United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division
OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
AND DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS
ROBERTO A. LANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
contraband in one's car is risky business given that
police may stop a vehicle for any number of reasons.
Defendant Jason Farlee learned this the hard way when Police
Sergeant Ramon Marrufo pulled him over on October 8, 2018,
and discovered guns and drug paraphernalia in Farlee's
truck. Farlee argues that the evidence taken from him and his
vehicle must be suppressed because Sergeant Marrufo lacked
probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to stop him and the
search of a safe found in his truck was unconstitutional.
This Court denies Farlee's motion because both the
traffic stop and the search of the safe complied with the
noon on the day of the stop, Sergeant Marrufo, a police
officer with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement
Services (CRSTLES), was on patrol in Eagle Butte, South
Dakota. T. 8-9. He spotted a dark-purple pickup truck which
he knew belonged to Farlee driving northbound on Main Street.
T. 9-10, 15, 18. He requested a warrant check on Farlee and
learned that Farlee had an active tribal arrest warrant. T.
9, 15-16, 19.
Marrufo caught up with the truck and saw that its rear
license plate was obscured by mud. T. 9-10, 16; Ex. 1. He
stopped the truck and asked Farlee, the driver, to have a
seat in his patrol car. T. 10, Ex. 1; Ex. B. As they walked
to the car, Farlee acknowledged that there were guns in the
truck and consented to Sergeant Marrufo's request to
search it. T. 11, 20-21, 30-31 Ex. B.
Farlee in the patrol car, Sergeant Marrufo returned to the
track and spoke with the front seat passenger, Brittany In
The Woods. T. 10, Ex. 1; Ex. B. He noticed a rifle laying
near In The Woods, so he had her exit the truck. T. 40; Ex.
B; Ex. 1.
CRSTLES Sergeant Jeremy Reede and Officer Cody Norman arrived
at the scene. Ex. 1; T. 36, 48-49, 72. Sergeant Reede wrote
Farlee a citation for having an obscured license plate while
Sergeant Marrufo ran his drug dog, Iwan, around the exterior
of Farlee's truck. Ex. 1; Ex. B; T. 11, 21-22, 49. Iwan
alerted to the odor of a narcotic coming from the
driver's side door by changing his breathing and
elevating his ears. T. 11, 21; Ex. 1.
on the alert, the officers searched Farlee's truck and
found three rifles, a pistol, and alockedsafe. T. 12, 28-29,
51, 73-75; Ex. 1. Officer Norman opened the safe with one of
Farlee's keys. T. 74, 79. Inside he found two glass
pipes, clear plastic baggies, and a small digital scale. T.
12, 29, 31, 74; Ex. B. The scale's table had a white
residue on it that field tested positive for methamphetamine.
T. 51, 53; Ex. B.
was arrested for the active warrant and the unlawful
possession of a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia, and
weapons. T. 35-36; Ex. B. Later that day, Sergeant Reede
obtained a tribal search warrant for Farlee's blood based
on the evidence seized from his truck. T. 52, 55-56; Ex. C.
federal grand jury eventually indicted Farlee for possessing
firearms while being an unlawful user of a controlled
substance. Doc. 26. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno held a
hearing on Farlee's motion to suppress, during which he
heard testimony from Sergeants Marrufo and Reede, Officer
Norman, and Beth Ducheneaux, a criminal court clerk for the
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. He also received several exhibits
into evidence, including a recording of the traffic stop from
Sergeant Marrufo's dashcam. Judge Moreno recommended
denying Farlee's motion to suppress, concluding that
reasonable suspicion and probable cause supported the traffic
stop, that the search of the truck and safe was lawful, and
that the blood drawn from Farlee need not be suppressed as
fruit of the poisonous tree. Doc. 41. Farlee has now objected
to the report and recommendation. Doc. 50.
Court reviews a report and recommendation pursuant to the
statutory standards found in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1),
which provides in relevant part that "[a] judge of the
[district] court shall make a de novo determination of those
portions of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made." However,
"[i]n the absence of an objection, the district court is
not required 'to give any more consideration to the
magistrate's report than the court considers
appropriate.'" United States v.
Murillo-Figueroa, 862 F.Supp.2d 863, 866 (N.D. Iowa
2012) (quoting Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150
(1985)). Having conducted a de novo review of those portions
of the report and recommendation to which Farlee objects,
this Court adopts the report and recommendation.
traffic stop is a "seizure" under the Fourth
Amendment and must be supported by probable cause or
reasonable suspicion. United States v. Gordon, 741
F.3d 872, 876 (8th Cir. 2013). Probable cause for a traffic
stop exists "[a]s long as an officer objectively has a
reasonable basis for believing that the driver has breached a
traffic law." Id. (cleaned up) (quoting
United States v. Coney, 456 F.3d 850, 856 (8th Cir.
2006)). This is true even when the traffic violation is
minor, and the stop is simply "a pretext for other
investigation." United States v. Payne, 534
F.3d 948, 951 (8th Cir. 2008); see also Whren v. United
States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996) (explaining that
Supreme Court precedent "foreclose[d] any argument that
the constitutional reasonableness of traffic stops depends on
the actual motivations of the individual officers
involved"). The less-rigorous standard of reasonable
suspicion "exists when an 'officer is aware of
particularized, objective facts which, taken together with
rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant
suspicion that a crime is being committed.'"
Gordon, 741 F.3d at 876 (internal marks omitted)
(quoting United States v. Hollins, 685 F.3d 703, 706
(8th Cir. 2012)). The Fourth Amendment requires that police
officers be reasonable, not perfect. Heien v. North
Carolina, 574 U.S. 54, 60-61 (2014). Thus, grounds for a
traffic stop may rest on an officer's mistake of fact or
law, provided that the mistake is objectively reasonable.
Id. at 60-67; Hollins, 685 F.3d at 706.
Marrufo testified that he stopped Farlee because of the
obstructed license plate and the arrest warrant. T. 37. Judge
Moreno concluded that the obstructed license plate provided
probable cause to believe that Farlee had violated a traffic
law and that the arrest warrant gave Sergeant Marrufo
reasonable suspicion for the stop. This Court agrees with