United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
request of drug enforcement agents who were investigating the
Defendant for possible drug dealing, a patrol officer
performed a traffic stop of a motor vehicle in order to
discover the Defendant's name. The Defendant contends
that the patrol officer did not have a valid basis to stop
the vehicle in which he was a passenger and that the results
of the stop, specifically including his identity, should be
suppressed. Following a “de novo determination”
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court affirms the
Magistrate Judge's recommended decision and concludes
that the officer had a reasonable basis to stop the vehicle
for two independent but sufficient reasons: (1) because he
observed the Defendant not wearing a seatbelt, which is a
traffic infraction in the state of Maine, and (2) because the
collective knowledge rule imputed reasonable suspicion to the
September 16, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Adam
Williams, alleging that he knowingly and intentionally
distributed a mixture or substance containing cocaine base,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and aided and
abetted such conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sealed Indictment at 1 (ECF No. 9). On August 10,
2016, Mr. Williams filed a motion to suppress identification
evidence obtained as a result of an allegedly
unconstitutional traffic stop. Mr. Williams' Mot. to
Suppress and to Dismiss the Indictment (ECF No. 34)
(Def.'s Mot.). The Government responded on
August 18, 2016. Gov't's Resp. to Mr.
Williams' Mot. to Suppress and to Dismiss the
Indictment (ECF No. 36). Mr. Williams replied on
September 1, 2016. Mr. Williams' Reply Mem. in Supp.
of Mot. to Suppress and to Dismiss the Indictment (ECF
Magistrate Judge held a suppression hearing on October 6,
2016. Min. Entry (ECF No. 42); Tr. of
Proceedings (ECF No. 50) (Tr. of Proceedings).
On November 15, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a
recommended decision in which he made eighteen factual
findings. Recommended Decision on Mot. to Suppress
at 1- 3 (ECF No. 45) (Recommended Decision). Based
on those factual findings, the Magistrate Judge concluded
that the traffic stop complied with the Fourth Amendment, and
the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Mr.
Williams' motion to suppress. Id. at 6.
Williams filed an objection on December 13, 2016, and
requested oral argument. Mr. Williams' Obj. to the
Recommended Decision of the Mag. on Mot. to Suppress and to
Dismiss (ECF No. 48) (Def.'s Obj.). The
Government responded on December 16, 2016.
Gov't's Resp. to Mr. Williams' Obj. to the
Recommended Decision of the Mag. on Mot. to Suppress and
Dismiss (ECF No. 49) (Gov't's Resp.).
The Court heard oral argument on January 27, 2017. Min.
Entry (ECF No. 52).
April 10, 2015, Steve Saucier, an agent with the Maine Drug
Enforcement Agency (MDEA), met with a confidential informant
(CI). Recommended Decision at 1. The CI informed
Agent Saucier that a person known as “Pacman” was
selling drugs in the Bangor area. Id. In Agent
Saucier's presence, the CI made a phone call to arrange
to buy cocaine. Id. at 2. A male voice answered the
phone. Id. The person on the phone advised the CI
that the CI would receive a text with the location of the
transaction. Id. Subsequently, the CI received a
text to meet at the Ohio Street apartments in Bangor.
Id. Later, by phone, the location was changed to the
parking lot of a Burger King restaurant on Union Street in
Saucier provided the CI with a “body wire” and
$200 in cash in advance of the purchase. Id. Another
MDEA agent, Joseph Burke, followed the CI to the location to
monitor the CI and the vehicles involved in the transaction.
Id. Agent Saucier was stationed in a vehicle near
Burger King to monitor the body wire. Id. While
Agent Saucier monitored the body wire, the CI reported the
license plate number of a gold or tan Lincoln Navigator (the
Lincoln) parked in the Burger King parking lot. Id.
He announced that the Lincoln had a Connecticut registration
with plate number 9AMFW2. Id. While the CI was in
the parking lot, a person identified by the CI as
“Pacman” came up to the CI's vehicle and told
him to get in the Lincoln. Id. Once inside the
Lincoln, the CI said he had $200. Id. The CI
completed the transaction at approximately 1:30 P.M.
the CI exited the vehicle, he met Agent Saucier at a
pre-determined location. Id. The CI reported that he
obtained four baggies from Pacman; each contained a white,
rock-type substance. Id. The CI reported that a
woman with blonde hair was also in the vehicle. Id.
The CI gave the baggies to Agent Saucier. Id. at
2-3. The substance in one of the baggies field tested
positive for cocaine base. Id. at 3. Agent
Saucier's debrief of the CI concluded at approximately
1:45 P.M. Id.
Agent Saucier met with the CI, Agent Burke monitored the
Lincoln, which traveled to a nearby Wendy's restaurant.
Id. After the Lincoln left the Wendy's parking
lot, MDEA agents contacted Bangor police to request a traffic
stop of the vehicle. Id. MDEA agents provided Bangor
police with the make, model, and registration plate of the
vehicle. Id. MDEA agents wanted Bangor police to
stop the vehicle in order to identify its occupants.
Id. The agents did not provide Bangor police with
information regarding the drug transaction. Id.
time, Officer Nick Huggins of the Bangor police department
was working patrol in the area. Id. After receiving
the information, he located the Lincoln, observed the
passenger was not wearing a seatbelt, and stopped the
vehicle. Id. Officer Huggins stopped the
Lincoln at approximately 2:11 P.M. Id. Officer
Huggins approached the Lincoln, and observed a female driver
and a male passenger. Id. He informed them that he
stopped the vehicle because of a traffic violation.
Id. Officer Huggins told them that in Maine, the law
required that they wear a seatbelt. Id. The male
responded he was not aware of the requirement as he was from
Massachusetts. Id. Officer Huggins obtained
identification information from the occupants of the vehicle.
Id. The male was identified as Adam Williams.
Id. Officer Huggins did not issue a summons or
citation for the violation. Id.
motion to suppress, Mr. Williams argues that Officer Huggins
did not possess a valid basis to stop the Lincoln.
Def.'s Mot. at 4. The Magistrate Judge
disagreed, concluding that Officer Huggins had a reasonable
basis to believe that the occupants of the Lincoln were not
wearing seatbelts. Recommended Decision at 6.
Moreover, the Magistrate Judge determined that Officer
Huggins had a reasonable basis to believe-based on the