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United States v. Maddox

August 12, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEAL MADDOX, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. Robert H. Whaley, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:08-cr-00159-RHW-1.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hawkins, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted April 6, 2010 -- Seattle, Washington.

Before: Michael Daly Hawkins, Carlos F. Lucero,*fn1 and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Hawkins; Dissent by Judge N.R. Smith

OPINION

The government appeals the suppression of evidence found inside closed containers-themselves inside a motor vehicle stopped for a traffic violation-after the driver was handcuffed and securely placed in the rear of the arresting officer's patrol car. We affirm.

FACTS

Officer Scott Bonney had pulled over to the side of the road to finish writing a police report, when he saw Neal Maddox's ("Maddox") Chevy truck enter the intersection. Maddox stopped abruptly in the intersection, then immediately proceeded in reverse. As he was moving in reverse towards the stop sign, Maddox nearly collided with a small blue car going westbound in the intersection. He made a three-point turn, blocking traffic, turned around, and accelerated. Maddox slowed once the officer activated his overhead lights, and stopped at the side of the road.

When Officer Bonney exited his patrol car, Maddox exited his vehicle and began yelling at the officer. Officer Bonney instructed Maddox to sit in the driver's seat and remain still, approached the vehicle, and told Maddox he had stopped him for driving recklessly. Maddox identified himself, but was unable to produce a driver's license. When asked whether the vehicle belonged to him, Maddox admitted ownership, noting his friend gave him the truck a few weeks before. He added he had yet to register the truck, and had no bill of sale. Officer Bonney noticed the vehicle's tags were expired, and the temporary sticker in the rear window was not only a photocopy, but also valid for longer than was normal for a temporary sticker (31 rather than 30 days). A computer check revealed that Maddox's license had been suspended. When Maddox ignored the officer's request to step outside the vehicle, the officer took away Maddox's key chain and cell phone, tossing them on the front seat of Maddox's vehicle. Officer Bonney placed Maddox under arrest, handcuffed him, and escorted him to the patrol car. He then searched Maddox's person and found $358 in cash inside Maddox's pants pockets, putting Maddox in the back of the patrol car after the search. It is undisputed that, at this point, Maddox posed no threat to officer safety and there was no danger of evidence destruction.

Officer Bonney then returned to Maddox's vehicle, reached inside, and retrieved the key chain and cell phone. Hanging on the key chain was a metal vial with a screw top. Removing the top and the vial's contents, the officer discovered a substance he believed to be methamphetamine. Entering the interior of vehicle, the officer found a closed computer case which he opened, and discovered a handgun and still more of the substance he had found in the key chain vial.

Following a hearing, the district court determined that neither probable cause, exigent circumstance, nor the incidents of Maddox's arrest or impoundment of his vehicle justified a warrantless search of the interior of Maddox's vehicle, and ordered suppression of the items found there. This interlocu-tory appeal followed.*fn2

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court's grant or denial of a motion to suppress is reviewed de novo. United States v. Orman, 486 F.3d 1170, 1173 (9th Cir. 2007); United States v. Bynum, 362 F.3d 574, 578 (9th Cir. 2004); United States ...


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