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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

March 11, 2019





         Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to suppress filed by Defendant Devin DeWayne Williams. [doc. # 20]. For reasons explained below, it is recommended that the motion be DENIED.


         On September 24, 2017, at approximately 11:21 p.m., Officer Danny Coronado of the West Monroe Police Department initiated a traffic stop of a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu after observing a nonfunctioning license plate light. He made contact with the driver, Defendant Williams, who disclosed that he did not have a driver's license. While speaking with Williams, Officer Coronado used his flashlight to look inside the vehicle. He observed an unmarked, see-through prescription bottle containing a green leafy substance consistent with marijuana on the driver's side floorboard.

         Officer Coronado called for backup, ordered Williams out of the vehicle, and placed him in handcuffs. He advised Williams of his Miranda rights and asked whether there were any illegal items in the vehicle. Williams responded that there were three grams of marijuana in the vehicle. Officer Coronado then searched Williams and located in his front right shorts pocket a handgun magazine loaded with nine .25 caliber rounds. Officer Coronado asked Williams if he was in possession of a firearm, and Williams responded that there was a handgun under the driver's seat of the vehicle, which he carried for protection.

         Officer Coronado then obtained Williams' consent to search the vehicle. During the search, Officer Coronado seized the unmarked prescription bottle and located a Beretta .25 caliber handgun under the driver's seat and three unopened packages of cigarillos in the center console. He called dispatch to run Williams' criminal history and confirmed that Williams was a convicted felon. Williams' vehicle was secured and left at the scene, and Williams was transported to the West Monroe Correctional Center and booked for no license plate light, no driver's license, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

         On August 23, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Williams on one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). [doc. # 1].

         On February 12, 2019, Williams filed the instant motion to suppress evidence seized and statements obtained from him by the Government. Williams claims Officer Coronado had no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe a traffic offense had been committed in order to stop and search the vehicle he was driving. Williams also claims the incriminating statements he made following his arrest should be suppressed because they were not voluntary or elicited pursuant to valid a Miranda waiver. [doc. # 20].[2]

         On March 1, 2019, the Government filed its response claiming (1) the traffic stop was supported by probable cause; and (2) Williams' statements were made voluntarily. [doc. # 23].

         A suppression hearing took place on March 6, 2019, with testimony from Officer Coronado. The matter is ripe.

         Standard of Review

         The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. The protections of the Fourth Amendment extend to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 207 (1979).

         “The proponent of a motion to suppress has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the evidence in question was obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.” United States v. Iraheta, 764 F.3d 455, 460 (5th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). Generally, “evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in a criminal proceeding against the victim of the illegal search or seizure. This prohibition applies as well to the fruits of the illegally seized evidence.” United States v. Wallace, 885 F.3d 806, 810 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 347 (1974)). The purpose of this exclusionary rule is to deter unlawful police conduct: by refusing to admit evidence gained as a result of conduct that deprives the defendant of some right, “the courts hope to instill in those particular investigating officers, or in their future counterparts, a greater degree of care toward the rights of the accused.” United States v. Pope, 467 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. ...

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