United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. TEETER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
who is charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited
person, moves to suppress the gun found during the traffic
stop of the truck in which he was riding and statements he
made during the stop. Doc. 17. He argues the traffic stop was
not justified at its inception, making the gun and statements
poisonous fruit of a Fourth Amendment violation.
Alternatively, he argues that his statements were the product
of un-Mirandized, custodial interrogation in
violation of the Fifth Amendment. Id. The Court
finds that law enforcement did not violate Defendant's
Fourth Amendment rights. But the Court agrees with Defendant
that law enforcement violated his Fifth Amendment rights by
asking if he was a felon. The Court therefore suppresses
Defendant's unintelligible response to this single
question and denies the rest of the motion.
January 14, 2019, at approximately 9:35 p.m., Topeka Police
Department (“TPD”) Officers Jason Oyler and
Michael Nelson were traveling behind a pick-up truck that had
“Chevrolet Silverado” advertised on the rear
tailgate. Officer Oyler, who was driving, observed that the
left side of the truck's license plate was hanging down
behind the bumper, partially obscuring the left numbers.
Officer Nelson was only able to read the left two digits
after the officers stopped directly behind the truck at a
stop sign. He confirmed the numbers when both vehicles
stopped at a second stop sign. Officer Nelson believed the
plate was in violation of Kansas traffic regulations, so he
entered the license plate number into the National Crime
Information Center database and saw that it was registered to
a GMC Sierra truck. This caused the officers to suspect that
the truck was stolen. A few seconds later, Officer Oyler
activated his emergency lights and relayed the license plate
number to dispatch. Officer Oyler told dispatch that he did
not need the tag to be checked because he knew it was not
going to match the truck.
pulling the truck over, the officers exited their cruiser and
ordered the truck occupants to put their hands on the dash.
Officer Oyler then explained to the female driver, Kelsey
Kaberline: “The reason I stopped you was that the tag
didn't come back to the truck, and it's only affixed
with one screw.” Officer Oyler smelled raw marijuana by
this point, so he ordered Ms. Kaberline out of the vehicle,
handcuffed her, and placed her in the back of the cruiser.
Officer Nelson handcuffed Defendant, who was the passenger,
and led him to the front of the cruiser. Officer Nelson then
left Defendant with Officer Oyler, returned to the truck, and
reported its vehicle identification number to dispatch.
Officer Nelson searched the truck and found a Smith and
Wesson pistol in the passenger side door. Officer Oyler, who
was still standing at the front of the cruiser with
Defendant, requested a check for felony convictions for both
suspects. He then asked Defendant, “You a felon?”
to which Defendant muttered something unintelligible. Officer
Oyler then placed him in the back of the cruiser with Ms.
Kaberline. Dispatch reported that Defendant had a felony
conviction for attempted aggravated battery.
Officer Nelson learned that the truck was a GMC Sierra by
looking at the front of the truck. He continued searching the
truck and opened a purse Ms. Kaberline had tried to reach for
as she exited the truck. In the purse, he found
methamphetamine and a glass pipe. About ten minutes after
Officer Oyler asked Defendant whether he was a felon, Officer
Oyler opened the rear door of the cruiser and requested the
truck owner's phone number. Then, he pointed at Ms.
Kaberline and stated: “Well, we found meth in your
purse.” He then pointed at Defendant and said,
“And you are a convicted felon. So that's kinda
where we're at right now, alright.” Ms. Kaberline
said the methamphetamine was not hers, and Defendant mumbled
something. Officer Oyler asked “What?” and
Defendant replied, “It's all mine.” He then
claimed to have put the methamphetamine in Ms.
Kaberline's purse. Officer Oyler advised Defendant of his
Miranda rights,  and Defendant invoked them.
on the evidence collected, a grand jury indicted Defendant on
August 29, 2019, for possession of a firearm by a prohibited
person in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and
924(a)(2). Doc. 1. Defendant subsequently moved to suppress
the gun, his response to Officer Oyler's inquiry of
whether he was a felon, and his statements that
“It's all mine” and that he put the
methamphetamine in Ms. Kaberline's purse. Doc. 17.
Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. The Fifth Amendment provides that “no
person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself.” Id. at amend V. Both
amendments have been incorporated against the states. See
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655-56 (1961) (Fourth
Amendment); Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467
(1966) (Fifth Amendment). Evidence obtained in violation of
these rights is subject to suppression under the
“exclusionary rule.” Wong Sun v. United
States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-85 (1963); Miranda,
384 U.S. at 479.
contends that law enforcement violated his Fourth and Fifth
Amendment rights during the January 14, 2019 traffic stop.
The Court addresses each argument below.
argues that law enforcement violated his Fourth Amendment
rights because the stop was not justified at its inception.
Doc. 17 at 4-6. He contends that this violation mandates
suppression of the gun and his inculpatory statements. In
response, the government argues that the truck's
partially obscured license plate justified the stop.
a traffic stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, it
must be reasonable. United States v. West, 219 F.3d
1171, 1176 (10th Cir. 2000). To determine whether a traffic
stop is reasonable, a court must consider: (1) whether the
stop was justified at its inception, and (2) whether the
officer's actions during the stop were “reasonably
related in scope” to the circumstances justifying the
stop at its inception. United States v. Morgan, 855
F.3d 1122, 1125 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting United States
v. Bradford, 423 F.3d 1149, 1156 (10th Cir. 2005)). A
traffic stop is justified at its inception if it is based on