United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO SUPPRESS RE: ECF NO.
TIGAR United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Michael Ward's motion to suppress.
The Court will grant the motion.
August 26, 2016, two uniformed Antioch police officers,
Officer Meads and Officer Vanderpool, observed a parked Dodge
Intrepid with expired registration tabs on the rear license
plate in violation of California Vehicle Code section
4000(a). ECF No. 15-1 at 8. The officers pulled over in front
of the Dodge and approached on foot. Id. Officer
Meads made contact with the driver, Defendant Michael Ward,
and asked him for his name and identification. Id.
Ward stated his name and handed over a credit card with his
name on it and a paper photocopy of his license.
Id.; ECF No. 17-1 at 17. According to Officer Meads,
Ward “appeared to be very nervous” and was
“extremely careful” when opening his wallet
“as if he did not want [Officer Meads] to see the
contents.” ECF No. 15-1 at 8. Officer Meads “ran
[the name on the credit card] to see if it corresponded with
the individual in the car” and “it appeared to
check out.” ECF No. 17-1 at 17.
before or after running Ward's name-the timing is
unclear-Officer Meads “made small talk with
Ward.” ECF No. 15-1 at 8. Officer Meads learned that
Ward was temporarily living out of his car and was in the
area to visit a friend. Id. Then, according to
Officer Meads, the following exchange occurred:
I asked Ward if he was on probation or parole. Ward told me
that he was not, but that he used to be on parole. Ward went
on to say that he hasn't been in trouble for several
years and was doing well. I asked Ward if he had anything
illegal in his possession to which he replied,
“No”. I then said, “Can I search you and
your car to make sure?” Ward said, “Sure, if you
Meads then “had Ward step out of the car and asked him
to place his hands on the bank of his head so that [Meads]
could conduct a search.” Id. Ward, “his
voice trembling, ” said twice, “Man why do you
have to do all this?” Id. Believing,
“[b]ased on Ward's behavior, ” that “he
had some sort of contraband concealed on his person, ”
Officer Meads “grabbed a hold of Ward's arms so
that he could not reach into his pockets.” Id.
Officer Meads asked Ward to tell him “what contraband
he had on him, ” and when Ward did not respond, Officer
Meads “brought Wards [sic] arms to the top of his head
and placed him into a standing modified search
position.” Id. Concerned about Ward's
“nervous behavior, ” Officer Mead “told
Wards that he was not under arrest, but that [he] was going
to detain him in handcuffs until [he] could verify that he
was not armed.” Id. During the search of
Ward's person, Officer Meads discovered a loaded firearm
in Ward's pocket. Id. at 9.
December 1, 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment
charging Ward with being a felon in possession of a firearm
and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1).
ECF No. 16 at 3.
now moves to suppress the evidence-namely, the gun-found
during the search because: 1) the prolonged stop of Ward
violated the Fourth Amendment, 2) Ward's arrest violated
the Fourth Amendment, and 3) the search of Ward's person
and his car violated the Fourth Amendment. See ECF
Length of Traffic Stop
in Rodriguez v. United States, the Supreme Court
clarified the “the tolerable duration of police
inquiries in the traffic-stop context.” 135 S.Ct. 1609
(2015). In that case, after pulling Rodriguez over for
driving on a highway shoulder and issuing him a ticket,
police conducted a dog sniff of Rodriguez's car without
his consent. Id. The dog alerted to the presence of
drugs and a search of the vehicle revealed a large bag of
methamphetamine. Id. Although the dog sniff lasted
no more than seven or eight minutes, the Court held that the
drugs had to be suppressed because the length of the search
violated Rodriguez's Fourth Amendment rights.
Court explained that “[b]ecause addressing the
infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may last no longer
than is necessary to effectuate that purpose.”
Id. at 1614. In other words, officers may determine
“whether to issue a traffic ticket” and conduct
“ordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop . .
. [such as] checking the driver's license, determining
whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver,
and inspecting the automobile's registration and proof of
insurance.” Id. (internal quotation marks and
alterations omitted). These checks do not impermissibly
prolong a traffic stop because they “serve the same
objective as enforcement of the traffic code: ensuring that
vehicles on the road are operated safely and
responsibly.” Id. But officers may not take
“measure[s] aimed at ‘detect[ing] evidence of
ordinary criminal wrongdoing, '” because those
efforts are not ...