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United States v. Sharp

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi

March 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAN V. SHARP

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Dan Sharp's motion to suppress, Doc. 27, and supplemental motion to suppress, Doc. 44.

         On August 23, 2018, Sharp was indicted for multiple counts of possessing controlled substances, possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute, and possessing firearms as a convicted felon. Of the 19 counts within the indictment, 12 arose from two searches of Sharp and his vehicle by the DeSoto County Sheriffs Department on February 14, 2018, and April 19, 2018. Sharp challenges the constitutionality of those searches and moves to suppress the evidence that was obtained from them.

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on March 11, 2019, and received memorandum briefs from both Sharp and the United States. For the reasons set forth below, the Court holds that these motions should be denied, and that the evidence should not be suppressed.

         I. Standard of Review

          Generally, 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.

         "[Credibility determinations and the resolution of conflicting testimony at a suppression hearing are the responsibility of the district court as trier of fact." United States v. Turner, 628 F.2d 461, 465 (5th Cir. 1980). "In an evidentiary hearing, the Court sits as a finder of fact and must resolve all disputed issues." United States v. Lopez, 817 F.Supp.2d 918, 919 fn.2 (S.D.Miss. 2011) (citing United States v. Willis, 525 F.2d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1976)).

         II. February 14, 2018, Search

         a. Facts

         DeSoto County Sheriffs Deputy Jacob Bramlett testified that on February 14, 2018, at around 2:00 a.m. he was traveling in the left-hand lane northbound on Highway 51 in DeSoto County. Roughly half a car length in front of him in the right northbound lane was a white Chevrolet Impala. Bramlett testified that the Impala abruptly swerved into his lane, nearly hitting his car and causing him to swerve into center turn lane.

         Bramlett initiated his lights and pulled the Impala over. He approached the car and found it driven by the defendant, Dan Sharp. Bramlett testified that Sharp seemed drowsy, lethargic, and could not keep his eyes open. Bramlett asked Sharp for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Sharp told Bramlett that his license had been suspended and that he had no insurance.

         During this time Bramlett testified that Sharp kept reaching his hands in his pocket. Bramlett asked Sharp whether any weapons were in the vehicle, and Sharp responded that there was handgun in the car. Bramlett asked Sharp to remove himself from the vehicle, and Sharp did so. Bramlett testified that once Sharp was out of the vehicle, he could smell burnt marijuana coming from his clothing. Bramlett frisked Sharp and found a pistol magazine in his jacket pocket.

         Bramlett then entered Sharp's car to retrieve the handgun from the center console. As he did so, he noticed a toiletry bag that visibly contained marijuana. Bramlett retrieved the bag opened it up and saw more narcotics. After retrieving the gun, Bramlett radioed in Sharp's ID and the serial number on the gun and dispatch informed him that Sharp was a convicted felon.

         Later, Deputy Tyler Brown, a DUI enforcement deputy, with the DeSoto County Sheriffs Department, arrived on the scene. He testified that he spoke to Sharp in the back of Bramlett's patrol car. As he opened the door, he too said that he smelled burnt marijuana coming from Sharp's clothing. Brown testified that Sharp seemed "out of it." Brown advised Sharp of his Miranda rights. During their conversation, Sharp informed Brown that within the last hour he had used methamphetamine.

         Sharp testified that he was traveling on Highway 51 to his hotel, when he noticed that two deputies were behind him. Sharp testified that he traveled from the intersection of Roscoe and Highway 51 for approximately six minutes until the deputies pulled him over.

         Sharp testified that he had problems with his car, including having a wire hanging from the back left wheel and some front end issues. He also testified that it was raining heavily at the time and that water was pooling in parts of the road making it difficult to drive. However, Sharp denied ever swerving his car.

         Sharp further testified that Bramlett approached his car and stated that he had pulled Sharp over for crossing the yellow center line. Sharp confirmed that he told Bramlett he had no license or insurance but denied being under the influence of anything and denied telling Bramlett about a gun in the car. And although, ...


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