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United States v. Burnside

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

February 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JACQUIERE BURNSIDE, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

          C.J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         I.INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before me pursuant to defendant's motion to suppress evidence allegedly seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 19). The grand jury charged defendant in a one-count indictment of being in possession of a firearm as a felon in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). (Doc. 2). The charge arose from evidence found during the execution of a traffic stop on October 20, 2017. Defendant argues the Court should suppress this evidence because the officer who stopped defendant lacked any reasonable suspicion that defendant was in violation of Iowa law. (Doc. 19-1, at 2).

         The Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief United States District Court Judge, referred this motion to me for a Report and Recommendation. On February 23, 2018, I held an evidentiary hearing on defendant's motion at which Waterloo Police Officer Andrew Tindall testified. I admitted into evidence government's Exhibit 1 (Officer Tindall's incident report), government's Exhibit 2 (a compact disc containing videotapes of Officer Tindall's squad car and body camera), and defendant's Exhibit A (same as government's Exhibit 2). For the reasons that follow, I respectfully recommend that the Court deny defendant's motion to suppress.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On October 20, 2017, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Waterloo Police Officer Andrew Tindall observed a silver Hyundai Santa Fe with a defective left license plate lamp. Officer Tindall conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle. Officer Tindall made contact with the driver of the vehicle, defendant, who was unable to provide a driver's license, but identified himself by name.

         Dispatch informed Officer Tindall that defendant was known to carry weapons. Defendant was asked to step outside of the vehicle, and Officer Tindall performed a pat down of defendant's person. Officer Tindall recovered a silver Bryco Arms Jennings Nine Model 9mm handgun concealed within defendant's underwear.

         The Hyundai Santa Fe operated by defendant was manufactured with two lights for illumination of the license plate. Officer Tindall's body camera captured the license plate area of the Hyundai Santa Fe which showed the inoperable left license plate lamp. (Exhibit 2). Officer Tindall noted in his report that the defective license plate lamp was “in violation of IA Code” without mentioning a specific code section. (Exhibit 1, at 5).

         Officer Tindall is a patrol officer with only four years of experience.

         III. ANALAYSIS

         The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. Amend. IV. It is well established that a traffic stop constitutes a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996). A traffic stop is lawful if supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a vehicle committed a traffic violation. United States v. Washington, 455 F.3d 824, 826 (8th Cir. 2006). “Even a minor traffic violation provides probable cause for a traffic stop.” United States v. Harris, 617 F.3d 977, 979 (8th Cir. 2010). “Whether probable cause exists for a traffic stop is judged by whether any mistake, whether of law or fact, is objectively reasonable.” Id. (citing United States v. Martin, 411 F.3d 998, 1001 (8th Cir. 2005)). At the hearing, defendant conceded that if the traffic stop was valid, that there is no other ground for suppressing the evidence, and the government conceded that if the traffic stop was invalid, then all of the evidence from the traffic stop should be suppressed.

         Defendant argues the firearm seized from defendant was the result of an unlawful seizure because Officer Tindall had no reasonable suspicion that defendant was operating the vehicle in violation of any state law. (Doc. 19-1, at 2). At the hearing, Officer Tindall testified that he believed defendant was operating the vehicle in violation of the second sentence of Iowa Code § 321.387, as the vehicle had a defective left license plate lamp. Iowa Code § 321.387, entitled “Rear Lamps, ” provides:

Every motor vehicle and every vehicle which is being drawn at the end of a train of vehicles shall be equipped with a lighted rear lamp or lamps, exhibiting a red light plainly visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear. All lamps and lighting equipment originally manufactured on a motor vehicle shall be kept in working condition or shall be replaced with equivalent equipment.

         Iowa Code § 321.387 (emphasis added). The plain language of the statute seems to be all-encompassing by requiring that “all lamps and lighting equipment originally manufactured on a motor vehicle” be kept in working condition. Defendant, however, argues that § 321.387 is entitled Rear Lamps, and argues it is clear from the context of the statute that “lamps and lighting equipment” referred to in the final sentence is a reference to the red “lighted rear lamp or lamps” identified in the preceding sentence and “is not intended ...


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