United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is the Motion to Suppress (Doc.
18) filed by Defendant Arthur Lee Stewart. Defendant
seeks to suppress all physical evidence and inculpatory
statements obtained as a result of and during his arrest. The
Government filed an opposition. (Doc. 20). On October 11,
2019, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons
stated herein, the motion is DENIED.
approximately noon on December 3, 2018, East Baton Rouge
Sheriffs Office Special Community Anti-Crime Team members
Sergeant Sellars, Sergeant Griffin, Corporal Wilson, Deputy
Harry, Deputy Fleming, and Deputy Cheney were working near
north Baton Rouge when they observed a live social media feed
depicting an individual in possession of what appeared to be
marijuana and a handgun. The officers were able to identify
that the individual was in front of the Triple A convenience
store in north Baton Rouge. Team members immediately entered
their patrol units and headed toward the store.
Sellars and Corporal Wilson were the first to arrive at the
store. Corporal Wilson was driving, and Sergeant Sellars was
in the front passenger seat. The window of the front
passenger seat was down. As the patrol unit pulled up to the
store, Sergeant Sellars detected a strong odor of marijuana
and observed two individuals smoking what appeared to be
marijuana "blunts." One of the individuals, who was
later identified as Defendant, walked toward the patrol unit.
Sergeant Sellars exited the patrol unit and instructed
Defendant to stop. Defendant then abruptly turned and fled.
Sergeant Sellars apprehended him, handcuffed him, and advised
him of his Miranda rights.
point, Sergeant Sellars asked Defendant if he had anything in
his possession. Defendant responded that he had marijuana in
his pocket and had previously been smoking a rolled marijuana
cigar ("blunt"). Deputy Harry searched the ground
where Defendant and the other individual were standing when
Sergeant Sellars first observed them and found a suspected
marijuana blunt. Sergeant Sellars conducted a search of
Defendant's person. During the search, Sergeant Sellars
found heroin, marijuana, a scale, and Adderall. Sergeant
Sellars then turned custody of Defendant over to Deputy
Fleming, who conducted a secondary search of Defendant's
person and found a handgun.
argues that he was detained without a warrant, probable
cause, or reasonable suspicion. In the case of a warrantless
seizure, the Government bears the burden of proving, by a
preponderance of evidence, that the seizure was
Terry Stop and Warrantless Arrest of Defendant
the Fourth Amendment generally requires officers to obtain a
warrant before searching or seizing an individual, under the
"very narrow exception" announced in Terry v,
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), police officers may briefly
detain a person for investigative purposes if they can point
to "specific and articulable facts" that give rise
to reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is
committing, or is about to commit a crime. United States
v. Hill, 752 F.3d 1029, 1033 (5th Cir. 2014).
cause for a warrantless arrest exists when the totality of
the facts and circumstances within a police officer's
knowledge at the moment of arrest are sufficient for a
reasonable person to conclude that the suspect had committed
or was committing an offense." United States v.
Ochoa, 667 F.3d 643, 649 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting
United States v. Wadley, 59 F.3d 510, 512 (5th Cir.
case before the Court, the officers had observed a live
social media feed depicting Defendant in possession of what
appeared to be marijuana and a handgun in front of the Triple
A convenience store. The officers were entitled to observe
the social media feed because it was voluntarily uploaded by
Defendant. The officers were able to identify that the
individual was in front of the Triple A convenience store,
which they testified is in a high crime area. The Fifth
Circuit has ruled that factors germane to a reasonable
suspicion analysis include whether the area where the stop
occurred was a high crime area. United States v.
Tuggle, 284 Fed.Appx. 218, 223 (5th Cir. 2008). As
Corporal Wilson's patrol unit pulled up to the store,
Sergeant Sellars detected a strong odor of marijuana and
observed two individuals smoking what appeared to be
marijuana blunts, at which point Defendant abruptly turned
and fled. Possession of marijuana is a crime under Louisiana
law, and the Fifth Circuit has ruled that another factor
germane to a reasonable suspicion analysis is whether the
individual engaged in flight upon noticing the police.
Id. Lastly, it is undisputed that Defendant was
provided the Miranda warnings immediately after his
Sellars and Deputy Harry's testimony establishing all
these facts was credible and was not controverted. Thus, the
officers' decision to approach the Triple A convenience
store was supported by reasonable suspicion. Similarly,
Sergeant Sellars's decision to arrest Defendant was
supported by probable cause.
Search Incident to Arrest of ...