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United States of America v. Joshua Timothy

September 7, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOSHUA TIMOTHY RODGERS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington Robert J. Bryan, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No.3:10-cr-05038

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

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted May 3, 2011-Seattle, Washington

Before: Mary M. Schroeder, M. Margaret McKeown, and Consuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge McKeown; Dissent by Judge Callahan

OPINION

Passenger and vehicle searches have played a prominent role in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. The Supreme Court has consistently held that probable cause is necessary to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle. See Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 160-62 (1925); California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390 (1985). In recent years, the Court has clarified that "[i]f there is probable cause to believe a vehicle contains evidence of criminal activity," the search may extend to any area where evidence might be found. See Arizona v. Gant, 129 S. Ct. 1710, 1721 (2009) (citing United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 820-21 (1982)). In addition, when an arrest is made, a warrantless search is permitted "if the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment . . . or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest." Id. at 1723. But the Court has never sanctioned a vehicle search simply because there was probable cause to arrest a passenger or because a passenger could not provide identification. The Fourth Amendment requires more.

BACKGROUND

The facts in this appeal are not in dispute. On December 16, 2009, at approximately 3:30 a.m., Police Officer Ryan Moody was patrolling the area of South 84th Street and South Hosmer Street in Lakewood, Washington, a high crime location known for juvenile prostitution and vehicle theft. During the course of his duties, Moody performed random license plate checks on passing vehicles, "[l]ooking for warrants, suspended drivers, [and] stolen vehicles."*fn1 Moody ran a routine check on a black Pontiac Grand Am. The registration record indicated that the car was registered to an individual named Joshua Rodgers. Moody noticed, however, that "the colors didn't match": the registration listed the car as gold, but the car observed by Moody was black. Moody testified that he often encountered license plates that had been removed from one vehicle and placed on a stolen vehicle of the same make and model to conceal a car's stolen status.*fn2 Thus, suspecting that the car might be stolen, Moody stopped the vehicle and approached on foot.

Upon reaching the driver's side of the car, Moody immediately recognized Rodgers from two prior traffic stops.*fn3 Rodgers was cooperative and explained that he had painted his vehicle but did not have money to update his registration. Rodgers provided Moody with a valid driver's license, which confirmed that he owned the car. Moody also checked to make sure that the vehicle identification number listed on the registration record matched the number on Rodgers' vehicle.

At some point during the stop, Moody looked into Rodgers' car and noticed a young female in the front passenger seat. The young woman "appeared to be Caucasian" and "seemed nervous, didn't want to make eye contact." Based on her appearance, Moody thought that the girl was twelve to fourteen years old. Recalling that Rodgers was 51 years old according to his license, Moody asked Rodgers about the young woman. Rodgers responded that she was simply a friend and that he was giving her a ride to a nearby apartment complex. This scenario "obviously raised [Moody's] suspicion more, being that he's a 51-year-old male, and the way she appeared [ ] was a 12-to-14-year-old female." Given the time of day and the high-crime location, Moody's "first inclination was that she was probably an underage prostitute." Moody also had concerns that the young woman "could have been a run-away" or "a missing person."

Suspecting that Rodgers might be "pimping out the female," Moody continued to investigate and asked the young woman for identification. The young woman responded that she "didn't have any" ID, but she provided her name, S.F.,*fn4 and indicated that she was 19 years old. S.F. stated that her birthday was January 7, 1990, which was consistent with her stated age of 19 years old. Based on her physical appearance, however, Moody believed that S.F. was lying about her age. He went back to his police car to run a check on the name provided by S.F. and discovered that there was an outstanding arrest warrant on a felony robbery charge for an individual with the same name and month and day of birth that S.F. provided. The birth year listed, however, was 1993. Moody thought the woman in the car was "possibly" the same person named on the warrant, but he still had doubts. Moody testified that in his experience, people sometimes "provide fake or false names and, to their surprise, the name that they provided has a warrant for their arrest." Moody requested that another officer respond to the scene. When backup arrived, Moody removed Rodgers and S.F. from the vehicle and separated them to further investigate S.F.'s identity and her relationship to Rodgers. Neither Rodgers nor S.F. was placed in handcuffs, and Moody never testified that he had any concerns for his safety. Once outside the car, Rodgers claimed that he had just met S.F. and that a friend of his asked him to give her a ride.

Moody testified that S.F.'s identity was still not clear to him, so "based on the fact that [he] felt she lied to [him], provided a false statement to [him], [he] wanted to check to see if she had any ID that [he] could actually confirm her identity with." S.F. had previously indicated that she "didn't have any" identification, and Moody did not see a purse or bag that could harbor S.F.'s identification. Moody testified, however, that he believed S.F. had identification because "if she's going to stick with a story about being 19 years old," based on his training and experience, Moody thought "most 19-year-olds have some form of identification." Notably, Moody did not perform a search of S.F.'s person. While S.F. was secured by another officer at the rear of the vehicle, however, Moody proceeded to search the passenger area of Rodgers' car.

Moody never found any identification. In the center console of the car, however, Moody located a black case containing three bags of a crystalline substance later identified as methamphetamine. The officers placed Rodgers under arrest. A search of Rodgers' person uncovered marijuana, twenty oxycodone pills, and 284 dollars in cash. A full search of Rodgers' car led to the discovery of a firearm, used methamphetamine pipes, and what appeared to be a ledger. Rodgers was taken to the Pierce County ...


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