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United States v. Hampton

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 9, 2018




         I. Introduction

         Defendant Kyle Hampton brings this motion seeking suppression of evidence obtained during and following a motor vehicle stop conducted by the New Haven police on January 16, 2015. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Suppress [Dkt. No. 38] is DENIED.

         II. Background

         The following uncontested facts are taken from the Defendant's memorandum in support of his motion to suppress.

         Police reports indicate that on January 16, 2015 at approximately 5:29 p.m. officers responded to a report of a gunshot near 21 Judson Street in New Haven. One witness interviewed by officers on the scene reported that a group of black men argued loudly near two vehicles parked next to each other immediately prior to the shot. One of these vehicles was a newer, silver four-door Toyota Camry, and the other was a newer, black four-door BMW with tinted windows. A witness also observed two men run into the backyard of 21 Judson Street after the gunshot, and another witness stated that the black BMW that had been observed was often parked in front of the Hampton family home, at 31-33 Judson Street. Several other witnesses interviewed gave similar accounts, including that a tan Lexus, a gray vehicle, and a black vehicle left the area after the shot was fired. Officers broadcast a report to be on the lookout (“BOLO”) for these vehicles. A search of the area failed to uncover any bullet or shell casings and no injuries were reported.

         Approximately two and a half hours later, while Officer David W. Diaz was patrolling near Elm Street and Sherman Avenue in New Haven, Officer Diaz observed a black BMW matching the description of the vehicle involved in the alleged shooting change lanes without signaling. Officer Diaz entered the BMW's license plate number into his mobile computer terminal to determine who the registered owner of the car was. As he was doing this, the BMW pulled over to the right side of the roadway, approximately seven or eight blocks away from the scene of the reported shooting. Officer Diaz then pulled in behind the vehicle and activated his police emergency lights. Prior to exiting the police cruiser, the mobile computer terminal search notified Officer Diaz that the BMW was registered to the Defendant, and that his address was 31 Judson Avenue. Officer Diaz then notified dispatch of the motor vehicle stop.

         Before backup arrived, Officer Diaz approached the BMW and the defendant lowered all four of the vehicle's windows. The officer instructed the Defendant to show Officer Diaz his license, registration, and insurance card, and the Defendant complied with this request. Officer Diaz reported that he smelled a strong marijuana odor coming from inside the vehicle while he stood outside of it, and consequently asked the Defendant to exit the vehicle. Officer Diaz then observed a plastic bag containing a green leafy plantlike substance in the driver's side door panel. Officer Diaz asked the Defendant if this substance was marijuana, to which the Defendant replied, “Yes, I have my medical marijuana card.” Since the marijuana was in a clear plastic bag and not in the typical prescription marijuana packaging, Officer Diaz placed the Defendant under arrest.

         Following his arrest, other officers arrived on the scene and began conducting a search of the vehicle incident to arrest. The officers found a .45 caliber handgun in the glove box and approximately 4.6 ounces of marijuana. The Defendant was also in possession of $1, 454 in U.S. currency.

         III. Discussion

         A. Evidentiary Hearing

         Defendant requested an evidentiary hearing in his motion to suppress. “[A]n evidentiary hearing on a motion to suppress ordinarily is required if ‘the moving papers are sufficiently definite, specific, detailed, and nonconjectural to enable the court to conclude that contested issues of fact going to the validity of the search are in question.'” United States v. Pena, 961 F.2d 333, 339 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. Licavoli, 604 F.2d 613, 621 (9th Cir. 1979)). Further, a defendant seeking a hearing must submit “an affidavit of someone alleging personal knowledge of the relevant facts.” United States v. Barrios, 210 F.3d 355, 2000 WL 419940, at *1 (2d Cir. Apr. 18, 2000) (citing United States v. Gillette, 383 F.2d 843, 848 (2d Cir. 1967)). The Defendant has not attached any affidavits to his submission and has not argued that any portions of the police reports describing the alleged shooting and the motor vehicle stop are inaccurate. Moreover, the Government does not dispute any material issues of fact, and the briefing is definite, specific, and detailed enough for the Court to fairly adjudicate Defendant's motion without a hearing. The Defendant's request for an evidentiary hearing is therefore DENIED.

         B. Propriety of Stop

         The Defendant argues that Officer Diaz performed the traffic stop because he believed that the Defendant's car was connected to the alleged shooting. The Government counters that the alleged shooting is irrelevant to the propriety of the stop, because Officer Diaz observed Hampton changing lanes without signaling, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-242(a), which provides that “[n]o person shall . . . move right or left upon a highway . . . without giving an appropriate signal.” This improper lane change is sufficient to give Officer Diaz probable cause to conduct a traffic stop, regardless of the involvement of the BMW in the alleged shooting, and regardless of Officer Diaz's subjective motivations.[1] See Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996) (“Subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.”); United States v. Dhinsa, 171 F.3d 721, 724-25 (2d Cir. 1998) (“[A]n officer's use of a traffic violation as a pretext to stop a car in order to obtain evidence for some more serious crime is of no constitutional significance” and the Court must “judge the reasonableness of an officer's actions based on the objective circumstances surrounding her actions and not on her subjective intent.”).

         C. Propri ...

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