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United States v. Dorsey

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

February 15, 2017

United States of America,
v.
Willis Terrance Dorsey, Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Willis Terrance Dorsey's [ECF No. 48] motion to suppress. A hearing was held on Defendant's motion on February 6, 2017. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion to suppress is DENIED.[1]

         Procedural History

         This case arose from a traffic stop that occurred on February 2, 2016, on I-20 East in Darlington County, South Carolina. Following the stop, a firearm, marijuana, and a quantity of crack cocaine were discovered during a search of Defendant and the rental car he was driving. As a result of the stop and subsequent search of Defendant and the rental car, Defendant was charged in a three count indictment filed on July 26, 2016. Count one alleged that on February 2, 2016, Defendant possessed with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). Count two alleged that on February 2, 2016, Defendant, having previously been convicted of a felony, knowingly possessed a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) and 924(e). Count three alleged that on February 2, 2016, Defendant used and carried a firearm during and relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A).

         Defendant filed a motion to suppress any contraband found during the search arguing that the police officer stopped the vehicle without probable cause and unduly delayed the traffic stop so that a police canine could perform a sniff of the vehicle for drugs. The government filed a response and submitted a video of the traffic stop, which the Court has reviewed.

         On February 6, 2017, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress. The government presented the testimony of: 1) the officer who initiated the traffic stop; 2) the officer who handled the drug dog that performed the sniff of the rental car driven by Defendant; and 3) the authorized driver of the rental car driven by Defendant.

         Factual Background

         On February 2, 2016, Defendant was driving a rented 2015 Nissan Altima on I-20 East in Darlington County, South Carolina. Cpl. Swaringer with the Darlington County Sheriff's Office testified that he initiated a traffic stop after observing Defendant cross the far right outside line repeatedly. Defendant did not possess a valid driver's license and only held a beginner's permit. The car was rented by Kimberly Grice from Enterprise on January 18, 2016. Defendant was not an authorized driver on the rental car agreement. The rental car agreement stated “no other drivers permitted.” However, Kimberly Grice testified that she had given Defendant permission to drive the car.

         The traffic stop was captured on Cpl. Swaringer's dashcam video. The video of the traffic stop shows that the traffic stop lasted no more than approximately twenty-nine minutes. Cpl. Swaringer asked Defendant for his license and insurance. Defendant was unable to produce a valid driver's license or the rental agreement for the vehicle. Cpl. Swaringer asked Defendant to exit the vehicle. Cpl. Swaringer explained why he pulled Defendant over and asked Defendant a series of questions about his driving and travel that day. Cpl. Swaringer testified that by that point he did not intend to allow Defendant to leave the scene in the rented vehicle because he did not have a driver's license and could not produce the rental agreement.

         Cpl. Swaringer testified that he then called for assistance because he had determined through various things he had seen in plain view that he was going to ask Defendant for consent to search the vehicle. Specifically, Cpl. Swaringer testified that he smelled fresh air freshener that seemed like it had been sprayed to mask an odor. Cpl. Swaringer also noticed a package of Swisher Sweet cigars around the center console and several plastic baggies stuffed inside the glove compartment. Cpl. Swaringer testified that Swisher Sweet cigars are commonly used for smoking marijuana.

         Cpl. Swaringer asked Defendant for consent to search the vehicle and Defendant declined to give consent. Cpl. Swaringer explained that an officer was going to bring a K-9 unit to conduct a free air sniff around the outside of the vehicle. The K-9 unit (Officer Kyle Hause and Rex) arrived on the scene less than 10 minutes after Cpl. Swaringer pulled Defendant over.

         Officer Hause testified that he took Rex around the perimeter of the vehicle and that Rex initially began exhibiting a change in behavior on the passenger side where the window was open. Officer Hause and Rex continued around the front of the vehicle and then proceeded up the driver's side of the car. Officer Hause testified that Rex indicated on the driver's side of the car by touching his nose to the area where he found the strongest odor. As a result of Rex “alerting” on the vehicle, officers conducted a search.

         Searching the vehicle officers discovered a handgun in the center console and loose marijuana scattered throughout the floorboard and on the driver's seat. Defendant was placed under arrest for being a felon in possession of a firearm. During the search of Defendant incident to his ...


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