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United States v. Goodin

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

May 20, 2019





         Before the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the District Court, is a motion to suppress filed by Defendant Thomas Goodin [doc. # 51]. For reasons explained below, it is recommended that the motion be DENIED.


         On November 30, 2017, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Louisiana State Police Trooper Randall Colby Dickerson initiated a traffic stop of a white Ford Fusion after observing the vehicle's tires cross over the solid white fog line that separates the road from the right while traveling eastbound on Interstate 20. (Hearing Transcript (“Tr.”) 4-5, [doc. # 104]).

         Trooper Dickerson made contact with the driver, later identified as Defendant Goodin, who got out and met Trooper Dickerson at the rear of the vehicle. Trooper Dickerson told Goodin he pulled him over for crossing the fog lines a few times and was checking to see if Goodin was impaired or sleepy. Goodin responded that he was fatigued from driving for a long time. Goodin stated he had left San Bernardino, CA that morning, stopped in Dallas, TX to drop off his girlfriend, and was driving to Monroe, LA to visit family. (Tr. 10-11).

         According to Trooper Dickerson, Goodin appeared “very nervous.” He would not look Trooper Dickerson in the eyes and exhibited “a lot of nervous behavior.” Trooper Dickerson asked Goodin for identification. Goodin stated he did not have a driver's license but provided Trooper Dickerson with a Louisiana Identification Card issued to Malchia Desha Douzart. The person depicted on the Louisiana ID resembled Goodin, although the height appeared to be off. However, the photograph “looked so much like” Goodin that Trooper Dickerson thought the height could be just a misprint. Trooper Dickerson asked Goodin why he had a Louisiana ID if he lived in California. Goodin responded that he thought it would be good to have Louisiana ID for when he came to Monroe to visit family, which Trooper Dickerson thought was “an odd answer.” (Tr. 12-14, 17-18).

         Trooper Dickerson patted Goodin down and went back to his vehicle to check the ID and the car and to write Goodin a ticket for having no driver's license. He verified that the license plate was suspended and Douzart had an extensive criminal history. During this time, Trooper Dickerson observed Goodin sit on the ground, then stand up and “sway[] nervously, ” and exhibit “a lot of nervous movement.” (Tr. 14-17, 19).

         When he returned with the ticket, Trooper Dickerson asked Goodin-whom he believed to be Douzart-whether he had ever been arrested before. Goodin replied that he had been arrested “for a few bar fights, ” but Trooper Dickerson already knew from looking up the criminal history that Douzart had been arrested for things more serious than bar fights. Based on Goodin's response, his “nervous behavior, ” the height on the ID card, the fact that Goodin exited the vehicle “as quickly as he did” when stopped, Trooper Dickerson became “more suspicious that there might something more going on.” (Tr. 21-22). Approximately twenty minutes after initiating the stop, Trooper Dickerson issued a citation for driving without a license[1] and then asked for consent to search the vehicle, which Goodin denied. (Tr. 24-25; see Gov. Ex. 1[2]).

         Trooper Dickerson then called for a K-9. At 1:08 a.m., Deputy Jared Benjamin from the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene with his narcotics certified K-9, Igo. (Tr. 25- 26; see Gov. Exs. 1, 5). At the scene, Deputy Benjamin conducted a safety check of the ground around the vehicle to verify there was nothing that could harm the K-9. He then retrieved Igo and conducted an open air sniff of the vehicle. Igo alerted to the presence of narcotics at the passenger side rear door of the vehicle by swiping his paw across the door. (Tr. 67-71; see Gov. Ex. 1).

         Deputy Benjamin informed Trooper Dickerson that Igo positively alerted to the presence of narcotics, and troopers[3] began to search the vehicle. When they opened the car they smelled marijuana inside. They then popped the trunk and found two packages wrapped like presents, which they removed and placed on the ground outside the vehicle. (Tr. 30-31). At one of the trooper's request, Deputy Benjamin and Igo conducted a secondary sniff of the interior of the car and Igo alerted to the presence of narcotics in the trunk and in a suitcase on the front passenger floorboard. (Tr. 72-74). The troopers opened the packages. One package contained two Gold Peak Tea bottles, vacuum sealed with a waxy substance, with a yellow tinted liquid inside. The other package contained a handmade candle in a glass jar. (Tr. 31-32).

         Trooper Dickerson opened the vacuum sealed bottles and smelled an odor that, based on his experience, he identified as phencyclidine (“PCP”). He then placed Goodin under arrest. The packages later tested positive for PCP and methamphetamine. (Tr. 33, 49). After Goodin was arrested and transported to Troop F, officers located his driver's license inside his wallet and found there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for the distribution of methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. (Tr. 18-19, 34-35; see Gov. Ex. 2). In connection with this incident, Goodin was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute PCP, both in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)-(2). [doc. # 1].

         On October 19, 2018, Goodin filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the traffic stop. He claims (1) the extension of the traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff was unreasonable; and (2) the K-9's signal was unreliable. [doc. # 51-1 at 5].

         On March 1, 2019, the Government filed its response claiming (1) the traffic stop was supported by probable cause; (2) there was reasonable suspicion that contraband was in the vehicle in order to extend the stop to wait on the K-9 officers; (3) the certified K-9's positive alert on the vehicle provided probable cause to search the entire vehicle; (4) the contraband would have inevitably been be discovered through an inventory search of the vehicle; and (5) any statements made by Goodin were free and voluntary.[4] [doc. # 83].

         Goodin filed a reply on March 5, 2019. [docs. # 84].

         A suppression hearing took place on April 1, 2019, with testimony from Trooper Dickerson and Deputy Benjamin. Defendant submitted a post-hearing brief. [docs. # 107]. This matter is ripe.

         Legal Standard

         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 ...

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