Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Brooks

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

January 4, 2018



          Dana L. Christensen, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Before the Court is Defendant Benjamin Calvin Brooks' ("Brooks") Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 28.) On December 21, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion and heard testimony from Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Brandon Paul Moore ("Trooper Moore") and arguments from counsel.[1] Prior to the hearing, the Court reviewed all of the evidence filed by counsel, which included the video tapes of the traffic stop.

         Brooks contends that the results of the search of his vehicle must be suppressed because (1) his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Trooper Moore removed Brooks from his vehicle in a threatening manner, and (2) Trooper Moore prolonged the traffic "mission" by launching a separate criminal investigation. In response, the Government argues (1) that Brooks was not seized during the traffic stop, and thus no Miranda warning was required, and (2) that Trooper Moore's secondary investigation was permissible because it did not prolong the traffic stop, or, alternatively, that Trooper Moore had an independent reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies the motion.

         Factual Background

         On July 31, 2017, at approximately 8:15 a.m., Trooper Moore was patrolling U.S. Highway 191 in Gallatin County when he observed a black sedan make an illegal pass around a Montana Department of Transportation vehicle. Trooper Moore activated his lights and observed the sedan take a left-hand turn off the highway into a newly developed subdivision. Instead of stopping, the vehicle then turned right and continued approximately one hundred feet up the road, finally parking alongside a mound of topsoil.

         As Trooper Moore approached the vehicle, he observed the driver make what he described as gross movements, which Trooper Moore believed was inconsistent with someone retrieving a license and registration. Trooper Moore called out to the vehicle's driver to roll down the window, but the driver did not and the movements continued. Trooper Moore delayed his approach and again called out to the driver to place his hands on the steering wheel. Trooper Moore then observed the driver-a middle-aged black male-comply with his request. Trooper Moore cautiously continued his approach with his right hand was resting on his belt holster. Again, Trooper Moore asked the driver to roll down the window. The driver rolled the window down a few inches. Trooper Moore repeated his request. The driver then rolled the window down incrementally more and asked how far down the Trooper wanted it, to which Trooper Moore responded, "Hey buddy, I'm not interested." (Doc. 29 at 5.)

         Trooper Moore then asked for the standard paper work. After multiple requests, the driver complied, but appeared to shield the center console from view. This caused Trooper Moore to believe that the driver was potentially concealing a weapon. Trooper Moore used his flashlight to peer into the vehicle, looking for weapons. Trooper Moore asked the driver multiple times whether the driver had a weapon on him, to which the driver stated that he did not. After retrieving the appropriate paper work, Trooper Moore placed it on the roof of the vehicle and asked the driver to step out. The driver got out of the car carefully, reaching his hands out in front of him and stated that he did not want to get shot. Trooper Moore responded that no one was getting shot. As the driver exited, he spun in a circle. Trooper Moore stated that the driver was making him nervous and instructed the driver to wait at the trunk of the car. Trooper Moore then briefly conducted a visual inspection of the vehicle, at which point he observed what appeared to be a spent shell casing on the floor near the drivers' side door.

         Walking back to the rear of the vehicle, Trooper Moore asked the driver to lace his fingers behind his back, while he patted the driver down for a weapon. Finding none, Trooper Moore visibly calmed in demeanor and asked the driver to return to the patrol car while Trooper Moore issued the traffic citation. At this time he learned that the driver's name was Benjamin Calvin Brooks.

         During the conversation in the patrol car that followed, Trooper Moore extensively questioned Brooks regarding his whereabouts, the rental vehicle, and where he was headed. He learned that Brooks was traveling from Arizona to Billings after attending his cousin's wedding. He also learned that the vehicle was a rental, procured by Brooks' wife, but that Brooks was traveling home alone. Based on inconsistencies in Brooks' recount of events, Trooper Moore circled back and asked Brooks for greater detail. Most notably, Brooks stated that he had left for the wedding the day prior to renting the car. This, coupled with the lack of visible luggage in the rental vehicle, the lived-in look of the car, and Trooper Moore's knowledge and belief that Highway 191 is a drug trafficking corridor and that drug traffickers often use rental vehicles, Trooper Moore became suspicious that Brooks was transporting contraband. At some point during his questioning, Trooper Moore called for backup and initiated a secondary ex-felon background check, which is an addition to the standard registration and license checks.

         Nearing the end of the questioning, Trooper Moore asked Brooks whether he had been in trouble before. Brooks confessed to having a felony conviction for burglary. However, he did not mention having a felony conviction for possession with intent to distribute, which Trooper Moore learned upon receipt of the ex-felon background check. Trooper Moore then completed the citation. The total time from when Brooks stepped into the patrol vehicle to the time when Trooper Moore finished the citation lasted approximately 18 minutes.

         Stepping out of the patrol car, Trooper Moore met Brooks at the front of the vehicle to go over the citation, after which Trooper Moore told Brooks that he was free to go. Brooks took approximately eight steps towards his car before Trooper Moore asked whether Brooks would be willing to answer a few more questions. Brooks agreed, talked for a short period of time, but terminated the conversation when Trooper Moore asked Brooks how he would feel about getting a K9 unit to the scene to sniff for contraband. By this time Trooper Moore's partner had arrived on scene. Brooks was told again by Trooper Moore that he was free to leave but was not free to take his vehicle. Brooks left the scene on foot. This second phase of voluntary questioning lasted approximately eight minutes.[2]

         Based upon Brooks' inconsistent statements to Trooper Moore, the positive results of the K9 search, and the observation of a second spent shell casing near the trunk of the vehicle, Trooper Moore filed for and obtained a search warrant. The search yielded 615 grams of actual methamphetamine and a handgun.

         Brooks challenges the constitutionality of the search and requests that all statements and evidence be suppressed.

         Legal Standard

         In a motion to suppress the defendant bears the burden of proving a Fourth Amendment violation. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 130 n. 1 (1978) (citing Simmons v. United States,390 U.S. 377, 389-390 (1968)). To rule in the defendants favor, the court must conclude that this burden has been met by a preponderance of the evidence. Fed. Rule of Evid. 104(a); Bourjaily v. United States, 483 U.S. 171, 174 (1987). Here, Brooks has the burden of proving that (1) his Fourth Amendment rights ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.