United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE
TIMOTHY J. CAVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Steven Wayne Phillips (“Phillips”) is charged
with Possession of a Firearm not Registered in the National
Firearms Registration and Transfer Record in violation of 26
U.S.C. § 5861(d). (Doc. 1.) He has moved to suppress
evidence under the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 21.)
February 26, 2019, Judge Watters referred Phillips'
motion to the undersigned, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Fed. R. Crim. P. Rule 59(a), for the
purposes of conducting a hearing and issuing appropriate
findings and recommendations. (Doc. 26.)
asserts that the evidence obtained as a result of a traffic
stop should be suppressed because: (1) the officer did not
have reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic stop to
allow for a canine sniff; (2) whatever suspicions the officer
had about the pill bottles found in Phillips' vehicle
were negated when Phillips passed his field sobriety tests;
and (3) the prolongation of the stop after field sobriety
tests were completed violated the Fourth Amendment.
Court held an evidentiary hearing on March 25, 2019, and the
parties presented evidence on the motion. Having considered
the parties' arguments and submissions, the Court
RECOMMENDS that Phillips' Motion to
Suppress be DENIED.
Court heard testimony from Montana Highway Patrol Trooper
Kristy Kees. The following facts are taken from the hearing
testimony, and the exhibits attached to Phillips' brief,
which were admitted into evidence at the
September 19, 2017, at approximately 10:20 p.m., Trooper Kees
pulled Phillips over because his license plate was expired.
Phillips told Trooper Kees that he was driving to Hardin for
work. He stated he worked for Ed's Salvage and Recycling.
Phillips provided Trooper Kees with his insurance card and
driver's license. Phillips explained that he did not have
the registration for the vehicle because he had purchased it
from Ed's Salvage and was waiting to get the title.
Phillips could not provide any paperwork on the sale of the
vehicle, Trooper Kees asked him if she could open the
driver's side door to check the VIN. While Trooper Kees
was looking at the VIN she noticed there were three
prescription medication bottles in the pocket of the
driver's side door. Phillips told her that one of the
bottles belonged to his boss's wife, Kim, and the others
came from salvaged vehicles. Two of the bottles contained
pills. The first had a prescription label identifying it as
Cyclobenzaprine, but the patient's name on the label was
blacked out. The second bottle contained pills, but had no
prescription information. The third bottle was empty.
Kees testified that she noticed Phillips' eyes were
bloodshot, he mumbled when he spoke, and he appeared gaunt.
Based on these observations, combined with the pills she
found in the vehicle, Trooper Kees suspected Phillips was
possibly driving under the influence. Approximately 7 minutes
into the stop, Trooper Kees ran Phillips' information
through dispatch and requested a check for prior drug
offenses. Dispatch responded that Phillips' license was
valid. The records check was positive for drug history.
Trooper Joshua French arrived on scene as backup. Trooper
Kees showed him the pill bottles and relayed her suspicions
that Phillips may be under the influence. She noted, however,
that she did not witness any driving behaviors indicating
impairment, and she did not smell anything on Phillips.
French identified the pills in the unmarked second bottle as
Adderall. This occurred approximately 13 minutes after
Trooper Kees had stopped Phillips.
Kees decided to conduct field sobriety tests, and asked
Phillips to exit his vehicle. Phillips passed all of the
field sobriety tests. Phillips then offered to call Kim to
have her talk to the troopers about the pills found in his
vehicle. Approximately 30 minutes into the stop, Trooper
French spoke with Kim. Kim told Trooper French the
Cyclobenzaprine was hers, but not the Adderall.
Trooper French spoke with Kim, Trooper Kees asked Phillips
for consent to search the vehicle. He declined to give
consent. After Trooper French ended the call with Kim, he
advised Phillips that because he denied consent to search the
vehicle, the troopers would call a canine unit and apply for
a search warrant. Trooper French also ...