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UNITED STATES v. HOUGH

October 23, 1996

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAVID A. HOUGH, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN

 Background

 On July 16, 1996, defendant was stopped in his car by Officer Gerry Marshall of the U.S. Park Police on Alabama Avenue, S.E. for failing to display an inspection sticker on his Virginia-registered car. Marshall stopped the defendant pursuant to a D.C.-Virginia reciprocity law. While asking defendant for his license and registration, Marshall detected a faint smell of marijuana and noticed several discarded marijuana "roaches" on the passenger-side floor. After waiting for back-up, Marshall asked the defendant to get out of the car and instructed him to sit at the curb while Marshall searched the car. During that search, Marshall recovered crack cocaine from the area between the front seats, empty ziplock bags from behind a fuse box panel and a loaded 32-caliber handgun from the trunk. Defendant was arrested and transported to the Park Police station house.

 At the station house, the defendant was temporarily in the custody of Officer Rufus Gillette for the purpose of collecting fingerprints and photographs, and giving the defendant his Miranda warnings. Before giving those warnings, Gillette made several statements to the defendant. He told the defendant that based on his prior convictions and parole status, he could face very serious consequences if convicted of new gun and drug charges. He also told him that the Park Police may be interested in his "cooperation" in other criminal matters. Before discussing these matters in detail, Gillette told him that he had to read him his Miranda rights. Gillette read those rights from a standard "rights card" and the defendant waived those rights, both orally and in writing. Subsequently, Gillette had a more detailed discussion with the defendant on the question of cooperation.

 Shortly after his discussion with Gillette, the defendant was interviewed by Officer Marshall. After waiving his Miranda rights for a second time, the defendant made and signed a statement implicating him on the gun and drug charges.

 Analysis and Decision

 1. Motion to suppress

 a. Legality of the Stop and Search

 The defendant correctly states in his motion that it is the government's burden to show that probable cause existed for the stop of the car, and that the warrantless search of the car was legally justifiable. The Court finds that the Government has met that burden.

 Officer Marshall testified, and it is uncontested, that the defendant was driving a car without an inspection sticker. The lack of the sticker gave Marshall probable cause to believe a traffic violation was being committed, and thus to stop the car. The defendant presented some testimony at the motions hearing suggesting that the officer might have known that the defendant was carrying the drugs and gun before stopping the car. *fn1" However, even if this is true, use of a traffic violation as pretext for the stop does not require suppression of evidence. If the officer observed the missing sticker before the stop, he had probable cause to make the stop, regardless of any ulterior motive. Whren v. United States, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1774 (1996).

 As a result of that stop, Marshall smelled marijuana and observed discarded marijuana cigarettes on the floor of the car. Based on these observations, he had probable cause to believe the car might contain other contraband. See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 76 L. Ed. 2d 527, 103 S. Ct. 2317 (1993); California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580, 114 L. Ed. 2d 619, 111 S. Ct. 1982 (1991); United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 72 L. Ed. 2d 572, 102 S. Ct. 2157 (1982); Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 44, 26 L. Ed. 2d 419, 90 S. Ct. 1975 (1971); Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153, 162, 69 L. Ed. 543, 45 S. Ct. 280 (1925). That probable cause extended to all compartments of the car, and thus recovery of the guns, drugs and ziplock bags was proper. *fn2" ...


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