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Name: United States v. Gorman
Case #: 15-16600
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 06/12/2017
Summary

Unreasonably prolonged roadside detention violated driver’s Fourth Amendment rights, warranting exclusion of evidence seized during second, coordinated stop. Officer Monroe stopped Gorman for a minor traffic violation and detained Gorman for nearly half an hour. Although he suspected Gorman was carrying drug money, he was unable to find a justification for searching the vehicle and let Gorman go without a citation. Monroe then contacted a second officer, Fisher, gave him the details of the first stop, and asked him to stop Gorman further down the highway with a drug-sniffing dog. Fisher did so, the dog alerted, and Fisher located $167,070 inside Gorman’s vehicle. In a civil forfeiture action, the district court granted Gorman’s motion to suppress the evidence. The government appealed. Held: Affirmed. “When the result of one traffic stop is communicated and, on that basis, another stop is planned and implemented, the coordinated stops become, in effect, one integrated stop that must as a whole satisfy” constitutional requirements. Here, the government conceded that the first stop of Gorman was unreasonably prolonged, in violation of Gorman’s Fourth Amendment rights. Most of the detention occurred after the routine checks returned a clean license and criminal history report, the questioning that took place during this time was aimed at detecting evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and Monroe did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct investigations of Gorman unrelated to the mission of the stop. The illegality of the first stop tainted the second stop, which occurred further down the same road, less than one hour later. Monroe directed Fisher to stop Gorman and to bring a drug-sniffing dog, which led to the discovery of the currency. Thus, there was a direct connection between the initial Fourth Amendment violation and its fruits, and the district court properly excluded the currency as fruit of the poisonous tree. The court considered the three exceptions to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine and found none applied.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/06/12/15-16600.pdf