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United States v. Stanbridge

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

February 3, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LESHAWN STANBRIDGE, Defendant

For LeShawn Stanbridge, Defendant: Karl W Bryning, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Peoria, IL.

For USA, Plaintiff: Bryan David Freres, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTY, Springfield, IL.

OPINION

Page 882

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In the Motion to Suppress Evidence (d/e 9) now before the Court, Defendant LeShawn Stanbridge seeks to exclude all evidence resulting from a traffic stop in Quincy, Illinois, that eventually led to his May 2014 indictment on one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. Stanbridge contends that police officers did not have probable cause to initiate the traffic stop because he had not committed any traffic violations. Stanbridge also contends that he did not voluntarily consent to a search of his vehicle. For these reasons, Stanbridge asserts that evidence found during the traffic stop and subsequent search should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. Because Stanbridge's improperly signaled turns gave police officers probable cause to initiate the traffic stop and because the officers did not unreasonably prolong the stop when they called in investigative drug-sniffing dogs, Stanbridge's Motion is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On April 7, 2014, Quincy Police Officer Steve Bangert and Paul Hodges were on routine patrol when they observed Defendant LeShawn Stanbridge approach a white Crown Victoria carrying a green duffel bag. Both officers report that Stanbridge " froze with a surprised look on his face" when he saw the officers in their unmarked police car. After Stanbridge did not immediately get into the Crown Victoria, the officers decided to set up surveillance, driving around the block and returning " several minutes later." At this point, Stanbridge had entered the Crown Victoria and was in the driver's seat. Shortly after the officers' return, Stanbridge began driving westbound. The officers followed Stanbridge, with Officer Bangert driving. Soon thereafter, Officer Hodges alone observed Stanbridge make a right turn onto 4th Street and a left turn without a proper turn signal onto Delaware. Officer Hodges described the left turn onto Delaware as follows: " When I saw him he was approximately in the middle of the intersection, in the process of making his turn. There was no turn signal being used on the vehicle." Officer

Page 883

Hodges did not tell Officer Bangert that Stanbridge's turn had not been properly signaled. But both officers then observed Stanbridge pull to the right-hand curb abruptly while simultaneously using his right turn signal, an act which both officers believed to be a traffic violation because Stanbridge had not signaled for at least 100 feet before pulling to the curb. See 625 Ill.Comp.Stat. 5/11-804 (2012). Officer Bangert, the driver, initiated a traffic stop. When Officer Bangert turned on the police car's emergency lights, he triggered a 90-second return on the police car's dashboard camera, automatically capturing and saving video footage of what the officers saw through their front windshield leading up to and during the traffic stop.

During the stop, the officers saw that Stanbridge was alone in the car, and they saw a green duffle bag on the passenger seat. Upon collecting Stanbridge's license and vehicle registration information, the officers returned to the car, where they learned from dispatch that Stanbridge was a valid driver but had prior felony drug convictions. The officers requested a K9 unit and began writing a warning ticket for Stanbridge. The K9 unit showed up at the scene and completed a sniff-search of Stanbridge's vehicle " within fifteen minutes of the initial stop." The dog gave a " very obvious positive alert on the vehicle," which the officers' dashboard camera captured. The officers then searched the vehicle. Officer Hodges checked the green duffle bag and noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the bag. He opened the bag to find a small lockbox with a strong odor of unburnt cannabis coming from the keyhole. After Stanbridge said he did not have a key, the officers pried open the lockbox to find cannabis, hydrocodone, digital scales, and crystal methamphetamine.

Subsequently, Stanbridge was indicted on May 8, 2014, for one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of mixtures or substances containing methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of mixtures or substances containing methamphetamine. Documents produced to Stanbridge in pretrial discovery detail the search of Stanbridge's car and the seizure of methamphetamine, hydrocodone pills, and cannabis. Pretrial discovery also discloses Stanbridge's post-arrest statements that allegedly establish a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine existing from November 1, 2013, until his arrest on April 7, 2014.

Stanbridge filed the present Motion to Suppress Evidence on the ground that Officers Bangert and Hodges did not have probable cause to initiate the traffic stop because Stanbridge had committed no traffic violations. Stanbridge also asserts that he did not give consent to the search of his vehicle. Stanbridge filed the present Motion to Suppress Evidence on October 7, 2014, and on November 26, 2014, the Court held an evidentiary hearing, from which this statement of the case's factual background is derived.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Officers Bangert and Hodges had probable cause to stop Stanbridge for his ...


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