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United States v. Collins

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 9, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON C. COLLINS, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, RECOMMEDNATION, AND ORDER

          Cheryl R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge.

         Defendant Aaron C. Collins (“Defendant”) has moved to suppress evidence and statements obtained during a traffic stop on November 10, 2016, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Defendant additionally seeks suppression of evidence and statements obtained during an arrest and vehicle search conducted on January 27, 2017, again alleging both Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion should be denied.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         After hearing testimony and reviewing the video evidence, the undersigned magistrate judge finds the following facts are credible.

         On November 10, 2016, Lincoln Police Officers Gratz and Hallowell observed a white Jeep Patriot exit the garage of a residence on the 400 block of E Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time of the incident, the officers were conducting surveillance of the residence based on reports that it was connected to the illegal manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. When the Jeep exited the garage, Officers Gratz and Hallowell followed it. They observed an improper turn and failure to properly signal lane changes, in violation Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60, 161 and § 60-6, 159. The officers initiated a traffic stop.

         Defendant and Desmond Hauser (“Hauser”) were identified as the vehicle's occupants. The officers were aware of reports from a confidential informant regarding Hauser's alleged involvement in methamphetamine distribution, and the same informant indicated Hauser typically carried firearms, often concealing them in his waistband. Officer Hallowell observed a pocket knife in the vehicle near Hauser and asked if he had any other weapons. Hauser said that he did not, and he complied when asked to step out of the vehicle for a pat-down search.

         Officer Gratz then asked Defendant if there were any illegal items in the vehicle. Defendant indicated there were not, but he began acting apprehensively. Officer Gratz repeatedly asked Defendant to keep his hands visible and on the steering wheel, but Defendant persisted in obscuring his hands and reaching towards his pockets. Eventually, Defendant was asked to step out of the vehicle.

         At that time, two additional supporting officers-Officers Hubka and Wayne-arrived to assist. Together, Officers Gratz and Hubka physically aided Defendant in exiting the Jeep. The officers conducted a pat-down search of Defendant and discovered brass knuckles-affixed with knives-concealed in Defendant's pocket. Defendant was placed under arrest for carrying a concealed weapon, in violation of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-1202.

         During the encounter, officers observed a jar containing white residue in the passenger floorboard of the vehicle. Based on their training and experience, the officers believed the jar contained methamphetamine. They seized the jar, and field-tested the residue. The field test was positive for amphetamines. The officers then searched the remainder of the car and found no other evidence of criminal activity.

         During transport to the Lancaster County Jail, Defendant appeared extremely nervous and was asked if he was “okay” and whether the officers “had missed something” during the pat-down. (Filing No. 37 Cm/ECF p. 20). Defendant then admitted that he had illegal drugs in one jacket pocket that the officers had failed to discover during the initial pat-down. Officers recovered the substance from Defendant's pocket which also field tested positive for amphetamines. The officers completed transport to the Lancaster County Jail, and Defendant was advised of the Miranda warnings at that time.

         On January 27, 2017, Defendant had an additional encounter with the Lincoln Police Department officers. Officer Hyland observed a red Ford Taurus driving near the intersection of 33rd Street and Huntington Avenue. The officer ran the license plate number of the vehicle and determined that the car was registered to Defendant. Officer Hyland further determined that Defendant had a suspended driver's license.

         The officer followed Defendant and saw him park and exit the vehicle in an alleyway parking lot near 37th Street and Baldwin Avenue. After contacting Defendant and confirming his identity, Officer Hyland asked Defendant to sit inside his police vehicle while he wrote out a traffic citation for driving with a suspended license. As they walked toward the police cruiser, Defendant appeared nervous. As with the November 2016 traffic incident, Defendant had to repeatedly be warned to keep his hands visible and out of his pockets. Officer Hyland then noticed what appeared to be an object inside Defendant's sweatshirt. He conducted a pat-down search and placed Defendant under arrest for driving with a suspended license. Two additional officers arrived to assist.

         During the pat-down, Officer Hyland discovered plastic bags containing a substance that, based on his training and experience, he suspected was methamphetamine. Defendant also had several empty plastic bags, two digital scales, and a hydrocodone tablet on his person. The officers then searched Defendant's vehicle and found a handgun.

         During the transport to the Lancaster County Jail, Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights. He waived those rights and told officers he had purchased the drugs. He also indicated that he had information he wanted to share with narcotics officers about individuals involved in the distribution of ...


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