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United States v. Bell

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 25, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LOGAN BAYARD BELL (01), Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DANIEL D. CRABTREE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The government has charged defendant Logan Bayard Bell in a two-count Indictment: Count 1 charges Mr. Bell with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2); and Count 2 charges Mr. Bell with being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2). Doc. 1. This matter comes before the court on three motions filed by Mr. Bell: (1) Motion for Bill of Particulars (Doc. 16); (2) Motion to Dismiss Count II (Doc. 18); and (3) Motion to Suppress (Doc. 19). The government has filed responses to each of these three motions. Docs. 21, 22, 24. On April 18, 2017, the court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Motion to Suppress. After carefully considering the evidence and the parties' submissions, the court denies all three motions.

         I. Factual Background

         On July 18, 2016, Mr. Bell was driving a gray 4-door Chevy in Salina, Kansas. While on patrol, Officer Aaron Carswell of the Salina Police Department saw Mr. Bell driving the Chevy. Officer Carswell recognized Mr. Bell from his past interactions with him. Officer Carswell had dealt with Mr. Bell before when investigating traffic violations and illegal narcotics. The last of those direct interactions had occurred several months earlier.

         Officer Carswell testified that he knew Mr. Bell had a suspended driver's license because he had checked the status of his license several weeks before July 18. In preparation for his testimony at the hearing, Officer Carswell checked the NCIC database to determine the dates when Mr. Bell's license was checked by someone using that system. The NCIC database showed that the Salina Police Department made two inquires in the NCIC database on June 11, 2016, to check the status of Mr. Bell's license. Officer Carswell testified that he made one of these two license checks. Thus, as of June 11, 2016, Officer Carswell knew that Mr. Bell's license was suspended.

         The NCIC database also showed that the Saline County Sheriff's Department checked Mr. Bell's license on June 16, 2016, and the Garden City Police Department checked Mr. Bell's license on July 13, 2016. Mr. Bell's license still was suspended on both dates. Officer Carswell testified that he had talked with other law enforcement officers about Mr. Bell in between his check of Mr. Bell's license on June 11 and the traffic stop on July 18. The other law enforcement officers included Saline County Sherriff's Department officers and Garden City Police Department officers. The conversations involved the status of Mr. Bell's driver's license, his suspected drug use, and his suspected involvement in drug trafficking.

         Officer Carswell testified that he has conducted hundreds of stops involving drivers with suspended licenses. Officer Carswell also testified about the types of violations that can cause a driver's license suspension. They include DUI convictions, failing to comply with a traffic citation, no proof of insurance, and many other circumstances. Officer Carswell explained that the amount of time that it takes for a driver to have his license reinstated depends on the nature of the suspension. For example, a driver who has failed to comply with a citation may have his license reinstated after following the court's orders to fulfill the obligations of the citation. Based on his experience, Officer Carswell estimates that it can take a couple of months for a driver to have his license reinstated.

         At the motions hearing, the government presented evidence that Mr. Bell's license was suspended on November 27, 2008, because he had failed to comply with a citation. The NCIC report actually shows that Mr. Bell never had a driver's license. Because he had no driver's license and thus no driver's license number, the State of Kansas generated a number to track Mr. Bell in its records system. Mr. Bell never procured a driver's license since the 2008 suspension. Thus, on July 18, 2016, Mr. Bell had no lawful authority to operate a vehicle.

         Officer Carswell testified that he knew that Mr. Bell had made no attempts to obtain a driver's license from November 27, 2008 to June 11, 2016, when Officer Carswell checked Mr. Bell's license. Officer Carswell also knew from his more recent conversations with other officers that Mr. Bell's license still was suspended. Based on this knowledge, Officer Carswell stopped Mr. Bell for the suspected traffic violation of driving with a suspended license.

         When Officer Carswell initiated the traffic stop, Mr. Bell pulled the car into a small driveway. Mr. Bell immediately exited the vehicle and met Officer Carswell at the back of his vehicle. Officer Carswell asked Mr. Bell about the status of his license. Mr. Bell conceded that he knew his license was suspended.

         Officer Carswell testified that Mr. Bell appeared extremely nervous during the traffic stop. He had a hard time standing still, and he was sweating profusely. Based on Officer Carswell's training and experience, he thought Mr. Bell had some reason for his nervousness. Officer Carswell called Mr. Bell's license into dispatch, and the dispatcher confirmed that Mr. Bell's license was suspended. He thus placed Mr. Bell under arrest.

         Based on Officer Carswell's past interactions with Mr. Bell, his known drug history, and his behavior during the traffic stop, Officer Carswell called the Kansas Highway Patrol (“KHP”) for a drug-sniffing dog. A KHP trooper was near the scene, and he arrived with a dog about 10 minutes after Officer Carswell had placed Mr. Bell under arrest. The dog conducted a sniff of the car's exterior, and the dog alerted. When Officer Carswell opened the car door to conduct a search, he saw a handgun in plain view inside the compartment of the driver's side door. Officer Carswell also found a marijuana cigarette that appeared torn in half. Based on his training and experience, Officer Carswell believed that a person would tear a marijuana cigarette in half because he was trying to dispose of it or conceal it. The marijuana cigarette was on the driver's floorboard, directly in front of the driver's seat, and within arm's reach of the driver. Officer Carswell testified that the quantity of marijuana he located in the car was consistent with user quantity, not distribution quantity.

         As Officer Carswell transported Mr. Bell after his arrest, Mr. Bell asked unsolicited questions. Mr. Bell asked about the charges he was facing. Officer Carswell responded that he had arrested him for driving with a suspended license. Mr. Bell asked, “Is that all?” He also asked Officer Carswell if he had found anything else in the car.

         When Officer Carswell stopped Mr. Bell on July 18, he had information that Mr. Bell was a user and distributor of marijuana. He had learned this information from conversations with other officers about Mr. Bell's use and distribution of illegal drugs. The government also proffered at the hearing that law enforcement had interviewed Kimberly ...


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