United States District Court, D. Nebraska
FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATION, AND ORDER
R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge.
Abraham Nunez-Mejia (“Defendant”) has moved to
suppress all evidence obtained during a vehicle search
conducted on October 1, 2016, as well as all evidence and
statements obtained as fruit of the alleged unconstitutional
search. Defendant has further moved to suppress statements
made during the traffic stop based on alleged violations of
his Fifth Amendment rights. For the following reasons,
Defendant's motion should be denied.
hearing testimony and reviewing the documentary and video
evidence, the undersigned magistrate judge finds the
following facts are credible.
approximately 8:25 a.m. on October 1, 2016, Nebraska State
Patrol Trooper Dale Fahnholz (“Trooper Fahnholz”)
stopped a northbound vehicle for speeding on Highway 10 in
Kearney County, Nebraska. Defendant was the sole occupant of
the vehicle. As Trooper Fahnholz approached the vehicle, he
noted the presence of a long-barreled pellet gun on the front
passenger seat. He immediately asked Defendant if he had any
other weapons. Defendant responded that there were no other
weapons in the vehicle.
the course of the stop, the trooper learned that Defendant
did not have a valid operator's license and had been
cited for operating a vehicle without a valid license on
multiple occasions. Trooper Fahnholz cited Defendant for
driving without a valid license and issued a written warning
for his speed.
issuing and explaining the citation and warning, Trooper
Fahnholz informed Defendant that the vehicle would be towed
from the scene. Defendant was not its title owner, and there
were no other licensed drivers present. The trooper indicated
that Defendant was free to ride to the tow site in the tow
company's vehicle and could retrieve his personal
belongings from the car at that time.
Fahnholz then told Defendant that prior to tow, the trooper
needed to take an inventory of the items in the vehicle. He
informed Defendant that he was not under arrest but asked
Defendant to sit in the back of the police vehicle during the
inventory. The trooper told Defendant that this was a
precaution to “control [Defendant's]
movement” during the search. (Filing No. 22 ¶ 2 at
CM/ECF p. 2). Defendant complied with the trooper's
request and entered the backseat of the police vehicle.
Trooper Fahnholz lowered the police vehicle's rear
passenger window to allow air flow, but bars blocked the
window's opening. All doors to the police vehicle were
closed and locked.
the inventory search that followed, the trooper located a
loaded .22 caliber revolver in a fishing tackle box. Trooper
Fahnholz then radioed his dispatcher with the gun's
serial number. He also relayed to a supervising officer that
he needed no assistance and that Defendant was not under
arrest at that time. The trooper then approached his police
vehicle on the passenger side and began speaking to Defendant
through the open rear window. Defendant remained locked
within the police vehicle.
trooper asked Defendant about the tackle box and the weapon
inside. Defendant indicated that he did not own the tackle
box but admitted he owned the pellet gun and some fishing
poles in the vehicle. Trooper Fahnholz asked Defendant if he
remembered the trooper asking about other weapons. Defendant
said he did remember. The trooper asked if Defendant had lied
about the presence of weapons other than the pellet gun.
Defendant ultimately admitted he knew the gun was in the
trooper then read Defendant his Miranda rights and
requested that he sign a waiver form. Defendant signed the
English-language form, and the trooper resumed questioning.
Defendant again indicated that he had been using the fishing
tackle box and knew the gun was inside. He told the trooper
the weapon was owned by a friend and provided the trooper
with that friend's contact information. The trooper then
ceased questioning the Defendant to resume the inventory
search of the vehicle prior to tow.
completing the search, Trooper Fahnholz handcuffed Defendant,
informed him that he was under arrest, and transported him to
the Kearney County Sheriff's office.