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United States v. Walton

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 13, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KENYON R. WALTON, Defendant-Appellant

Argued May 28, 2014

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:12-cr-30266-MJR-1 -- Michael J. Reagan, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Donald S. Boyce, Attorney, Andrew Simonson, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Criminal Division, Fairview Heights, IL.

For Kenyon R. Walton, Defendant - Appellant: Andrew B. Greenlee, Attorney, Brownstone, P.A., Winter Park, FL.

Before FLAUM, MANION, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 656

Tinder, Circuit Judge.

Kenyon Walton appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress for lack of Fourth Amendment standing. For the reasons explained below, we conclude that Walton's alleged illegal acts did not deprive him the opportunity to vindicate his privacy interests against a government search and seizure of his rental vehicle. We therefore reverse the district court's decision and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

On August 29, 2012, Walton was a passenger in a rented Chevrolet Suburban driven by his companion, Darrallyn Smoot, when the pair was pulled over on an interstate highway for a traffic stop by a state trooper in Madison County, Illinois. According to the trooper, Walton and Smoot were nervous, their breath heavy and their hands shaking, and they gave a confusing and implausible description of their travel plans. In particular, they apparently failed to pack any luggage for their supposed

Page 657

trip. Having become suspicious of the two, the trooper decided to extend the stop for approximately twenty minutes so that a police canine could smell around the car. The dog allegedly alerted while sniffing around the Suburban, and troopers then searched the vehicle and found seven kilograms of cocaine hidden in the back.

This was not Walton's first brush with the law. In fact, at the time of the stop he was on parole in Kentucky, and one of the terms of his release was that he could not leave that state without his parole officer's permission. He was also subject to regular searches by his parole officer. However, the Illinois state trooper who stopped and searched the Suburban did not yet know Walton was on parole.

Walton[1] was indicted in the Southern District of Illinois for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He filed a motion to suppress the narcotics found in the Suburban. In opposition, the government argued that Walton lacked standing to challenge the search and seizure of the rental car for two reasons: first, he had violated his parole by leaving Kentucky without notifying his parole officer; and second, he lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the Suburban.[2]

As to the first point, the government argued that because Walton was on parole and violated the terms of his release by leaving the state, he had a diminished privacy interest. It suggested that Walton could not have had a subjective expectation of privacy while he knew he was violating his parole. He should have known that he was subject to a search, and arrest, if he were found outside the state without his parole officer's permission.

In support of its second argument, the government provided evidence that Walton's rental agreement with Dollar Rent-A-Car, which authorized him to drive the Suburban, required that he have a valid license. Then the government entered two pieces of evidence to demonstrate that Walton's Ohio driver's license was suspended at the time of his arrest: (1) an email, dated October 30, 2012 and sent by the Illinois state trooper who stopped Walton, which purported to relay a state record of Walton's Ohio license status showing that it was suspended; and (2) a traffic ticket for improper signaling that Walton received in Kansas, in which a highway patrolman indicated that Walton was driving with a suspended license. The ticket is dated August 28, 2012--the very same day that Walton rented the Suburban, and the day before he was arrested.

Based on this evidence, the government argued that Walton had violated both the rental agreement that authorized him to possess the car, and the rules by which the state of Ohio had issued him a license to drive it. As such, the government argued that Walton lacked a legitimate expectation of privacy in the Suburban. It primarily relied on two cases, United States v. Haywood, 324 F.3d 514 (7th Cir. 2003), and United States v. Figueroa-Espana, 511 F.3d 696 (7th Cir. 2007), for the proposition that the unauthorized, unlicensed driver of a rental car lacked standing to challenge a search of the vehicle.

The district court held a hearing on Walton's motion to suppress. There, Walton for the first time argued that he had a valid license on the day of his arrest, and that any record of his license being suspended was a mistake. He did not provide any evidence for that assertion, however,

Page 658

and did not dispute the government's evidence that his license was suspended. The district court denied Walton's motion to suppress due to lack of standing. The court found that Walton lacked a subjective expectation of privacy because he knew he was in violation of his parole simply by being in Illinois. It also concluded that Walton lacked an objective expectation of privacy in the Suburban because he rented it without a valid license, in violation of the rental agreement.

Walton moved for reconsideration, and this time offered evidence in support of his cause. He provided a document discussing the conditions of his parole in Kentucky. Walton argued that he was subject to search only by his parole officer, not by a law-enforcement officer who was ignorant of his parole status. He also offered two records indicating that his license was valid at the time of his arrest. First, he produced a printout of an official Kentucky record indicating that his license was transferred to Ohio and was, as of that time, still valid. Second, he provided an official Ohio abstract of his driving record, which documented five driving " convictions" he had received while possessing an Ohio's driv-er's license, but nevertheless indicated that his driver's license was valid " as of 6/26/2013" --a year after the car search and his arrest. Walton noted that this abstract, which recorded incidents before his arrest, did not indicate that his license had been suspended at any point.

The district court denied Walton's motion for reconsideration. It reasoned that Walton's evidence established only that he had a valid Ohio license as of June 26, 2013, but that he could not show that he had a valid license on August 29, 2012, when he was arrested. His evidence could not rebut the government's proof that his license was suspended on the relevant date. Because Walton bore the burden of showing he had standing to challenge the search and seizure, the district court declined to reconsider its decision.

Walton then entered into a conditional guilty plea, whereby he reserved the right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion. He now appeals to this court.

II. Discussion

In reviewing a district court's decision on a motion to suppress, this court reviews its findings of fact for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. United States v. Peters, 743 F.3d 1113, 1116 (7th Cir. 2014). The question of Fourth Amendment standing is " one involving the substantive question of whether or not the proponent of the motion to suppress has had his own Fourth Amendment rights infringed by the search and seizure which he seeks to chal-lenge." Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 133, 99 S.Ct. 421, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978). To have standing to challenge the search and seizure in this case, Walton bears the burden of establishing that he had both a subjective and an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy. United States v. Walker, 237 F.3d 845, 849 (7th Cir. 2001). An objective expectation of privacy is one that " that society is prepared to recognize as 'reasonable.'" Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 361, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967). The subjective prong of the expectations analysis presents a fact-specific inquiry that looks " to the individual['s] affirmative steps to conceal and keep private whatever item was the subject of the search." United States v. Yang, 478 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2007).

We now must apply these principles to determine whether the district court clearly erred in determining that Walton did not have a valid license on the day of the ...


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