United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi
Hunter Solomon of the Hernando Police Department performed a
search of a vehicle owned and driven by the defendant, Corey
Delmar Smith, The search revealed a number of stolen
driver's licenses, social security cards, and devices to
produce counterfeit identification documents and checks.
Smith was indicted in this Court for possessing the stolen
identification documents with intent to defraud and
possessing the counterfeit-making devices with intent to
moves to suppress [Doc. 10] the evidence obtained, The Court
held an evidentiary hearing on this matter, received briefs
from the parties, and is now ready to rule. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court finds that the motion should be
denied and the evidence should not be suppressed.
the testimony given at the evidentiary hearing conducted in
this matter, and other evidence submitted by the parties, the
Court finds the following occurred:
October 17, 2017, Solomon was observing northbound traffic on
Interstate 55 in Hernando, Mississippi. Solomon saw a black
Chevrolet Suburban that did not have a license plate. Solomon
initiated a stop of the vehicle at 5:57 p.m. Solomon
positioned his patrol car so that it was behind the Suburban
and offset to the left, closer to traffic, than the vehicle.
He was joined on site by Officer Tarra Davis.
stopping the vehicle, Solomon was able to observe a Texas
paper license tag in the rear window. Solomon approached the
vehicle and found it occupied by Smith, who was driving, and
two passengers, Willie Carroll and Gregory Carter. Solomon
removed Smith from the vehicle and brought him to the rear of
the vehicle to speak to him. Smith informed Solomon that he
was traveling from Texas to Indiana to pick up an icemaker
for a restaurant he owned in Texas. Smith stated that Carroll
and Carter worked for him, that he had picked up them up in
Jackson, that they were traveling to Memphis that night, on
to Indiana to purchase the icemaker, and then back to Texas.
then went to the passenger side of the vehicle to speak to
Carroll and Carter and check their identification. Carroll
told Solomon that he did not know Smith very well, and that
they were traveling to Memphis that evening for a party and
then back to Jackson the next day. Carter stated that he had
worked for Smith at one point, and told Solomon that they
were going to Memphis for a party, but he did not know when
they were going back to Jackson. Neither knew of a trip to
Indiana to pick up an icemaker. At 6:10 p.m. Solomon was
informed that Carroll had an outstanding warrant for his
arrest. Solomon placed Carroll under arrest and put him in
Davis's patrol car.
removed Carter from the vehicle and placed him alongside
Smith at the front of Solomon's patrol car. Solomon asked
Smith for permission to search the vehicle. Smith denied
permission and became upset. Solomon then retrieved his
canine unit, Krash, and, at 6:21 p.m. deployed Krash to sniff
and Krash began a sweep at the rear driver side of the
vehicle. They crossed behind the vehicle and on to the
passenger side. While sweeping the passenger side, Krash
paused and then alerted by sitting. Solomon proceeded to
search the vehicle. At 6:40 p.m., Solomon began uncovering
the subject evidence in the vehicle.
on a motion to suppress, the defendant has the burden of
proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the
evidence in question was obtained in violation of his
constitutional rights. United States v.
Guerrero-Barajas, 240 F.3d 428, 432 (5th Cir. 2001).
However, "[w]hen the government searches or seizes a
defendant without a warrant, the government bears the burden
of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the
search or seizure was constitutional." Id.
argues there are three grounds for suppressing the evidence
obtained from the vehicle. First, Smith argues Solomon did
not have not have reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic
stop after determining Smith and his passengers'
identities and determining that status of his tag in order to
conduct a narcotics investigation. Second, Smith argues
Solomon did not have reasonable suspicion to prolong the
traffic stop to perform a sweep of the vehicle with Krash.
Third, Smith argues that during the sweep, Solomon
manipulated Krash to falsely alert. Smith also argues that
even if Krash did alert, it was unreliable such that his
alert did not give Solomon probable cause to search the
Did Solomon have reasonable suspicion to prolong the
stops are seizures for Fourth Amendment purposes. United
States v. Lopez-Moreno, 420 F.3d 420, 430 (5th Cir.
2005). The legality of a traffic stop is analyzed under the
two-part Terry framework, asking whether the
officer's action was "(1) 'justified at its
inception', and (2) 'reasonably related in scope to
the circumstances which justified the interference in the
first place.'" Id. (quoting Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889
a traffic stop to be justified at its inception, an officer
must have an objectively reasonable suspicion that some sort
of illegal activity, such as a traffic violation, occurred,
or is about to occur, before stopping the vehicle."
Id. (citing United States v. Breeland, 53
F.3d 100, 102 (5th Cir. 1995)). No. party disputes that
Solomon had reasonable suspicion to initially stop Smith for
driving a vehicle without a visible tag. The facts show that
Smith did not have a metal license ...