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United States v. Daniel

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 5, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Brian J. Daniel, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted September 25, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Alison D. Dunning, Assistant U.S. Attorney, William L. Meiners, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Kansas City, MO.

Brian J. Daniel, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Tucson, AZ.

For Brian J. Daniel, Defendant - Appellant: William Joseph Raymond, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Kansas City, MO.

Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

Brian Daniel entered a conditional guilty plea to unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). On appeal, Daniel challenges an order of the

Page 448

district court[1] denying his motion to suppress evidence discovered in a search of his vehicle. We affirm.

On the evening of February 14, 2013, Officers Britten and Gaddis of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department observed a black Ford Explorer parked in what they considered a " high narcotics area." A black male was sitting in the back of the vehicle, and the officers saw him engage in what appeared to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction with a man standing outside of the vehicle. Britten, an experienced officer, testified that the two men were clearly " handing stuff back and forth" in a manner that suggested a drug sale. Rather than stop the men immediately, the officers drove around the corner to run a computer check on the vehicle's license plate. The check revealed that the vehicle was registered to an address associated with Brian Daniel, a man for whom there were two outstanding arrest warrants. The physical description of Daniel matched the man sitting inside the vehicle.

The officers returned and approached Daniel as he was walking away from the vehicle. After Daniel gave the officers his name and date of birth, Britten returned to the patrol car to confirm that this information matched the warrants. From inside the patrol car, Britten saw Daniel walk a few steps away from Gaddis and discard a plastic baggie. The officers then placed Daniel in handcuffs and retrieved the baggie, which appeared to contain illegal drugs. Later testing confirmed that the baggie contained controlled substances.

After handcuffing Daniel, Gaddis alerted Britten to an odor coming from Daniel's vehicle. Britten recognized the odor as the smell of " fresh marijuana, unburnt marijuana." Based on the smell, the drugs in the discarded baggie, and the observation of a hand-to-hand transaction, the officers searched Daniel's vehicle. Before searching the vehicle, the officers asked whether Daniel had a weapon in the vehicle; Daniel said he did not. The search uncovered a loaded Sig Sauer .40 caliber handgun stuffed between the driver's seat and center console, as well as a backpack containing approximately 450 grams of marijuana and drug-trafficking paraphernalia. One of the officers was heard saying on the video recording that the marijuana was what they had smelled earlier.

A grand jury charged Daniel with one count of possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon. Daniel moved to suppress all evidence, including the handgun, obtained during the warrantless search of his vehicle. The district court, accepting the recommendation of a magistrate judge, ruled that the search was lawful. Daniel then entered a conditional guilty plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(a)(2), reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, Daniel argues the search was unconstitutional because the officers lacked probable cause. We ...


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