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United States v. Reedy

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

October 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRENT DOUGLESS REEDY, Defendant,

          ORDER

          Brian Morris United States District Court Judge

         Defendant Brent Douglass Reedy moves the Court, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(3)(C) and 41(h), to suppress evidence obtained from a search of the car that he was driving, on the ground that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. (Doc. 26). The Court conducted a hearing on this matter on September 18, 2018. (Doc. 36).

         BACKGROUND

         Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Smith (“Trooper Smith”) observed a Dodge Charger, on December 7, 2017, at approximately 1:06 p.m., traveling north at seventy-five mph toward the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation. (Doc. 32, Ex. 1 at 1:06). Trooper Smith also observed that the car lacked visible license plates on the front or back of the car. (Doc. 32 at 2). Trooper Smith noted only an unreadable piece of paper in the car's rear window. (Doc. 32 at 2).

         Trooper Smith initiated a traffic stop of the Dodge Charger for traveling seventy-five mph in a posted seventy mph zone. (Ex. 1 at 1:07:44). Trooper Smith approached the Dodge Charger and explained to the driver that he had stopped him for speeding and the lack of visible license plates. (Ex. 1 at 1:07:51). Upon asking where Mr. Reedy was going, Mr. Reedy began an inconsistent and strange story about who owned the car, his destination, the car's registration, and how he was going to return home. (Ex. 1 at 1:08:22).

         Mr. Reedy could not produce his registration or proof of insurance for the Dodge Charger. (Ex. 1 at 1:10:58). Trooper Smith noticed what appeared to be a vehicle registration laying on the seat. (Ex. 1 at 1:10:59). Mr. Reedy claimed that the registration was for a Chevrolet Tahoe. (Ex. 1 at 1:11:00). The registration turned out to be for a GMC Yukon for someone with the last name of Sanchez-Diaz. (Ex. 1 at 1:11:01). Trooper Smith invited Mr. Reedy back to the patrol car, to which Mr. Reedy consented, so that Trooper Smith could continue to search for information on the Dodge Charger. (Ex. 1 at 1:11:28).

         Once in the patrol car, and while breathing heavily, Mr. Reedy explained that he was driving from Yakima, Washington to Williston, North Dakota. (Ex. 1 at 1:12:30). Mr. Reedy claimed that he had insurance for the Dodge Charger, but he could not provide proof. (Ex. 1 at 1:12:21). Mr. Reedy explained that he was driving to a dealership in Williston where his mother-in-law allegedly had purchased the Dodge Charger. (Ex. 1 at 1:12:45). Mr. Reedy further explained that the Williston dealership would return the purchase money to his mother-in-law when Mr. Reedy returned the Dodge Charger. (Ex. 1 at 1:12:59). Mr. Reedy further suggested that the Williston dealership would provide him with a plane ticket back to Yakima. (Ex. 1 at 1:13:06).

         Mr. Reedy continued his story. Mr. Reedy told Trooper Smith that his mother-in-law was named Rhonda Patrick. (Ex. 1 at 1:13:38). He next explained that he had been sleeping in the Dodge Charger on the trip. (Ex. 1 at 1:15:14). Mr. Reedy suggested that his mother-in-law recently had purchased the Dodge Charger in North Dakota because her GMC Yukon had broken down while she was in North Dakota. (Ex. 1 at 1:16:00). Mr. Reedy further explained that his mother-in-law wanted to trade-in the Dodge Charger to receive money to repair the GMC Yukon that had broken down in North Dakota. (Ex. 1 at 1:16:00). Additionally, Mr. Reedy stated that, unknown to his mother-in-law at the time of purchase, the Dodger Charger previously had been in an accident that rendered it unsafe. (Ex. 1 at 1:16:04-43). Mr. Reedy further claimed that the Dodge Charger was the subject of a recall for a defective airbag. (Ex. 1 at 1:16:04-43). Mr. Reedy's story continued to shuffle these facts.

         Eleven minutes into the stop, Trooper Smith had failed to locate any information using the Dodge Charger's Vehicle Identification No. (“VIN”). (Ex. 1 at 1:16:47). Trooper Smith continued to communicate with the Havre, Montana dispatch to seek information regarding the status of the Dodge Charger. Trooper Smith contemporaneously requested an electronic Police Information Check (“ePIC Check”) on Mr. Reedy. (Ex. 1 at 1:17:46). Immediately after requesting the ePIC check, Trooper Smith returned to the Dodge Charger to see if he could recover any pertinent information from the dealer-plate inside the car. (Ex. 1 at 1:18:03). The dealer-plate and temporary registration sticker contained no license plate number.

         Mr. Reedy then admitted to Trooper Smith, while waiting for information about the Dodge Charger, that his mother-in-law did not own the GMC Yukon as he previously had stated. (Ex. 1 at 1:20:10). Mr. Reedy instead explained that a person with the last name of Sanchez-Diaz owned the GMC Yukon (Ex. 1 at 1:20:12). Mr. Reedy never explained his connection, if any, to Sanchez-Diaz.

         Mr. Reedy continued the story about the Dodge Charger while Trooper Smith searched the available documents for any pertinent information. Trooper Smith had obtained Mr. Reedy's criminal history by this point through his ePIC request. (Doc. 32 at 5). Mr. Reedy's criminal history report informed Trooper Smith that Mr. Reedy was the subject of a pending drug-related investigation, had previous charges and convictions for methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as weapons charges. (Doc. 32 at 5). Trooper Smith then asked Mr. Reedy if he had ever been stopped by the police, if he had ever been on probation or parole, or had any previous convictions. (Ex. 1. at 1:25:15). Mr. Reedy denied that he had previous convictions and stated that he only had been pulled over “years before.” (Ex. 1. at 1:25:15).

         Trooper Smith indicated to Mr. Reedy that he would issue a warning for the lack of insurance and that Mr. Reedy needed to correct the registration information on the Dodge Charger. (Ex. 1. at 1:26:31). Trooper Smith then stated, “as far as the traffic stop, that stuff is done.” (Ex. 1 at 1:26:55). Trooper Smith immediately asked Mr. Reedy if he understood what was said, and asked Mr. Reedy if he was “good to go?” Mr. Reedy nodded an affirmative “yes.” (Ex. 1. at 1:27:00).

         Mr. Reedy opened the car door, but stopped when Trooper Smith stated, “so I'd like to ask you some more stuff here, is there anything illegal in the car today?” Mr. Reedy replied no. (Ex. 1 at 1:27:01). Trooper Smith then asked, “any marijuana in the car? Any heroin? Any methamphetamine in the car?” Mr. Reedy responded “no” to each question. (Ex. 1. at 1:27:00-16). Trooper Smith repeatedly asked if he could search the Dodge Charger. Mr. Reedy declined. Trooper Smith called in the K-9 Unit from the Border Patrol. (Ex. 1. at 1:27:58).

         Trooper Smith explained to Mr. Reedy that he works criminal drug interdiction on a regular basis and that Mr. Reedy's story concerned him. Trooper Smith explained that the lack of information on the Dodge Charger and Mr. Reedy's denial of his previous drug charges and convictions seemed suspicious. (Ex. 1. at 1:28:20-1:30:27). Six minutes later, information from the Dodge Charger's VIN showed that the car last had been registered in California. (Ex. 1 at 1:36:21). Nothing in the record indicates the identity of ...


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