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Date: 01-12-2018

Case Style:

United States of America v. Joseph E. Clark

District of Massachusetts Federal Courthouse - Boston, Massachusetts

Case Number: 17-1128

Judge: Stahl

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on appeal from the District of Maine (Cumberland County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Benjamin M. Block

Defendant's Attorney: Peter Cyr

Description: Joseph Clark appeals from the
district court's denial of his motion to suppress drug evidence
found on his person during a traffic stop. Clark claims that after
Officer Christopher McGoon stopped a vehicle in which Clark was a
passenger for a traffic violation, McGoon unreasonably extended
the duration of the traffic stop and thereby violated his rights
under the Fourth Amendment. Clark also challenges the district
court's ruling that the drug evidence found during the resulting
patdown search, which the government concedes was unlawful, did
not need to be excluded because of the inevitable discovery
exception to the exclusionary rule. After careful consideration,
we affirm.
On July 20, 2015, McGoon, a Saco Police Department
officer, stopped a vehicle for erratic driving and for running a
red light. At the time of the stop, McGoon had been with the Saco
Police Department for approximately one year and had previously
served in the military. Megan Maietta was driving the vehicle and
Clark was her sole passenger.
McGoon requested identification from Maietta, and she
provided her Maine driver's license and a damaged copy of her car's
registration. McGoon then asked Clark if he had any
identification. Clark said he did not have a Maine identification,
although he claimed he had had an identification issued by the
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state of Georgia, but he did not have it with him because he had
lost it. McGoon asked Clark how long he had lived in Maine, and
Clark answered five years. Clark identified himself as "Joseph
Leo Clark." Clark volunteered that his birthdate was August 6,
McGoon returned to talking with Maietta. According to
McGoon, if Clark thereafter had remained silent, he would have
made no further inquiry into Clark's identity. However, Clark
interrupted the conversation with Maietta and voluntarily provided
McGoon with his social security number and age. McGoon heard the
first three numbers of Clark's social security number as "256,"
but recordings of the stop show that Clark actually said a number
beginning with "257." Clark said he was twenty-six years old,
which was inconsistent with the birthdate he had provided shortly
before.1 Below, McGoon testified that Clark was "speaking softly
and looking straight ahead rather than turning to look at him,"
and that he was having "considerable difficulty hearing [Clark],
particularly when there was passing traffic, and had to ask him
several times to speak up." United States v. Clark, No. 2:15-CR-
187-GZS, 2016 WL 3945131, at *2 (D. Me. July 19, 2016), aff'd, No.
2:15-CR-187-GZS, 2016 WL 4532062 (D. Me. Aug. 29, 2016).
1 If Clark had been born on August 6, 1986, he would have been
twenty-eight years old at the time of the stop.
- 4 -
Three-and-a-half minutes after the initial stop, McGoon
went to his cruiser to verify Maietta's and Clark's identities.
McGoon quickly verified Maietta's information, but his electronic
search of the database found no match for Clark. Based on the
lack of a match, as well as Clark's failure to have Maine
identification despite having been a resident for five years,
McGoon became concerned that Clark was trying to conceal his
Six-and-a-half minutes after the initial stop, McGoon
returned to the car to confirm Clark's information. McGoon spent
one minute asking Clark for additional information about where he
lived and any past contact he may have had with police. During
this follow-up questioning, Officer Adam Linden arrived at the
scene. After one minute of questioning, Clark told McGoon that
his birthdate was August 25, 1986. Surprised by the different
birthdate, McGoon asked Clark to confirm the date a third time.
Clark became agitated and said, in a louder voice, "August 5, of
'86." Clark, 2016 WL 3945131, at *2.
Soon thereafter, Officer Robyn Stankevitz radioed McGoon
and Linden with a partial match for a Joseph Eugene Clark, a
resident of Scarborough, Maine with a birthdate of August 25, 1983
and with three active arrest warrants, who fit Clark's general
- 5 -
Having received this information, McGoon and Linden
returned to the car once again and asked Clark to repeat his
identifying information. Clark provided the same social security
number he provided earlier, but this time, McGoon heard Clark begin
with the numbers "257." Still mistakenly believing Clark had
previously offered a social security number beginning with "256,"
McGoon accused Clark of providing false information and told him
that he was going to be detained "until we can figure this out."
Clark, 2016 WL 3945131, at *3. McGoon ordered Clark out of the
car and handcuffed him. Neither officer frisked Clark or noticed
anything to indicate that Clark had a weapon. Clark denied that
he was Joseph Eugene Clark and repeated that his middle name was
Stankevitz radioed again and warned McGoon that Joseph
Eugene Clark reportedly carried a firearm. Stankevitz also sent
a photograph of Joseph Eugene Clark. Because of the image's low
quality, McGoon could not determine whether the picture was of
