United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Defendant Payten A. Wilson's Motion
to Suppress Evidence (Doc. 37) and Memorandum in Support
(Doc. 38), and the Government's Response (Doc. 44). For
the reasons given below, Ms. Wilson's Motion is
December 13, 2018, Ms. Wilson and her codefendant, Kyle G.
Thomas, were charged by Indictment (Doc. 3) with various
felony counts related to methamphetamine distribution. Mr.
Thomas was also charged in that same instrument with being a
previously-convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Three
months later, on March 14, 2019, a grand jury returned a
Superseding Indictment (Doc. 28) containing essentially the
same charges against the same two individuals. Ms. Wilson
faces two counts: Count Four of the Superseding Indictment
charges her and Mr. Thomas with conspiring together to
distribute more than 50 grams of a mixture or substance
containing methamphetamine, and Count Five charges her with
possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.
See id. at 2.
charges against Ms. Wilson stem from an encounter that she,
Mr. Thomas, and two other individuals had with police in the
early morning hours of October 29, 2018. Ms. Wilson was
driving a Chrysler 300 in which Mr. Thomas and two other
passengers were riding when, around 5:17 a.m., she was pulled
over by a police officer with the Fayetteville Police
Department named Justin Harlan. The traffic stop occurred on
Interstate 49, near Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, in
Fayetteville, Arkansas. Roughly forty minutes later,
following an alert by a drug-sniffing dog, police officers
searched the car and found methamphetamine, marijuana, and
several hypodermic syringes. Ms. Wilson and the front
passenger were both arrested for possession of drug
paraphernalia because the syringes were found within
arm's reach of both of their seats, in the front center
console. Later, Ms. Wilson informed a detective on the scene
that in her sports bra she had hidden three baggies of
methamphetamine, which she then retrieved and provided to
him. Ms. Wilson was eventually taken from the traffic stop to
the Washington County Detention Center.
Motion to Suppress, Ms. Wilson asks this Court to suppress
all evidence obtained from the car's search, as well as
evidence of her confession and of the methamphetamine that
was hidden in her sports bra. She advances three arguments in
support of this request: (1) that Officer Harlan lacked
probable cause to make the initial traffic stop; (2) that
Officer Harlan impermissibly extended the traffic stop; and
(3) that there was no probable cause to arrest her for drug
paraphernalia. The Motion has been fully briefed, and was the
subject of an evidentiary hearing on July 15, 2019. The Court
received oral argument from the parties at the conclusion of
that hearing. Thus, the matter is now ripe for decision.
United States Constitution imposes certain well-known
limitations on searches and seizures:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the person or things to be seized.
U.S. Const, amend. IV. A large body of judicial precedent has
developed, especially over the last six decades, articulating
more precisely how the Fourth Amendment should be applied to
a variety of factual contexts. As with so many other areas of
the law, the devil is in the details.
police officer may briefly seize or search a person without a
warrant or probable cause if he reasonably suspects that
criminal activity is afoot, but only if that suspicion is
based on "specific and articulable facts . . . taken
together with rational inferences from those facts."
See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 30 (1968). When a
court is asked to determine whether that officer's
suspicion was reasonable, it must ask whether "the facts
available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the
search warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that
the action taken was appropriate." See Id. at
21-22 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Whether the
particular facts known to the officer amount to an objective
and particularized basis for a reasonable suspicion of
criminal activity is determined in light of the totality of
the circumstances." United States v. Maltais,
403 F.3d 550, 554 (8th Cir. 2005).
traffic stop, as with any other brief detention based on
reasonable suspicion, "the tolerable duration of [a]
police inquir[y]... is determined by the seizure's
'mission'- to address the traffic violation that
warranted the stop, and attend to related safety
concerns." See Rodriguez v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015) (internal citations omitted).
"Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to
the traffic infraction are-or reasonably should have
been-completed." Id. "The seizure remains
lawful only 'so long as [unrelated] inquiries do not
measurably extend the duration of the stop.'"
Id. at 1615 (quoting Arizona v. Johnson,
555 U.S. 323, 333 (2009)) (alterations in original). However,
if during the traffic stop the officer develops the
reasonable suspicion that some additional criminal activity
is afoot, then he may prolong the stop to investigate the new
matter. See id.; see also United States v. Linkous,
285 F.3d 716, 720 (8th Cir. 2002) ("An officer's
suspicion of criminal activity may reasonably grow over the
course of a traffic stop as the circumstances unfold and more
suspicious facts are uncovered."). "Whether an
officer has reasonable suspicion to expand the scope of a
traffic stop is determined by looking at the totality of the
circumstances, in light of the officer's
experience." Linkous, 285 F.3d at 720 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
although reasonable suspicion of additional criminal activity
is sufficient to expand the scope and duration of a traffic
stop, probable cause is necessary to conduct a search of the
vehicle. "A police officer has probable cause to conduct
a search when the facts available to him would warrant a
person of reasonable caution in the belief that contraband or
evidence of a crime is present." Florida v.
Harris, 568 U.S. 237, 243 (2013) (internal quotation
marks and alterations omitted). This standard is not one of
"rigid rules, bright-line tests, and mechanistic
inquiries," but rather is based on "the totality of
the circumstances." See Id. at 244. Probable
cause is "a fluid concept-turning on the assessment of
probabilities in particular factual contexts-not readily, or
even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules."
Id. (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S.
213, 232 (1983)). For example, probable cause to search a car
for drugs may be provided by a reliable alert from a
drug-sniffing dog-but like all probable-cause analyses, it
must be based on the totality of the circumstances, with the
ultimate question being "whether all the facts
surrounding a dog's alert, viewed through the lens of
common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think
that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a
crime." See Id. at 248.
important wrinkle in Fourth Amendment precedent is something
known as the collective-knowledge doctrine. "The
collective knowledge of law enforcement officers conducting
an investigation is sufficient to provide reasonable
suspicion, and the collective knowledge can be imputed to the
individual officer who initiated the traffic stop when there
is some communication between the officers." United
States v. Thompson,533 F.3d 964, 969 (8th Cir. 2008).
The collective-knowledge doctrine applies not only to
reasonable-suspicion inquiries, but also to probable-cause
inquiries. "Probable cause for the stop and search of
[a] vehicle may be based on the collective knowledge of all
law enforcement officers involved in the investigation and
need not ...