United States District Court, D. Nevada
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
FERENBACH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court are Gibson's motion to suppress (ECF No. 15),
the Government's response (ECF No. 23), and Gibson's
reply (ECF No. 30). The court also considered Gibson's
supplement (ECF No. 38) and the Government's supplement
(ECF No. 39). For the reasons stated below, Gibson's
motion should be granted.
October 29, 2016, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (Metro)
Officers Orton and Dannenberger stopped a green Ford F-l 50
with Wyoming license plates. (ECF No. 25) Officer
Dannenberger was wearing a body camera, which recorded the
most of the encounter. Officer Dannenberger ran the truck's
license plate number through their patrol car's mobile
data terminal. The system checked the license plate
number against Wyoming Department of Motor Vehicles.
According to the system, the license plate was expired and
was registered to a Honda Accord. Officer Orton testified
that in addition to the expired plates, she suspected that
the license plates or the truck may have been stolen.
to the officers at the time, the Wyoming Department of Motor
Vehicles maintains a separate data base for trucks. Wyoming
truck license plate numbers must be entered into the system
in a different manner than other Wyoming plate numbers in
order to return accurate information. Officer Dannenberger
entered the F-150's license number in the standard
fashion, which is why the plate was shown as expired and
registered to a Honda Accord. Later on in the encounter,
Metro dispatch ran the plate number correctly. This showed
that the registration was current and that the number was
associated with an F-150 truck.
Orton approached the driver, Joyce Frazier. Frazier could not
locate her proof of insurance or registration for the truck.
Officer Orton instructed Frazier to wave her paperwork
outside the driver's side window, if she located it.
Dannenberger approached the passenger, Defendant Robert Lee
Gibson. (ECF No. 25) Officer Dannenberger asked Gibson for
identification, about his criminal history, and if there was
a firearm in the car. (Id.) Gibson provided a voided
Nevada driver's license as well as his social security
card. (Id.) Gibson also informed the officer that he
was on federal probation. (Id.)
Orton performed a records check on Frazier and Gibson.
Officer Dannenberger stood several feet away from the patrol
car facing the truck. (Id.) While the records check
was being conducted, Frazier opened the driver side door and
waved a piece of paper at the officers. (Id.)
Officer Orton warned Frazier not to exit the vehicle.
(Id.) Approximately three minutes elapsed between
Officer Orton beginning her records check and Frazier being
ordered to remain in the truck. (Id.)
ignored Officer Orton's instructions and exited the
truck. (Id.) Gibson immediately moved into the
driver's seat, put the truck in reverse, and revved the
engine. (Id.) Officer Dannenberger ran to the
passenger side window, drew his weapon, and ordered Gibson to
place his hands on the dash. (Id.) Gibson was then
ordered out of the vehicle and placed under arrest.
thereafter, Metro Officers Lane and Randall arrived on scene
to assist Officers Orton and Dannenberger. After assistance
arrived, Officer Dannenberger decided to impound the truck
and to conduct an inventory search. While Gibson was
handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, Officer Lane asked
Gibson a series of questions. Officer Lane characterized
Gibon's responses as evasive and non-responsive. The last
question was, "Is there anything in the truck we should
know about?" Gibson did not respond to the question.
Instead he looked away from Officer Lane and towards the
F-150. When he saw Officers Dannenberger and Randall
approaching the truck to begin their inventory search, he
blurted out, "Everything in the truck is mine."
Lane did not Mirandize Gibson before this exchange and he did
not ask any other officer if he or she had Mirandized Gibson.
Dannenberger and Randall conducted an inventory search of the
truck. Officer Randall searched the driver's area, while
Office Dannenberger searched the passenger's area. The
officers first searched the front cab area. Officer Randal
removed the truck's fuse box, while Officer Dannenberger
looked through the glove compartment. Eventually, Officer
Dannenber removed the glove compartment from the dashboard in
order to search the cavity behind it.
officers moved from the front cab area to the rear cab area.
Officer Dannenberger perform a cursory search of some
clothing hanging on the rear cab door, then moved on to
search an open tool bag. At the bottom of the bag, Officer
Dannenberger discovered a zip lock bag containing .50 caliber
handgun ammunition. Meanwhile, Officer Randall discovered a
.50 caliber handgun in a holster under the driver's seat.
Officer Randall discovered the handgun, the officers stopped
the inventory search and called detectives from Metro's
firearm team. At no time during the search did either officer
write down the items they discovered. The officers did not
relay the information to another officer to write down, nor
did they use their body cameras to make an audio-visual
record of the items they discovered. Officer Randall
testified that it was his practice to simply memorize the
items he found during inventory searches and record them on
Metro's impound sheet at a later time. Officer Lane began
to complete an impound sheet, but stopped once the handgun
was discovered. According to Officer Lane, this sheet only
documented items found in the truck bed. The incomplete sheet
was later destroyed.
records check on the handgun revealed that it was stolen.
Based on Gibson's statements, officers charged him with
possession of a stolen handgun.
November 15, 2016, Gibson was indicted on one count of being
a felon in possession of a firearm. (ECF No. 1)
Metro Officers May Have Had Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
the duration of a traffic stop, ... a police officer
effectively seizes everyone in the vehicle, the driver and
all passengers." Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S.
323, 327, 129 S.Ct. 781, 172 L.Ed.2d 694 (2009).
police officer needs only reasonable suspicion in the context
of investigative traffic stops." United States v.
Miguel, 368 F.3d 1150, 1153 (9th Cir. 2004).
"Reasonable suspicion is formed by specific, articulable
facts which, together with objective and reasonable
inferences, form the basis for suspecting that the particular
person detained is engaged in criminal activity."
United States v. Lopez-Soto, 205 F.3d 1101, 1105
(9th Cir. 2000).
Ninth Circuit has "distinguished between mistakes of
fact and mistakes of law when an officer has initiated a
traffic stop based on a mistaken belief."
Miguel, 368 F.3d at 1153. "[I]f an officer
makes a traffic stop based on a mistake of law, the stop
violates the Fourth Amendment." United States v.
Twilley, 222 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th Cir. 2000). "A
mere mistake of fact will not render a stop illegal, if the
objective facts known to the officer gave rise to a
reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot."
United States v. Mariscal, 285 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th
Cir. 2002). "[A]n officer's correct understanding of
the law, together with a good-faith error regarding the
facts, can establish reasonable suspicion." United
States v. King, 244 F.3d 736, 739 (9th Cir. 2001).
Miguel, police officers' mistaken belief that a
vehicle's registration was expired supported reasonable
suspicion. 368 F.3d at 1154. Officers had stopped the
defendant's vehicle for expired registration.
Id. In coming to this conclusion, the officer relied
on exclusively on information provided to them by their law
enforcement computer. Id. The computer checked the
license plate against Department of Motor Vehicle records.
Id. These records indicated that the defendant's
vehicle registration was expired. Id. In ...