Clark and requested that Stankevitz come to the scene to identify
Approximately twenty minutes after the initial stop,
Stankevitz and a newly hired officer in training, Officer Nathan
Paradis, arrived at the scene. Stankevitz felt sure that Clark
was the same Joseph Eugene Clark in the photograph and advised
McGoon to take Clark back to the station to be fingerprinted.
- 6 -
McGoon called the station and the sergeant on duty asked whether
Clark had been frisked. Saco Police Department protocol requires
officers to pat down a suspect before placing the suspect in a
cruiser. When the suspect arrives at the station, the suspect is
searched more thoroughly.
Paradis conducted the patdown search of Clark. During
the patdown, Paradis felt a bump in Clark's waistband. Paradis
pulled out the object, which turned out to be two plastic bags of
heroin and ecstasy. The officers declared Clark under arrest and
placed him in McGoon's cruiser, where he was transported back to
the station.
On November 4, 2015, a grand jury indicted Clark on one
count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled
substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). Clark filed a
motion to suppress, arguing that the officer's seizure of him and
search of his waistband violated the Fourth Amendment. The
magistrate judge recommended that the motion to suppress be denied
and, over Clark's objection, the district court affirmed the
recommendation. Clark timely appeals.
In our review of a district court's ruling on a motion
to suppress, "we examine its findings of fact for clear error and
its conclusions of law de novo." United States v. Fernandez, 600
- 7 -
F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir. 2010).2 We first consider whether McGoon
unconstitutionally extended the stop by inquiring into Clark's
"A traffic stop constitutes a seizure of 'everyone in
the vehicle' for purposes of the Fourth Amendment and thus must be
supported by reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation has
occurred." United States v. Chaney, 584 F.3d 20, 24 (1st Cir.
2009) (quoting Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 255 (2007)).
Once the police stop a vehicle, "the tolerable duration of police
inquiries . . . is determined by the seizure's 'mission'--to
address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend
to related safety concerns." Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.
Ct. 1609, 1614 (2015) (citations omitted). In carrying out the
seizure's "mission," an officer is also permitted to undertake
those "ordinary inquiries incident to [the traffic] stop," id. at
1615 (quoting Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 408 (2005)),
which include "checking the driver's license, determining whether
there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting
the automobile's registration and proof of insurance." Id.
2 Because the district court adopted the magistrate judge's
recommended decision, we treat the factual findings and
conclusions of law of the magistrate judge the same as we would
those of the district court. See United States v. Young, 835 F.3d
13, 15 n. 1 (1st Cir. 2016).
- 8 -
In addition, due to the "inherent dangers of a traffic
stop," the police may request identification from passengers in
the vehicle, so long as those requests "do not measurably extend
the duration of the stop." Chaney, 584 F.3d at 26. "Although the
[Supreme] Court has not explicitly held that an inquiry into a
passenger's identity is permissible, its precedent inevitably
leads to that conclusion." Fernandez, 600 F.3d at 61 (emphasis in
original); see Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court, 542 U.S. 177,
186 (2004) ("Obtaining a suspect's name in the course of a Terry
stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity
may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense,
or has a record of violence or mental disorder.").
After McGoon returned to the vehicle, he questioned
Clark about his identity for one minute, at which point Clark
provided not one, but two dates of birth inconsistent with the
date he initially gave McGoon. Clark concedes that once he
provided this set of inconsistent birthdates, McGoon had
reasonable suspicion to continue questioning him. He therefore
focuses his challenge on the one minute period of questioning.
The magistrate judge found that McGoon did not need
reasonable suspicion to justify his one minute of follow-up
questions. The magistrate judge viewed the follow-up questions as
"part and parcel of the original identification request." Clark,
2016 WL 3945131, at *8. The magistrate judge noted that the
- 9 -
follow-up questions "did not prolong the traffic stop, which McGoon
testified would have taken a total of about 15 to 20 minutes for
purposes of issuing Maietta a summons had she been the vehicle's
sole occupant." Id.
We agree that McGoon's one minute of follow-up questions
did not violate Clark's Fourth Amendment rights. McGoon did not
expand the scope of his original questions; he merely asked Clark
to repeat his name and date of birth because he reasonably believed
that there was a chance he had misheard Clark the first time. As
the magistrate judge found, Clark was "speaking softly and looking
straight ahead rather than turning to look at him," and McGoon was
having "considerable difficulty hearing him . . . and had to ask
him several times to speak up." Clark, 2016 WL 3945131, at *2.
Moreover, McGoon followed up with Clark because he was unable to
