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United States v. Dickson

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 27, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Martez Dickson, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued November 16, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division. No. 3:14-cr-50061 - Philip G. Reinhard, Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Kanne, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Per Curiam.

         Martez Dickson appeals his conviction for being a felon in possession of a gun. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and by imposing vague conditions of supervised release. We find no error in the court's evidentiary ruling but agree with Dickson that two of his conditions of supervision are problematic. Consequently, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for a limited resentencing hearing.

         In May 2014, three police officers in Rockford, Illinois, responded to a report that two individuals were asleep in a parked car in a McDonald's drive-thru. One of the officers opened the driver's-side door and tried to wake the slumbering driver, who was later identified as Dickson. Once Dickson finally stirred, another officer observed a handgun lodged in the center console of the front seat. That officer lunged through the passenger's-side door and recovered the gun. Dickson was then arrested on various charges, including unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a). An inventory search of the car uncovered small amounts of heroin and marijuana.

         The matter was referred to federal authorities, and Dickson was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Dickson then moved to suppress the gun and drugs, arguing that the police had no lawful basis for searching him or the car.

         The district court held a hearing on the motion to suppress evidence. The government first introduced a rental-car agreement showing that the car had been rented to a woman named Tyota Keeylen. The rental agreement did not list Dickson as an authorized driver, but the parties stipulated that Keeylen would testify that she told Dickson he could drive the car. The government also introduced records showing that Dickson's driver's license was suspended at the time of his arrest.

         At the evidentiary hearing, two of the three officers involved in Dickson's arrest testified. Officer Anthony Curran testified that around 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning they received a call about two individuals asleep in a car in a McDonald's drive-thru. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Curran saw that the car was running, that Dickson and a female passenger were sitting motionless inside, and that there was a bottle of vodka in the front seat's center console. Suspecting that Dickson was drunk, Curran opened the front driver's-side door, removed the keys from the ignition, and placed the keys on top of the car. Curran explained that he did this for safety reasons: he was squeezed in a three-foot space between the car and the building, and he feared he would be crushed if the car started to move.

         After Curran took the keys from the ignition, he tried to wake Dickson by yelling at him. Dickson did not respond, so Curran started shaking him. About thirty seconds later, Dickson finally woke up. Curran ordered him to get out of the car, but Dickson responded by trying to shift the car into drive. Nothing happened, of course, because Curran already had removed the keys from the ignition.

         Meanwhile, one of the other officers yelled out a police code for a gun and dove through the front passenger's-side door, over the female passenger, pushing Dickson partially out of the car toward Curran. Curran, spotting the handgun lodged between the driver's seat and the center console, pulled Dickson out of the car while the other officers recovered the gun. Curran then cuffed Dickson, searched him, and placed him in a squad car. Further investigation revealed that the gun was loaded and that Dickson did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card. The officers arrested Dickson and impounded the car, and an inventory search uncovered heroin and marijuana.

         One of the other two officers also testified at the evidentiary hearing, mostly repeating what Curran had said about the events leading to Dickson's arrest. Dickson presented no evidence in rebuttal.

         The district court denied Dickson's motion to suppress evidence of the gun and drugs. First, it found the government's witnesses credible. The court next concluded that Dickson lacked standing to challenge the search of the car because Dickson-as an unlicensed, unauthorized driver of a rental car-did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car. The court also concluded that the officers acted reasonably in confronting Dickson, seizing the gun when it came into plain view, and arresting him once they learned that his possession of the gun was unlawful. And once Dickson had been lawfully arrested, the court reasoned, the police also were entitled to impound and conduct an inventory search of the car.

         The case then proceeded to trial. The three officers testified about the events that occurred after they found Dickson asleep in the drive-thru. Keeylen, who had not been present during Dickson's arrest, said that she rented the car to travel Saturday but let Dickson borrow it Friday night to get something to eat. The female passenger who had been sleeping in the car testified that Dickson agreed to give her a ride home after a ...

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