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United States v. Miller

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 15, 2019

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Anthony Dean Miller Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: December 13, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Council Bluffs

          Before LOKEN and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges, and MAGNUSON, [1] District Judge.

          MAGNUSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         At just before 9:00 pm on May 21, 2017, Appellant Anthony Dean Miller was a passenger in a pickup truck in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The truck, driving northbound on South 11th Street, passed a Council Bluffs police officer driving in the opposite direction on South 11th Street. At the suppression hearing, the officer testified that he saw the truck leaving a home that he was familiar with from his previous work with the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, and that he was attempting to ascertain the truck's Texas license plate number as he passed. The officer turned his squad car around and followed the truck north on South 11th Street.

         South 11th Street ends at a T intersection with South 16th Avenue. There is a park directly across South 16th Avenue from South 11th Street, and a stop sign on South 11th Street. There is no stop line for the sign, however. There is a sidewalk on either side of South 11th Street; both of these sidewalks continue across South 16th Avenue to the park. The sidewalk on the west side of South 11th Street intersects with a sidewalk on South 16th Avenue. This east-west sidewalk ends at South 11th Street, but there is no marked pedestrian crossing at South 11th Street, nor is there a continuation of the sidewalk on the east side of South 11th Street.

         The officer stopped the vehicle after observing that the truck stopped beyond the unmarked stop line for the stop sign at the intersection of South 11th Street and South 16th Avenue. At the suppression hearing, the officer also testified that the truck did not use a turn signal until it was 40 or 50 feet away from the stop sign.

         Because the officer smelled marijuana as he approached the truck, he told the occupants that he was going to conduct a search. Miller was removed from the vehicle and admitted to having a weapon in his possession. In addition, Miller had a small amount of methamphetamine concealed in a cigarette pack.

         Miller challenged the traffic stop and subsequent search. The district court[2]upheld the constitutionality of the traffic stop and denied Miller's request to suppress the evidence received.

         Miller entered a conditional plea of guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, reserving the right to appeal the district court's denial of his suppression motion. After he was sentenced to 37 months' imprisonment, he brought this appeal.

         The Court of Appeals reviews the district court's factual findings for clear error and questions of constitutional law de novo. United States v. Smith, 715 F.3d 1110, 1114 (8th Cir. 2013).

         The determinative question is whether the officer had probable cause for the stop. A violation of traffic law, even a minor violation, is sufficient probable cause to support a stop. United States v. Fuse, 391 F.3d 924, 927 (8th Cir. 2004). Iowa law provides:

The driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at the first opportunity at either the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection or at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection.

Iowa Code § 321.322(1). Iowa law defines "crosswalk" as the "portion of a roadway ordinarily included within the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at intersections." Id. ยง 321.1(16). The district court found that the sidewalk on the west side of the intersection continued across South 11th Street, and thus there was an ...


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