United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
Michael R. Barrett United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress evidence and statements (Doc. 18) and the
Government's Response thereto (Doc. 21). The Court
conducted an evidentiary hearing on November 20, 2019, (Doc.
32) and the parties submitted post-hearing briefing (Docs.
34, 35, 36).
following facts were revealed at the evidentiary hearing.
Cincinnati Police Officer Caleb Sarchet testified that, on
October 29, 2018, at approximately 7:30 PM, he observed
Defendant driving a black Chevrolet Impala down Poplar Street
and then observed Defendant turn his car from Poplar Street
right onto Linn Street, without activating his signal until
he was already in the intersection. (Doc. 33 at PageID 75-76,
82). Following the alleged improper use of Defendant's
turn signal, Officer Sarchet executed a traffic stop of
Defendant's car at 508 Findlay Street. (Id. at
PageID 76-77). According to Officer Sarchet's testimony,
the sole basis for the stop was that Defendant failed to
activate his turn signal prior to one hundred feet of the
intersection. (Id. at PageID 30).
parties agree on the following facts in their briefing.
Compare (Doc. 18 at PageID 31-32), with
(Doc. 21 at PageID 40-41). After initiating the traffic stop,
Officer Sarchet approached Defendant's car and requested
that Defendant roll down the car's tinted windows.
Id. When Defendant ultimately complied, Officer
Sarchet allegedly smelled the odor of marijuana emanating
from the car and observed a digital scale with what looked
like drug residue sitting in the cup holder in plain view.
Id. Consequently, Officer Sarchet removed Defendant
from the vehicle, frisked Defendant for weapons, and placed
Defendant in the back of a police cruiser. Id.
Officer Sarchet's subsequent search of Defendant's
car recovered a digital scale, marijuana inside a plastic
container in the center console, a .9mm Taurus pistol with
the safety on, and nine rounds of ammunition. Id.
While traveling to the Hamilton County Justice Center,
Defendant allegedly told Officer Sarchet that the marijuana
and pistol were his. Id.
was charged in state court with having a weapon under
disability, carrying a concealed weapon, improper
transportation of a firearm in a motor vehicle, drug
paraphernalia, and drug possession. Id. He was also
cited for having car window tint in violation of Ohio Revised
Code § 4513.241 (“Rules governing materials used
in windshields and windows; exceptions; records”) and
improper change of course in violation of Cincinnati
Municipal Code § 506-80 (“Changing Course of or
Stopping Vehicle”). Id. While these states
charges were pending,  the Government adopted the case for
federal prosecution. Id. On February 13, 2019, a
Grand Jury indicted Defendant on one count of being a felon
in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g)(1). (Doc. 1). Defendant filed the pending
Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 18). On September 11, 2019, a Grand
Jury returned a single-count superseding indictment against
Defendant for violation of the same statute. (Doc. 27).
argues that he did not commit a traffic violation, the
officer did not have probable cause to stop his car, the stop
violated his Fourth Amendment rights, and all evidence seized
and statements obtained as fruits of the unlawful stop must
be suppressed. (Docs. 18, 34, 36). The Government responds
that Defendant's act of turning his car from Poplar
Street right onto Linn Street, without activating his signal
until he was already in the intersection, which Officer
Sarchet observed, violated CMC § 506-80 and gave Officer
Sarchet probable cause to initiate the traffic stop. (Docs.
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. An ordinary traffic stop by a police
officer is a “seizure” of one's
“person” within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment. United States v. Jackson, 682 F.3d 448,
453 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting United States v. Blair,
524 F.3d 740, 748 (6th Cir. 2008). “A police officer
legally may stop a car when he has probable cause to believe
that a civil traffic violation has
occurred.” Blair, 524 F.3d at 748;
United States v. Huff, 630 Fed.Appx. 471, 495 (6th
Cir. 2015) (Barrett, J., sitting by designation,
concurring).The Sixth Circuit defines probable cause as
“reasonable grounds for belief, supported by less than
prima facie proof but more than mere
suspicion.” United States v. Bennett, 905 F.2d
931, 934 (6th Cir. 1990).
“a police officer that observes any traffic violation
may stop the driver to issue a citation for the infraction,
” an investigative or pretextual stop is improper if no
traffic violation has occurred. United States v.
Franklin, No. 18-CR-20492, 2018 WL 6804154, at *2-3
(E.D. Mich. Dec. 26, 2018) (citing Blair, 524 F.3d
at 748 and United States v. Huguenin, 154 F.3d 547,
552-59 (6th Cir. 1998)). The inquiry before the Court is
whether Officer Sarchet “‘had an objectively
verifiable reason' for pulling over Defendant's [car]
in light of the facts and circumstances known to [Officer
Sarchet] at the time of the stop.” Huff, 630
Fed.Appx. at 496 (quoting United States v. Tullock,
578 F. App'x. 510, 513 (6th Cir. 2014)).
Municipal Code § 506-80 provides, in pertinent part,
No person shall turn a vehicle in an intersection unless the
vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in
Section 506-84 . . . unless and until such movement can be
made with reasonable safety. No. person shall so turn any
vehicle without giving an appropriate signal in the manner
hereinafter provided in the event any other traffic may be
affected by such movement.
(a) When required, a signal of intention to turn or move
right or left shall be given continuously during not less
than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before
Mun. Code § 506-80. Cincinnati Municipal Code §
506-84 (“Turning at Intersections”) provides, in
relevant part, that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided,
the driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection
shall do so as follows:  Approach for a right hand turn and
a right hand turn itself shall be made as close as