the Mapco.”
(Doc. No. 25 at 3). Defendant is incorrect. The Court finds
that when Defendant (undisputedly) drove through the Mapco
parking lot, the detectives clearly had probable cause to
believe that Defendant violated Nashville Metro Ordinance
12.16.210. Thus, the following traffic stop was not unlawful,
and did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
purported illegality of the traffic stop is the only issue
Defendant raises in his Motion. As the Court finds that
resolution of this issue is clear, the Court will deny
Defendant's Motion. Furthermore, the Court will deny
Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing. The Sixth
Circuit has instructed as follows:
A district court's decision whether to hold an
evidentiary hearing for a motion to suppress is reviewed for
an abuse of discretion. See United States v. Lewis,
40 F.3d 1325, 1332 (1st Cir. 1994); United States v.
Woods, 995 F.2d 713, 716 (7th Cir.1993), overruled
on other grounds, Bailey v. United States, 516
U.S. 137 (1995). Evidentiary hearings are not granted as a
matter of course; they need only be held if the defendant
alleges sufficient facts that, if proven, would justify
relief. See United States v. One 1965 Buick, 392
F.2d 672, 678 (6th Cir.1968), vacated on other grounds
sub nom., Dean v. United States, 402 U.S. 937
(1971). Moreover, an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary when
it can be determined without a hearing that suppression is
improper as a matter of law. See United States v.
Chavez-Marquez, 66 F.3d 259, 261 (10th Cir.1995);
Gentile v. County of Suffolk, 926 F.2d 142, 148 (2d
Cir.1991). Essentially, a hearing is required only if the
motion is sufficiently definite, specific, detailed, and
non-conjectural to enable the court to conclude that
contested issues of fact going to the validity of the search
are in question. See United States v. Unimex, Inc.,
991 F.2d 546, 551 (9th Cir.1993) (quoting Cohen v. United
States, 378 F.2d 751, 761 (9th Cir.1967)); United
States v. Harrelson, 705 F.2d 733, 737 (5th Cir.1983).
United States v. Downs, 173 F.3d 430 (6th Cir.
1999). Here, Defendant has not insinuated that the material
fact-his cut through the Mapco parking lot-is not true. Nor
does he set forth any reason to conclude that an evidentiary
hearing with cross examination would be helpful to ferret out
details that would possibly change the outcome here. In
short, Defendant has simply not “alleg[ed]
facts that, if proven, would justify relief.”
Id. (citing One 1965 Buick, 392 F.2d at
678); see also United States v. Ickes, 922 F.3d 708,
713 (6th Cir. 2019) (affirming the district court's
denial of an evidentiary hearing because the defendant did
“not dispute  any of the facts relating to the
search” and his argument was “entirely legal in
nature” (quoting United States v. Abboud, 438
F.3d 554, 577 (6th Cir. 2006))); United States v.
McAndrews, 12 F.3d 273, 280 (1st Cir. 1993) (“[A]
criminal defendant who seeks an evidentiary hearing on a
motion must, at the very least, carry an entry-level burden
by making a sufficient threshold showing that material facts
are in doubt or in ...