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United States v. Dioubate

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

November 22, 2013



KEITH F. GIBLIN, Magistrate Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b) and the Local Rules for the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, by order of the District Court[1], this matter was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a hearing and the submission of findings of fact and a report and recommendation on the defendant's Motion to Suppress [Clerk's doc. #18].

A. Background

On April 17, 2013, a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Texas returned an indictment against defendant Mohamed Laye Dioubate (hereafter referred to as "Dioubate") [Clerk's doc. #2]. Count One of the Indictment charged Dioubate with possession of fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(b)(2).

On August 30, 2013, Dioubate filed the pending motion to suppress [Clerk's doc. #18]. In his motion, Dioubate argues that evidence seized during a traffic stop and the search of his vehicle should be suppressed because the initial stop of his vehicle was not justified.[2] He contends that the initial stop was improper because the arresting officer had no reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation had occurred. Dioubate argues that the video of the traffic stop fails to show that his vehicle veered outside of his lane of travel. He further contends the video of the traffic stop does not substantiate the officer's claim that Dioubate was following the another vehicle too closely.

On October 4, 2013, the Government responded in opposition to the motion to suppress. See Government's Response to Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence [Clerk's doc. #20]. In its response, the Government contends that the officer conducting the traffic stop on Dioubate had reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop, citing three reasons: suspicion of driving while intoxicated, failing to maintain a single lane, and following too closely.

On October 22, 2013, this Court conducted a hearing on the suppression motion in the manner and form mandated by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The testimony and evidence presented at the hearing is set forth in the record and the Court will refer to it as part of the analysis set forth below.

B. Facts adduced at the suppression hearing

Officer Clint Weir is a police officer employed by the Beaumont, Texas, Police Department. He has been employed in that capacity for approximately eleven years. He has two years of prior experience with the Orange, Texas, Police Department. Weir received the standard training provided to police officers which includes training regarding traffic stops and training concerning detection of individuals driving while intoxicated.[3] Weir is a member of the Beaumont Police narcotics unit and was assigned to perform criminal interdiction on Interstate 10 as vehicles utilize that route to pass through Beaumont, Texas.

During the evening hours of June 27, 2013, Weir and his partner Detective Dommert were parked on the right shoulder of Interstate 10 westbound in their patrol vehicle, which was an unmarked black Chevy Tahoe. Weir observed a white Ford Expedition pass their location, heading westbound, traveling in the right lane of Interstate 10. After the Expedition passed the patrol vehicle, Weir observed it cross over the solid white line separating the right lane of travel from the right shoulder of the interstate.[4] Weir believed this to be a traffic violation and pulled out onto Interstate 10 to pursue the Expedition.

Weir drove in the left lane of Interstate 10 and caught up with the Expedition. Weir testified that at the time he felt he could not safely pull over into the right lane behind the Expedition because a vehicle was traveling behind the patrol car in the left lane and the driver of the Expedition had slowed down. Weir drove past the Expedition for a distance, pulled into the right lane ahead of it, and once again pulled over onto the right hand shoulder of the Interstate.

The driver of the Expedition again passed the patrol vehicle which at this time was sitting on the shoulder and Weir once again pulled out in pursuit. During this time, Weir observed the Expedition drive onto the white line separating the right hand lane from the right shoulder on two occasions.[5] It was then that Weir became concerned that the driver could be either intoxicated or fatigued. According to Weir, the driver of the Expedition sped up and began to follow a tractor trailer at an unsafe distance. Weir testified that the Expedition was approximately four car lengths distance behind the tractor trailer and that the traffic conditions at that time were moderate to heavy. Weir felt that if the driver of the tractor trailer had a tire blow out or lost control of the vehicle, the driver of the Expedition would not be able to avoid a collision.

Weir then activated his emergency lights and pulled the driver of the Expedition over (later identified as Dioubate) for failure to maintain a single lane, following too closely, and for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Officer Weir subsequently searched the interior of the vehicle and discovered a laptop bag in the rear cargo area.[6] He then opened the laptop bag and discovered a blue spiral notebook and a notepad which he reviewed. Weir then opened a zipper pocket on the laptop bag and found an electronic encoding device. Also, inside of the laptop bag, Weir discovered two velcro ...

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