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Unite States v. Coleman

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

April 18, 2017

JAMES P. COLEMAN, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Defendant Coleman's motion to suppress evidence, ECF No. 13. For the following reasons, his motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         In the early morning of Tuesday June 14, 2016, Phillip Pieper, a patrol officer with the Galesburg Police Department, was on patrol in his squad car in Galesburg, Illinois. At 1:16 a.m., Pieper received a radio dispatch that there had been a shots-fired call at 537 Phillips Street. The dispatch stated that a male was involved in the incident, but did not convey any further identifying information.[2] The dispatch also stated that the male in question was driving south on Phillips and west on Grove in a newer gold car. Pieper was about three blocks away.

         To get to the location described in the dispatch, Pieper drove along Whitesboro Street, which is crossed by train tracks. A train was crossing Whitesboro Street, and stopped at the tracks was a silver 2014 Ford Fusion with Illinois plates and up-to-date registration stickers, driven, it turned out, by Coleman. Pieper tried to read the license plate number to run a search on it, but the train passed and the car started driving away before he could. Pieper followed the car, which parked in the driveway of a house just across the railroad crossing on the right. Pieper continued past the house and did a U-turn. He parked, got out of his squad car, and approached the parked car in the driveway. While this was happening, Pieper saw a person walk out of the garage and walk up to the side of the car and speak with the driver, who was the car's only occupant. By the time Pieper approached the car on foot, the person who had walked out of the garage had walked back to the garage.

         Coleman got out of the car and looked as if he was going to walk toward the garage too. Pieper ordered Coleman to stop either two or three times. Coleman did not stop, and Pieper reached him, grabbed his arm, and told him to step back to the side of the car. Pieper stated that he was investigating an incident on Phillips Street. Pieper asked Coleman if he had been on Phillips Street. Coleman said no, and that he had no reason to be on Phillips Street. Pieper asked Coleman if he had any identification. Coleman said he did, and began patting his pocket and reaching into it, as if to retrieve his identification, and put the car keys he was holding into his pocket. Then he started to walk away. Pieper told him to stop; Coleman looked at him and took off running. Coleman ran across the front of the house, jumped a fence, and ran.

         Another officer pursued Coleman, who was eventually caught and arrested. Pieper went back to the house and spoke with the occupant. This person professed ignorance as to Coleman's identity, and said that he did not know why the car was in the driveway. The Galesburg Police Department had the car towed. At some point, the Police Department ran the car's license plate number and found that it was registered to a Carlotta Weathers, of Chicago, Illinois. In its briefing, the government states that a shell casing, handgun with two rounds missing and one in the chamber, cocaine, and ecstasy were recovered from the car, but presented no evidence to this effect. Resp. Mot. Suppress 2-3, ECF No. 14. The government also states that $5, 150 in cash was found on Coleman's person.[3] Id. at 3. Specifically, no evidence was presented as to what contraband was actually seized, or, crucially, when, where, and by whom.

         The police took Coleman to the Knox County Jail, where he was interviewed later the same day. During the interview, he made a number of incriminating statements.

         On August 23, 2016, Coleman was charged by indictment with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and a forfeiture count. ECF No. 1.


         Coleman seeks suppression of all items of physical evidence seized from the interior of the Ford Fusion, claiming that any such evidence was seized in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, Mot. Suppress 1; and suppression of all statements, communications, admissions, or confessions he made in the interview, on the theory that such statements were made in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, id. The government responds that Coleman has not met his burden of showing that he has standing to assert the Fourth Amendment claims, Resp. Mem. Supp. Mot. Suppress 3-6, ECF No. 17; that Pieper had probable cause to search the Ford Fusion, and that even if he did not, any evidence seized from the car is admissible under the doctrine of inevitable discovery, Resp. Mot. Suppress 3-6; and that none of Coleman's statements during his interview were sufficiently clear to invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment, id. at 9-10, Resp. Mem. Supp. Mot. Suppress 6-10.

         I. Suppression of Physical Evidence

         When a warrantless search occurs, the government bears the burden of showing that the search was justified. Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 760 (1979) (“[T]he few situations in which a search may be conducted in the absence of a warrant have been carefully delineated and ‘the burden is on those seeking the exemption to show the need for it.'” (quoting United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 51 (1951))).

         However, when property is searched or seized, a defendant bears an initial burden of establishing that he has a right to challenge the government's search or seizure, either because he has a property interest in the “houses, papers [or] effects, ” U.S. Const. amend. IV, searched, or because he has both a subjective and an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the places or things searched.[4]Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 148 (1978); United States v. Walker, 237 F.3d 845, 849 (7th Cir. 2001); see United States v. Sanford, 806 F.3d 954, 957 (7th Cir. 2015) (“We are mindful that the Supreme Court, in Rakas . . . said that it was better to ask whether a person asserting a Fourth Amendment right has a personal ‘interest' that the search infringed than whether he has ‘standing' to challenge the search.”). To determine whether a subjective expectation exists, a court “looks ‘to the individual['s] affirmative steps to conceal and keep private whatever item was the subject of the search.'” United States v. Walton, 763 F.3d 655, 658 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. Yang, 478 ...

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