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United States v. Miles

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

October 23, 2014

STEVEN M. MILES, Defendant.


SARAH W. HAYS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is currently before the Court on defendant Miles' Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized During Unlawful Inventory Search and Defendant's Statement as Fruit of the Poisonous Tree (doc #21). For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that this motion be denied.


On May 5, 2014, a Criminal Complaint was filed against Steven M. Miles. On May 20, 2014, the Grand Jury returned a one count indictment against defendant Miles. The indictment charges that on May 5, 2014, defendant Miles, having been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, knowingly possessed a firearm.

On September 18, 2014, an evidentiary hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant Miles was represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Carie Allen. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Brent Venneman. The Government called Officer Luke Balsley of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department as a witness. The defense called no witnesses to testify.


On the basis of the evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing, the undersigned submits the following proposed findings of fact:

1. On May 5, 2014, Officer Luke Balsley and his partner, Officer Taylor Hall, were working the night shift. (Tr. at 4) At approximately 1:00 a.m., Officers Balsley and Hall were conducting a routine patrol in the area of 72nd and Bellefontaine when they observed a silver Lincoln driving with two other vehicles in the area. (Tr. at 6) The Lincoln had an out-of-state license plate which caught the officers' attention. (Tr. at 6) The officers ran the plates through the computer. (Tr. at 6) It took a period of time to receive a response on the plates and during that time, the officers lost contact with the vehicle. (Tr. at 6) When the response came back, it showed that the plates did not belong to the Lincoln. (Tr. at 6) The officers then began an area canvass for the Lincoln. (Tr. at 6)
2. The officers caught up with the Lincoln on Bellefontaine between 72nd and 73rd Streets. (Tr. at 7) Officer Balsley testified that as the officers rounded the corner from 73rd Street onto Bellefontaine, the Lincoln turned its lights off and was then operating in the dark on the city street. (Tr. at 7) As the officers attempted to catch up to the vehicle to conduct a traffic stop, the Lincoln pulled into a driveway at 7211 Bellefontaine. (Tr. at 7) The officers pulled in behind the Lincoln. (Tr. at 7) The officers had activated the overhead lights on their marked police vehicle. (Tr. at 7)
3. Officers Balsley and Hall exited their patrol vehicle. (Tr. at 8) Officer Hall, who was driving the patrol vehicle, approached the driver of the Lincoln. (Tr. at 8) Officer Balsley approached the passenger side of the Lincoln. (Tr. at 9) Officer Balsley did not hear the initial conversation that Officer Hall was having with the driver of the Lincoln, but he eventually circled around to the driver's side where he could hear a little better. (Tr. at 9) Officer Hall had requested identification for the driver and registration for the vehicle. (Tr. at 9) The driver, Sierra Oldenburg, had produced a driver's license, but no proof of ownership or insurance for the Lincoln.[1] (Tr. at 9) The officers were told that 7211 Bellefontaine was the address for Ms. Oldenburg, but Officer Balsley testified that he did not believe that they had been provided with any information to verify that it was her address.[2] (Tr. at 13)
4. Officer Balsley testified that the windows of the Lincoln appeared to have some kind of a temporary tinting on them which almost completely blacked out the side windows so that the officers did not have a clear view into the vehicle. (Tr. at 10) Officer Balsley testified that the tint on this vehicle was in violation of a City of Kansas City, Missouri ordinance. (Tr. at 11)
5. There were two passengers in the Lincoln, Steven Miles in the front and Rodney Campbell in the back. (Tr. at 9-10) Officer Balsley testified that the occupants of the vehicle had lit cigarettes which were filling the vehicle with the odor of smoke. (Tr. at 10-11) The officers ran records checks on the driver and two passengers. (Tr. at 10) The records check on Steven Miles came back with two Kansas City warrants. (Tr. at 11) The occupants of the vehicle were asked to exit the vehicle and Miles was placed in handcuffs. (Tr. at 11)
6. The information the officers had on the Lincoln was that the plates did not belong to the vehicle and the plates also did not respond to anyone in the vehicle. (Tr. at 12) The plates were registered to another party. (Tr. at 12) Ms. Oldenburg and defendant Miles told the officers that they had recently purchased the vehicle and had not yet registered it under their names. (Tr. at 12) Officer Balsley testified that during his initial encounter with defendant Miles and Ms. Oldenburg on May 5, 2014, he was not given or shown the bills of sale for the vehicle which were admitted as Defendant's Exhibits 1 and 2. (Tr. at 12)
7. After the occupants of the Lincoln were asked to exit the vehicle, the officers asked for consent to search the Lincoln. (Tr. at 12-13) Officer Balsley testified that he wanted to search the vehicle to see if there was contraband in it. (Tr. at 14) Based on the time of day the vehicle was out in a high-crime area known for drugs, the tinting of the windows, and the fact that there were numerous cigarettes lit when the officers contacted the occupants in the vehicle in what Officer Balsley believed was an attempt to mask other odors that may be present in the ...

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