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United States v. Lyons

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 28, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Anthony M. LYONS, Defendant-Appellant.

Argued Sept. 18, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Linda L. Mullen, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Rock Island, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Daniel T. Hansmeier, Attorney, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Springfield, IL, Jonathan E. Hawley, Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Peoria, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before BAUER, POSNER, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

TINDER, Circuit Judge.

Anthony M. Lyons appeals his criminal conviction before the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois for possession of a firearm as a felon, as well as his sentencing as an Armed Career Criminal under 18 U.S.C. ยง 924(e). As to the conviction, he challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress the firearm found during a traffic stop because, he alleges, the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to frisk him. As to the sentence, he argues that the district court failed to state any reasons for imposing a sentence of 210 months' imprisonment, and that the district court improperly sentenced him to five years of supervised release under the erroneous assumption that such a period was mandatory, rather than left to the court's discretion. We affirm Lyons's conviction, but we remand the case for resentencing because the district court failed to state the reasons supporting its sentence, and because it incorrectly believed it was required to impose a five-year period of supervised release.


A. The Traffic Stop

On September 14, 2011, four Springfield police officers went on patrol in an unmarked squad car. At about 9:00 p.m., the officers spotted a blue Cadillac driven by James White. Lyons was in the passenger seat. One of the policemen, Officer Dodd, later testified that he recognized White from numerous previous encounters. Nine months earlier, he had attempted to pull White over for a traffic violation, whereupon White fled and crashed his car; officers found a firearm inside the vehicle. Five months after that first incident, Officer Dodd and a fellow officer attempted to execute a warrant for White's arrest while he was outside his apartment. Rather than complying, White fled inside and blocked the door. Upon forcing the door open, the officers discovered drug manufacturing material in plain view. They then secured a search warrant for the apartment and discovered two firearms and a significant amount of cocaine. Another officer riding in the unmarked police car on the night of September 14, Officer Burns, testified that, although he had never encountered White himself before that night, he was aware of White's two previous attempts to flee arrest.

Aside from these chases, Officer Dodd had pulled White over several times for traffic infractions, and he knew that his license had been suspended. The officers

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decided to stop White on suspicion of driving with a suspended license and activated the squad car's emergency lights. Instead of pulling over, White accelerated the car. According to the officers, he drove at least two blocks and ran a " solid" red light (one that was " near the end of its red cycle" ) before pulling his car to the curb.

At the time, Officers Dodd and Burns belonged to the police department's Street Crimes Unit, and both were veteran police officers, having served seven and six years, respectively. They later testified that, based on White's prior conduct and their own experience, they suspected White had fled in an attempt to conceal contraband, retrieve a weapon, or give himself a head start in a foot chase.

Once the vehicle came to a stop, Officers Dodd approached White and asked him to step out of the car. Another officer frisked White. Meanwhile, Officer Burns approached the passenger's seat and observed Lyons. He later testified that he noticed immediately that Lyons's hands were shaking and that he avoided eye contact when answering questions. Officer Burns then asked Lyons to step out of the car as well. He observed that Lyons's hands were still shaking as he exited the vehicle, but when he asked Lyons if he had any weapons, Lyons responded that he did not.

Officer Burns then announced that he intended to frisk Lyons for weapons. According to Officer Burns, Lyons hung his head and said, " I have a gun on me." As Officer Burns proceeded to handcuff Lyons, Officer Dodd approached from the driver's side of the car and lifted up Lyons's shirt, revealing a loaded firearm in his waistband. Officer Dodd said that at this point he recognized Lyons as someone he had seen with White on " numerous occasions." The officers then placed him under arrest. Officers Dodd and Burns testified that the entire encounter, from the first observation of White's car to the subsequent arrest of Lyons, lasted about seventeen minutes.

Lyons was charged with possession of a firearm as a felon. On January 8, 2012, a magistrate judge recommended that the district court deny Lyons's motion to suppress the firearm. The judge advanced two grounds for the recommendation. First, he found that no search had occurred by the time Lyons admitted he possessed the firearm, and his statement provided ample reason for Officer Dodd to lift up Lyons's shirt. Alternatively, the magistrate judge determined that Officer Burns had reasonable, articulable suspicion that Lyons might be armed and dangerous, and therefore that the announced frisk was lawful, regardless of whether it began ...

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