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United States v. Miles

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 17, 2019

ARTHUR MILES, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Defendant Arthur Miles' Amended Motion to Suppress (ECF No. 49). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on this Motion on July 2, 2019. Having considered the evidence and arguments before it, the Court DENIES the Motion for the reasons explained herein.


         On December 12, 2017, Maine State Trooper Thomas Pappas worked a patrol on the Maine Turnpike. At approximately 10:33 p.m., Trooper Pappas observed a gray Infiniti driving southbound in light traffic near mile marker fifty. Driving conditions were poor due to sleet, rain, and patches of ice on the road, and Pappas estimated that the car was driving about thirty miles per hour. Pappas first encountered the car as it was operating in the right lane of the two-lane highway but saw it switch to the left lane before mile marker forty-nine. The car continued in the left lane for about two miles while Pappas trailed behind it. As Pappas did so, he ran the vehicle's license plate and found that it was registered to an Indigo Wilkerson of Dorchester, Massachusetts. During this two-mile stretch, the car passed a sign that read “Keep Right Except to Pass” but remained in the left lane without overtaking any vehicles. Once the Infiniti reached mile marker forty-eight, Pappas stopped it for operating in the left lane without passing.

         Pappas departed his cruiser and approached the Infiniti on the passenger side. Once the window was down, he noted that there were two occupants: a male driver and a female passenger. He also smelled the odor of burning marijuana and observed a bottle of champagne in the back seat. Pappas requested license, registration, and insurance, which prompted the driver to explain that he was driving because the passenger was fatigued. The passenger provided Pappas with a driver's license identifying her as Indigo Wilkerson. Upon being asked if he had a license, the driver responded that he did not. Instead, he provided Pappas with identification showing that his name was Arthur Miles. Miles then volunteered that he and Wilkerson had just come from Sea 40, a restaurant in Lewiston, Maine. Pappas asked if they drove to Lewiston just for dinner and Miles responded that they had visited friends. With all of this in mind, Pappas asked Miles to “hop out” of the car and instructed Wilkerson to remain inside.

         Standing near the trunk of the Infiniti, Pappas inquired about the status of Miles' license and Miles indicated that it was suspended. Pappas also asked Miles if he was on probation or parole and if he had ever been arrested. Miles stated that he was on probation for violating a restraining order and that he had previously been arrested for murder. In response, Pappas queried “you got anything on ya?” To which Miles replied “no, sir, you can search me, sir.” Pappas then searched Miles by patting him down, lifting his sweatshirt slightly, and examining the contents of his pockets. One of Miles' pockets contained a large wad of cash, which Pappas inspected and replaced. Pappas continued to question Miles by asking if he had probation search conditions, who the car belonged to, and what happened with the murder charge. Miles stated that he did not have search conditions, that he “beat” the murder charge, and that Wilkerson owned the car. Pappas then asked who Miles' probation officer (“PO”) was and whether Miles was allowed to be outside of Massachusetts. Miles identified his PO as Jill Riordan and stated that he was not supposed to be out of state.

         After that, Pappas returned to his cruiser and requested that dispatch run records checks on both Miles and Wilkerson. While he was waiting to hear back, Pappas called Miles over to the passenger window and proceeded to question him about his activities that day. Miles stated that he and Wilkerson had been in Maine for three or four hours, had visited his friends Derek, Jah, and Bless, and had gone to Sea 40. Recognizing those names from prior drug trafficking investigations, Pappas inquired how Miles knew those people. Miles indicated that he grew up with them. Pappas expressed skepticism in Miles' story by noting that there “ain't a fucking thing to do in Lewiston” and that people seldom drive so far in icy conditions. Miles responded that the storm had caught him by surprise and that the weather was better near Boston. Around that time, Officer Angela Porter arrived on scene and began speaking with Wilkerson. Pappas remained with Miles and, through further questions, learned that Miles was carrying approximately $1, 500 in cash and that Miles and Wilkerson had purchased the car earlier that day.

         Dispatch eventually radioed that it had sent Pappas the records search results, that Wilkerson's had come back negative, and that Miles' had been “re-transmitted.” Pappas asked dispatch to contact Miles' PO and then raised the topic of employment with Miles. Speaking in an increasingly agitated tone, Miles informed Pappas that he was in construction, had not reported to work in three or four months, and that Wilkerson worked at a bank. Soon thereafter, Officer Porter approached the cruiser and interjected with a few questions for Miles. Pappas then instructed Miles to place his hands on the hood of the cruiser and Porter relayed Wilkerson's story to Pappas. By Wilkerson's account, she and Miles had purchased the Infiniti that day, driven to Lewiston, and had not met with anyone else while they were there. Upon hearing this, Pappas called Miles back to the window and attempted to clarify his version of events. Miles stated that he had gone to Sea 40 with friends and that Wilkerson had not joined them.

         After telling Miles to put his hands back on the hood, Pappas informed Officer Porter that he was still unable to view the results of the records searches. He reached back out to dispatch, which advised that it had sent the results again. At that point, Pappas learned that Miles had been arrested in Maine ten days earlier and had agreed to state bail conditions. Those conditions stated, among other things, that Miles could not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs and that he was subject to searches of his residence, vehicle, or person on “articulable suspicion.” This prompted Pappas to probe Miles regarding his use of marijuana and the circumstances of the Maine arrest. About thirty minutes into the stop, Pappas placed Miles in handcuffs and detected the odor of alcohol on Miles' breath.[1] Dispatch logs indicate that there were up to four officers present at the scene by that point: Pappas, Porter, Elgin Physic, and John Darcy.

         With Miles secured, Pappas proceeded to speak with Wilkerson. As relevant here, Wilkerson told Pappas that Miles had purchased the Infiniti for her in cash, she had gone with Miles to Sea 40, the restaurant had been closed when they arrived, and she had been with Miles all evening. Thereafter, Pappas searched the Infiniti. He discovered a bottle of champagne in the back seat and a baggie of what appeared to be oxycodone pills in a center console vent.


         Defendant seeks suppression of all evidence flowing from three alleged violations of his Fourth Amendment rights: (1) an illegal stop; (2) unlawful custodial interrogation; and (3) a warrantless vehicle search outside any exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. The Court addresses each of these grounds for suppression in turn.

         A. Initial Stop

         Defendant first avers that the stop constituted an unreasonable seizure because his left lane operation did not violate Maine law.[2] This argument is misguided. The Fourth Amendment applies to traffic stops, but it requires only that an officer act on “reasonable suspicion of unlawful conduct, ” not that such conduct occur. United States v. Jenkins, 680 F.3d 101, 104 (1st Cir. 2012). Reasonable suspicion entails “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Such suspicion may be grounded in a mistake of fact or law, so long as that mistake is “objectively reasonable.” Heien v. North Carolina, 135 S.Ct. 530, 539 (2014). Here, notwithstanding the applicable traffic laws, it was reasonable for Pappas to believe-as any officer or motorist would-that the “Keep Right Except to Pass” sign was an enforceable instruction.[3]See United States v. Blackburn, No. 01-CR-86-H, 2002 WL 32693714, at *2 (N.D. Okla. Feb. 20, 2002) (finding ...

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