At 2117 on November 29, 2017, an Iowa State Patrol unit stopped an SUV for speeding. There were two people in the SUV: the driver (Pope) and a passenger (Davis) who was asleep when the stop was initiated. The officer, Sgt. Kober, asked both men for their licenses and vehicle registration. Pope informed Sgt. Kober that there was no registration because the car was rented by a friend in Georgia. The car was due to be returned the next day and neither Pope or Davis was listed on the rental agreement.
As Pope was rummaging through his backpack looking for his license, Sgt. Kober saw several small baggies in Pope’s backpack. Sgt. Kober testified that Pope seems shaky and nervous and was breathing heavily and appeared to be trying to hide the baggies from view. Davis, who did not appear nervous, had no license. At this point Sgt. Kober saw a gun case in the back seat and asked Pope and Davis about it. Davis told Sgt. Kober that there was a 9mm inside the case and then gave Sgt. Kober permission to examine it. Sgt. Kober opened the case and found a loaded 9mm handgun. Sgt. Kober asked Davis why he was traveling with a loaded weapon and Davis responded that he did not want to leave it at home in his own car. Retrieving and examining the gun took about ten minutes.
Back in his patrol car, Sgt. Kober called the rental company and they requested that the car be seized and towed. This call took about ten minutes. Sgt. Kober then ordered Pope and Davis out of the vehicle and began an inventory search of the vehicle. He found methamphetamine and marijuana in the car as well as drug paraphernalia. Pope and Davis were arrested.
Davis was charged with federal drug and firearms offenses as a result of what was found in the vehicle. Davis sought to suppress the evidence found in the car arguing he was unconstitutionally seized when the traffic stop was extended without reasonable suspicion and the vehicle was searched pursuant to an unlawful pretextual inventory. The District Court granted the motion to suppress and the government appealed arguing Davis had no standing and that Sgt. Kober had probable cause to search the vehicle before the inventory.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision. Citing Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165 (1969), the court noted that “Fourth Amendment rights are personal and may not be asserted vicariously.” The court then cited Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83 (1998) for the proposition that only those with a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place searched may bring a Fourth Amendment challenge. In this case, Davis did not claim either an ownership interest or a possessory interest in the vehicle. Citing Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128 (1978) the court held that a passenger who asserts neither a property nor a possessory interest in a vehicle lacks a reasonable expectation of privacy in that vehicle. Accordingly, the court ruled that Davis did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle and therefore had no standing.
The court noted however, that Davis could still challenge the search if he was unreasonably seized during the traffic stop and the seizure caused an unlawful search (citing Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249 (2007)). Davis argued that the traffic stop was impermissibly extended twenty minutes when the officer examined the firearm and called the rental company. The court noted that under Iowa law, it is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Without deciding the issue of probable cause, the court held that Sgt. Kober had, at a minimum, a reasonable suspicion and that Sgt. Kober lawfully extended the traffic stop based on this reasonable suspicion.
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