United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge
Donta Willis (“Defendant”) was charged by
indictment with conspiracy to distribute narcotics,
possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, unlawful
transport of firearms, and possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Doc. 54. The charges
arise out of a traffic stop for following too closely. As a
result of the stop, Louisiana state troopers discovered
methamphetamine in Defendant's jacket pocket and in his
vehicle. Defendant's home was then searched, and the
troopers discovered additional drugs and a firearm.
the court is Defendant's First Motion to Suppress
(Doc. 53). Defendant argues that (1) the state
trooper did not have objectively reasonable suspicion to
initiate the traffic stop, and (2) La. R.S. 32:81 (Following
vehicles) is unconstitutionally vague. For the reasons that
follow, it is recommended that Defendant's motion be
hearing was held on the motion to suppress, and the following
facts were established. Matthew Titus, a trooper with the
Louisiana State Police, received information from the DEA
Task Force regarding possible narcotics trafficking. Agents
told Trooper Titus that someone in a gray Chrysler 300 was
suspected of transporting and selling narcotics, and the
Chrysler was leaving a location off of Benton Road. Tr.
17-19. Trooper Titus saw the suspect car traveling south on
Airline Drive. The posted speed limit in the area was 35
miles per hour, and traffic was “pretty thick.”
Chrysler was driving approximately 35 miles per hour and was
less than a car length away from the pickup truck in front of
it. Trooper Titus testified that, based on his training and
experience, the car should have been at least two-and-a-half
to three car lengths behind the truck. At that time, the two
vehicles were traveling toward a light that had turned
yellow. The pickup truck went through the intersection, and
the Chrysler stopped at the light. Trooper Titus testified
that, if the driver of the pickup truck had hit his brakes
forcibly to stop at the light, the Chrysler could have
rear-ended him. Tr. 7-8.
Titus initiated his lights to stop the Chrysler for following
too closely. Tr. 8. When he activated his lights, his dash
camera began recording; however, the camera did not record
the initial traffic violation. Tr. 10.
Titus made contact with Defendant, who was driving the
Chrysler, and Jamal Walker, who was in the passenger seat.
When Trooper Titus asked for Defendant's driver's
license, he noticed that Defendant's hands were trembling
and that defendant was constantly breaking eye contact. Tr.
11. Trooper Titus noticed that Walker's hands were also
shaking. Tr. 12.
Titus conducted a pat-down of Defendant. During the pat-down,
he felt “a round-type bag that felt like
narcotics” in Defendant's sweatshirt pocket.
Defendant and Walker then fled on foot. Tr. 12-13. As Walker
fled, he dropped his jacket. Defendant and Walker were both
eventually captured and arrested. Tr. 15. Narcotics
detectives located approximately 116.4 grams of suspected
methamphetamine inside Defendant's sweatshirt pocket.
They also found approximately 35.9 grams of suspected
methamphetamine in Walker's pants pocket. Tr. 15.
Titus put Walker's jacket back inside the Chrysler. He
then deployed his K-9 on the vehicle. The dog alerted on the
car, and Trooper Titus searched the vehicle. He found
approximately 62.8 grams of suspected methamphetamine in
Walker's jacket pocket. Tr. 15-16.