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United States v. Parkhill

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 31, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA L. PARKHILL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Joshua L. Parkhill's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 22). The Court held a hearing on the motion on July 22 and 28, 2015. For the following reasons and those stated on the record, the motion is GRANTED.

Background

The parties stipulated to the relevant facts during the hearing. On December 2, 2013, a tipster informed Illinois State Police Inspector Wes Harbison that Defendant was making daily trips to St. Louis to purchase heroin and that he would likely make such a trip the following day. After an inquiry into Defendant's record, Harbison discovered Defendant had a suspended driver's license and an outstanding failure-to-appear warrant out of Franklin County, Illinois for a driving offense.

On the following day, December 3, 2013, law enforcement officers waited outside Defendant's residence. At 11:00 a.m., the officers observed Defendant leaving the residence driving his grandfather's 2002 Ford F-150. The officers also observed Defendant's grandfather seated in the passenger seat, but were unable to determine if there were passengers in the back seat because of the tinted windows. The officers followed Defendant to Caseyville, Illinois, at which time they lost sight of the vehicle when it exited the interstate at approximately 12:30 to 1:00 p.m.

Later that day at 3:30 p.m., Inspector Harbison spotted the vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 64 at or near the Lebanon exit. At 4:30 p.m. Harbison conducted "an investigative traffic stop" on the south bound off ramp of Interstate 57 at Exit 71 in Benton, Illinois. At the time of the stop, Defendant's grandfather was driving, Defendant's grandmother was in the passenger seat and Defendant was laying down in the backseat. Prior to initiating the stop, officers knew that an elderly white man was driving the vehicle and they did not observe Defendant in the vehicle. After the stop, officers found Defendant lying in the backseat and arrested him at which time he admitted to possessing 25 buttons of heroin, 1 suboxone pill, a hypodermic syringe, a spoon, and 3 Q-tips. Approximately 24 minutes after the initial stop, the officers arrived at the Franklin County Sheriff's Department with Defendant at which time he admitted to using, buying, and selling heroin.

Defendant now seeks to suppress the evidence and statements obtained by law enforcement arguing that the stop, seizure, and search were in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, Defendant argues that the tip and officers' personal observation did not provide reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify a Terry stop and the fruits of the illegal stop and seizure, including his statements/admissions and the seized evidence, must be suppressed.

The Government counters that Defendant's arrest warrant precludes any argument that the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion, that the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop because Defendant's observed conduct conformed to the tipster's information, and that the warrant constituted an intervening circumstance. At the suppression hearing, the Government clarified its arguments as follows (1) there was reasonable suspicion that Defendant Parkhill was present in the vehicle to arrest him on the warrant; (2) Defendant Parkhill did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment because of the arrest warrant and his status as a passenger; and (3) if the Court finds the initial stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the confession made by the Defendant at the Sheriff's Department is admissible because the search warrant was an intervening circumstance.

Analysis

Brief investigatory stops are permissible "when a law enforcement officer has a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.'" Navarette v. California, 134 S.Ct. 1683, 1687 (2014) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18 (1982)). "The reasonable suspicion' necessary to justify such a stop is dependent upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability.'" Navarette, 134 S.Ct. at 1687 (quoting Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330 (1990)). The court must look to the totality of the circumstances. Navarette, 134 S.Ct. at 1687. The inquiry requires more that "a mere hunch'" but "considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence.'" Id. at 1687.

An anonymous tip alone is seldom sufficient to constitute reasonable suspicion. Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 270 (2000). "[H]owever, there are situations in which an anonymous tip, suitably corroborated, exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop.'" Id. (quoting Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 329 (1990)).

Defendant cites to Navarette in support of his argument that the tip received by Officer Harbison on December 2, 2013 did not provide reasonable suspicion. In Navarette, officers stopped a truck identified by a 911 caller as the truck that had run her off the road. Id. at 1687. The officers smelled marijuana as they approached the vehicle, and a search revealed 30 pounds of marijuana. Id. The officers arrested the driver and passenger who moved to suppress the evidence arguing the officers lacked reasonable suspicion. Id. The Court found the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable because the caller claimed eyewitness knowledge of the dangerous driving. Id. at 1689. The Court further found the tipster reliable because the report was contemporaneous with the reported incident and the tipster used the 911 system which has safeguards to deter false reports. Id.

In Navarette, the Supreme Court pointed to two cases as guides in determining whether an anonymous tip provides reasonable suspicion. In Alabama v. White , reasonable suspicion was present where an anonymous tipster told police a woman was transporting cocaine. 496 U.S. 325, 327 (1990). The tipster indicated the woman would be driving a brown Plymouth station wagon with a broken right tail light from a particular apartment building to a particular motel. Id. After corroborating these details, officers stopped the woman and found the cocaine. Id. at 332. Because of the corroborated details, this tip was found to be sufficiently reliable to support reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Id. Specifically, the tipster accurately predicted the driver's behavior indicating the tipster's information was reliable. Id. The Court further indicated officers could rely on the truthfulness of the tipster's claims because some of her claims had already proved truthful. Id. at 331.

In Florida v. J.L., reasonable suspicion was not present where an anonymous tipster told officers a young black male wearing a plaid shirt at a bus stop was carrying a gun. 529 U.S. 266, 268 (2000). That Court found it relevant that "[t]he tipster did not explain how he knew about the gun, []suggest that he had any special familiarity with the young man's affairs, " or "include [any] predictions of future behavior that could ...


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