Argued: March 21, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of North Carolina, at Statesville. Richard L.
Voorhees, Senior District Judge. (5:13-cr-00032-FDW-DSC-1)
Stephen Thomas Meier, STEPHEN T. MEIER, P.L.L.C., Charlotte,
North Carolina, for Appellant.
Elizabeth Ray, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellee.
Andrew Murray, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED
STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.
GREGORY, Chief Judge, NIEMEYER, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.
GREGORY, Chief Judge:
Leonard Charles Bernard was found guilty of one count of
possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 and one count of possession
of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924. Bernard now challenges the
district court's denial of his pretrial suppression
motion to exclude physical evidence and statements under the
Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. Because the district court properly denied
Bernard's suppression motion, we affirm his convictions.
in the morning on December 4, 2012, Officer Barry Willis saw
Bernard driving eastbound on Interstate 40 in Iredell County,
North Carolina, in a white Jeep. Because Bernard appeared to
be driving erratically, Officer Willis decided to conduct a
traffic stop to determine if Bernard might be impaired or
fatigued. When Officer Willis approached the Jeep, he
observed Bernard acting nervously, so he requested
Bernard's license and registration and asked Bernard if
he could pat him down to search for weapons. Bernard
consented to the pat-down, and Officer Willis then asked
Bernard to join him in the patrol vehicle. Bernard did so,
sitting next to Officer Willis uncuffed in the passenger
Officer Willis was processing Bernard's information to
ascertain whether he had outstanding warrants, he experienced
technical difficulties and had to use his cell phone to call
the main office to conduct the warrant check. Officer Willis
estimated that this process took approximately five to seven
minutes. During this time, he engaged in casual conversation
with Bernard, who informed Officer Willis that he was from
Lathrop, California, but had previously lived in Greensboro,
North Carolina. Bernard explained that he planned to stay in
North Carolina for 2 weeks to visit with friends and repair
motorcycles and that he would extend his trip if he found
additional motorcycles to repair in North Carolina because
business was slow in California. Officer Willis said he found
this story suspicious because the weather in California was
conducive to riding motorcycles year-round, while people
generally did not ride motorcycles in the winter in North
Carolina. He asked Bernard if he had any controlled
substances or firearms in or on top of his vehicle. Bernard
central information system verified that Bernard had no
outstanding warrants, and Officer Willis issued him a warning
ticket for "other hazardous violation." Officer
Willis returned Bernard's documents to him, but as
Bernard opened the door to exit the police vehicle, Officer
Willis asked Bernard if he could answer a few more questions.
Bernard said yes. Officer Willis then asked a second time if
Bernard had any controlled substances, and Bernard again
answered no. Officer Willis next asked Bernard if he could
search his Jeep. Bernard said yes, informed Officer Willis
that he had a rifle in the car, and also ...