verify Clark's information, including the information Clark had
offered up voluntarily and not in response to any question. In
McGoon's experience, it was unusual "that someone who claimed to
have had a state identification could not be found through an
online search of the 'cross-agency' database." Id.
"Traffic stops are 'especially fraught with danger to
police officers,' so an officer may need to take certain negligibly
burdensome precautions in order to complete his mission safely."
Rodriguez, 135 S. Ct. at 1616 (quoting Arizona v. Johnson, 555
U.S. 323, 330 (2009)) (internal citations omitted). Asking a
- 10 -
passenger, for one minute, to confirm identifying information he
has already volunteered to the officer is one of these negligibly
burdensome precautions justified by the unique safety threat posed
by traffic stops. Accordingly, given the circumstances of this
case, McGoon's one-minute of follow-up questioning did not
unlawfully prolong the traffic stop.
We turn next to Clark's claim that the inevitable
discovery exception to the exclusionary rule should not apply to
the evidence found during the patdown search. On appeal, the
government concedes that Officer Paradis exceeded the proper scope
of a patdown search, but contends that the district court properly
applied the inevitable discovery rule.
When applying the inevitable discovery rule, "we ask
three questions: first, whether the legal means by which the
evidence would have been discovered was truly independent; second,
whether the use of the legal means would have inevitably led to
the discovery of the evidence; and third, whether applying the
inevitable discovery rule would either provide an incentive for
police misconduct or significantly weaken constitutional
protections." United States v. Almeida, 434 F.3d 25, 28 (1st Cir.
2006). Clark focuses his argument solely on the third prong, for
he admits that he would have been searched more thoroughly at the
police station, whereby the drugs would have been discovered
- 11 -
through independent and lawful means. Clark claims the patdown
was not performed to protect officer safety, but was performed
solely to find identification on him.
Clark faces a major hurdle: the magistrate judge found
that the officers conducted the patdown search because they were
reasonably concerned for their safety. The magistrate judge
determined the officers "had mixed motives" for conducting the
patdown search, concluding that they searched Clark both because
they wanted to find identification on him and because they were
concerned for their safety. Clark, 2016 WL 3945131, at *10. The
magistrate judge also found that the problems with the patdown
search, including its illegal scope, "appear[] to have resulted
from officer inexperience," noting that "McGoon neglected to frisk
the defendant when handcuffing him; Linden, who was even less
experienced than McGoon, did not inform him of the oversight; and
Paradis, who performed the frisk, was an officer in training."
Id. at *12.
"[W]e will overturn a district court's factual findings
after a suppression hearing 'only if, after reviewing all of the
evidence, we have a 'definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been committed.'" United States v. Henderson, 463 F.3d 27, 32
(1st Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. Ivery, 427 F.3d 69, 72
(1st Cir. 2005)). We see no such error here. The magistrate judge
credited Officer Paradis's testimony that he was significantly
- 12 -
concerned for his safety because of the firearm warning associated
with Joseph Eugene Clark. The magistrate judge interpreted
McGoon's request to Stankevitz to "have him pat him down or see if
he has an ID" to reflect a concern for officer safety and a desire
to obtain identification. Clark, 2016 WL 3945131, at *10 (emphasis
in original).
Under these circumstances, we will not disturb what
appears to have been the magistrate judge's credibility
determination of the testimony presented. See Ivery, 427 F.3d at
72 ("Where evaluations of witnesses' credibility are concerned, we
are especially deferential to the district court's judgment."
(quoting United States v. Jones, 187 F.3d 210, 214 (1st Cir.
1999))). It was not clearly erroneous for the magistrate judge to
find that the patdown was motivated in part by legitimate officer
safety concerns. Because Clark raises no other arguments regarding
the inevitable discovery rule, we need go no further.3
3 In his opening brief, Clark focuses solely on attacking the
magistrate judge's finding that the officers were concerned for
their safety. He does not, for example, discuss the potential
implications of a "mixed motive" search, whereby officers
undertake a search for both permissible and impermissible reasons.
Having failed to raise the issue to us, we will not reach out to
address it. United States v. Arnott, 758 F.3d 40, 45 n. 6 (1st
Cir. 2014). We note, however, that the magistrate judge also found
that it was officer inexperience that led to the overly broad
patdown search. See United States v. Pardue, 385 F.3d 101, 108
(1st Cir. 2004) ("[T]he record suggests that any Fourth Amendment
violation was unintentional, and is clear that application of the
inevitable discovery doctrine in this case does not create an
incentive for future police misconduct.").

Outcome: For the reasons discussed above, we affirm the decision
of the district court.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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