Suppression Depression


Direct Appeal


Defendant was pulled over by Nashville police around 11:00 p.m. after officer observed the car standing for approximately three minutes at an L-shaped intersection in a deserted, high-crime, industrial neighborhood. The defendant was a convicted felon and admitted that he had been rolling a marijuana cigarette. Subsequent search of the vehicle produced a pistol and small amounts of marijuana, crack cocaine, and cocaine. Defendant charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

District court granted defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence found in the car. It concluded that police lacked reasonable suspicion that defendant was engaged in criminal activity and that police did not stop the defendant because of any alleged traffic violations.

Court of Appeals reversed in part and remanded because the district court incorrectly focused on the officer's subjective intent. Remanded for consideration of whether, at the time of the stop, the officer had probable cause to believe that the defendant had violated a Nashville municipal ordinance. (An ordinance prohibits parking in such a way as to obstruct traffic.)

The majority, over a strong dissent that it found fairly reasonable, reversed and remanded the case for findings by the district court on several issues. The majority found that the district court, in part, relied on the officer’s subjective intent in making the traffic stop. The dissent concluded that the district court merely mentioned the intent issue in order to show that it recognized the objective fact that no traffic violation had occurred for which the officer might have had probable cause.