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United States v. Windham

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

January 23, 2019





         The Government charged Defendant Marelle Tyrece Windham (Windham) in a four-count indictment involving various narcotics and firearm crimes. Pending before the Court is Windham's motion to suppress evidence from two traffic stops in or around Hartsville, South Carolina (motion to suppress). Windham is represented by counsel. Having carefully considered the motion, the response, oral argument, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Windham's motion to suppress will be granted in part and denied in part.


         This case arises out of two traffic stops conducted by Hartsville Police Department officers. The first stop occurred on March 9, 2017 (first stop), and the second stop occurred on March 15, 2018 (second stop).

         On August 28, 2018, the Government filed a four-count indictment against Windham. ECF No. 3. Count One, which arises out of the first stop and subsequent arrest, charged Windham with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Counts Two through Four arise out of the second stop and subsequent arrest. Count Two charged Windham with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Count Three charged Windham with possession of narcotics (cocaine base) with the intent to distribute. And Count Four charged Windham with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). Id.

         On November 9, 2018, Windham filed his motion to suppress. ECF No. 35. On December 17, 2018, the Government filed its response. ECF No. 39. On January 3, 2019, the Court held a hearing (motion hearing) on Windham's motion to suppress. Counsel for the Government and Windham made arguments and the officers who conducted both traffic stops offered testimony. ECF No. 41. The Government introduced video evidence from dash cameras and body cameras of both stops, as well as a series of maps detailing where each stop took place. ECF No. 42.

         Windham asserts four grounds why his statement and physical evidence from the first stop should be suppressed. Windham avers the officer lacked probable cause, failed to timely provide Miranda warnings, lacked territorial jurisdiction, and the evidence is not otherwise admissible under the “inevitable discovery” doctrine. With respect to the second stop, Windham avows the officer lacked probable cause and was outside of his jurisdiction.

         At the conclusion of the motion hearing, the Court denied Windham's motion to suppress as to the second stop in its entirety. With respect to the first stop, as fully detailed below, the Court denied in part Windham's motion to suppress; and it took a portion of Windham's motion to suppress under advisement.


         The Court determines the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974) (“[T]he controlling burden of proof at suppression hearings should impose no greater burden than proof by a preponderance of the evidence.” (citation omitted)); United States v. Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 541 (4th Cir. 2005) (“In the course of deciding a motion to suppress, the district court may make findings of fact. . . .”).

         The first stop occurred on March 9, 2017, after Hartsville Police Officer Curtis (Curtis) observed a white sedan with extremely dark tint driving down Russell Road. ECF No. 39 at 2. Curtis turned his patrol car around and, while pursuing the sedan to investigate the window tint, observed the sedan twice fail to use a turn signal within the required distance from the stop sign. Id. As Curtis accelerated to initiate a traffic stop, the sedan ran a stop sign and made a quick turn into a driveway. Id.

         At the hearing, Officer Curtis testified he was just outside the Hartsville city limits when he first noticed Windham's vehicle. Officer Curtis was still within the immediate vicinity of the city of Hartsville when he followed Windham to the residence where he ultimately stopped. Id. at 8. The entire pursuit and subsequent arrest occurred within Darlington County, where Hartsville is located, and within three miles of the city limits.

         After parking the vehicle in the driveway, the driver emerged from the vehicle, and Curtis recognized the driver as Windham. Id. at 2. Although Windham attempted to walk towards the residence, Curtis detained him and asked for identification. Id. Windham admitted he had no identification and subsequently told Curtis he did not have a driver's license. Id. At this point, Curtis handcuffed Windham and placed him in the backseat of his patrol car. Id. Several seconds later, before he was given his Miranda warnings, Curtis' dash camera captured the following exchange: Windham said “Hey, listen, come here. Come here. I'm going to show you something. We gonna go to my car.” Id. Curtis asked, “Whatcha got?” Id. Windham responded, “There's a firearm in my car, but it's registered.” Id. Windham further elaborated the firearm is “in the backseat of my car” and “wrapped in my black jacket.” Id. at 2-3.

         Curtis searched the backseat of Windham's vehicle and found the firearm and ammunition where Windham told Curtis it was located. Id. at 3. After a few minutes, Curtis asked Windham if “he had anything else on [him].” Id. Windham stated he had some marijuana in his possession. Id. Law enforcement then found a $1 bill with 0.4 grams of marijuana wrapped inside of the bill inside Windham's pocket. Id.

         The second stop occurred on March 15, 2018, when Hartsville Police Officer Reichard (Reichard) was operating a stationary radar and noticed a white sedan driving east on West Washington Street at fifty-nine miles per hour (mph) in a forty-mph zone. Id. Reichard attempted to pursue the sedan, but the driver accelerated and Reichard fell further behind. Hartsville Police Officer Johnson (Johnson) spotted the vehicle, initiated pursuit with his blue lights on, and ultimately pulled the vehicle over on Elmwood Drive. Id.

         When Officer Reichard first noticed Windham was speeding, he was driving in the Hartsville city limits on West Washington Street. Id. at 16. The subsequent pursuit and arrest took Officer Reichard outside of the Hartsville city limits, but well ...

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