United States District Court, D. Maine
DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
E. WALKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Daniel Easler is indicted as a felon in possession of
firearms and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Indictment (ECF No. 5).
Easler moves to suppress evidence gathered from his person on
the night of December 4, 2018. Mot. Suppress 1 (ECF No. 26).
A hearing on the motion was held on June 24, 2019. After
careful consideration of the evidence and the arguments of
counsel, Defendant's motion to suppress is
evening of December 4, 2018, the Caribou Police Department
received a call from a citizen who reported witnessing a GMC
pickup suddenly veer off the road and into a snow bank. The
citizen indicated that when he pulled over to assist, the
driver (who was later identified as Defendant Easler)
approached his car and asked for a ride, saying: “I
need to get out of here.” Because Easler was
“acting odd” and “something seemed off,
” the citizen declined to give Easler a ride. Easler
went back to his truck and the citizen (who remained at the
scene) did not see him again.
Depner, an officer with the Caribou Police Department,
arrived at the scene approximately 15 minutes later and
observed the GMC pickup stuck in a snowbank, but was unable
to locate Easler. Officer Depner then identified a fresh set
of footprints in the snow and followed the footprints past a
nearby apartment building, into the surrounding woods, and
then through a potato field. When his flashlight
malfunctioned, Officer Depner called for backup and returned
to the GMC pickup. Officer Depner reported that it was
extremely cold that evening.
Keith Ouellette arrived on the scene and while Officer
Depner directed traffic near the GMC pickup, Sergeant
Ouellette followed the footprints. Based on the trajectory of
the footprints, Sergeant Ouellette directed Officer Depner to
an area where he anticipated Easler may be located. Officer
Depner drove his police cruiser to the general area indicated
by Sergeant Ouellette, got out of his cruiser, and found
Easler lying face down in the snow with his hands above his
head. Officer Depner instructed Easler to his feet. After
Easler stood up, Officer Depner observed a shotgun on
Easler's person hanging from a sling. Officer Depner drew
his gun, directed Easler to the roadway, ordered him to the
ground, and updated dispatch. Officer Depner noted that
Easler matched the description provided by the citizen.
Ouellette and Officer Gerard Lemoine arrived on the scene,
secured Easler by handcuffing him, and then searched him. In
addition to the loaded pump-action shotgun visible on
Easler's body, this search revealed a loaded Highpoint
brand 9-mm handgun, a drug kit, a clear bag which the
officers believed contained methamphetamine, a set of
handcuffs, and a methamphetamine pipe. At all times Easler
refused to identify himself. The officers formally arrested
Easler and brought him to the police station.
police station, Easler continued to refuse to identify
himself. Police officers then used a fingerprint scanner and
identified him as Daniel Easler. During this identification
process, the officers learned that Easler was a felon whose
driver's license had been revoked and who had several
outstanding warrants and sets of bail conditions. Officers
also learned that the handgun discovered on Easler's
person had been reported as stolen.
support of his motion to suppress Easler advances two
arguments. First, he argues that the officers did not have a
“reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity
at the time of the search” as required by the Fourth
Amendment. Mot. Suppress, ¶ 7. Second, he asserts that
even if the stop was initially lawful and officers could
articulate a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the
stop nevertheless evolved into a de facto arrest unsupported
by probable cause, as evidenced by “the method and
circumstances of the detention . . . at the time of the
search and seizure.” Id. ¶ 8, 10-11. I
will address each argument in turn.
Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. When an officer temporarily detains an
individual, they effectuate a “seizure” that
necessarily implicates the Fourth Amendment. United
States v. Romain, 393 F.3d 63, 70-71 (1st Cir. 2004).
However, a temporary detention, also known as a
“Terry stop, ” is not violative of a
defendant's constitutional rights if the stop is
“based on a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity
may be afoot.” United States v. Rabbia, 699
F.3d 85, 89 (1st Cir. 2012); see also Terry v. Ohio,
392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968) (“[A] a police officer may in
appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner
approach a person for purposes of investigating possibly
criminal behavior even though there is no probable cause to
make an arrest.”). When evaluating a Terry
stop, courts consider whether an officer reasonably suspected
criminal activity before engaging with the individual - in
other words, whether the stop was “justified at its
inception” - and whether, as the stop progressed, the
officer's actions were “reasonably related in scope
to the circumstances which justified the interference.”
United States v. Pontoo, 666 F.3d 20, 26 (1st Cir.
2011) (quoting United States v. Acosta-Colon, 157
F.3d 9, 14 (1st Cir. 1998)).
lynchpin of the first inquiry, reasonable articulable
suspicion, requires “more than a naked hunch that a
particular person may be engaged in some illicit activity,
” but yet “does not require either probable cause
or evidence of a direct connection linking the suspect to the
suspected crime.” United States v. Chhien, 266
F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2001); see also United States v.
Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) (“The officer, of
course, must be able to articulate something more than an
‘inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or
hunch.'” (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 27)).
In addition to an officer's own observations, information