Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Campbell: Officer Unlawfully Prolonged Traffic Stop but the Good Faith Exception Applied

In United States v. Campbell, No. 16-10128 (Jan. 8, 2019) (Tjoflat, Martin, Murphy (E.D. Mich.)), the Court affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress.

The Court first concluded that the highway patrolman had reasonable suspicion to stop a motorist based on a rapidly blinking turn signal.  The Court relied on Georgia law, which not only required that the turn signal clearly indicate an intention to change lanes but that it be in good working condition.  Because a rapdily blinking signal indicated that something was not in good working condition, it gave the officer reasonable suspicion to believe that the car was in violation of the traffic code.

However, the Court found that the officer unlawfully prolonged the stop by asking questions unrelated to the stop.  Relying on the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Rodriguez v. United States, the Court found that an officer unlawfully prolongs a stop where, without reasonable suspicion, he diverts from the stop's purpose and adds time to the stop in order to investigate other crimes.   That standard, the Court found, abrogated the Eleventh Circuit's earlier precedents, which had employed a general reasonableness standard.  Applying the correct standard, the Court concluded that the officer in this case unlawfully prolonged the stop -- not by asking about the driver's travel plans (which was related to the reason for the stop), but by asking whether he had contraband in the car, which added 25 seconds to the stop.

The Court nonetheless affirmed by applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule, because the officer's conduct was permissible under Eleventh Circuit precedent at the time of the stop.  Although the government did not raise the good faith exception on appeal, the parties addressed the issue in the district court, waiver was a prudential doctrine, and ignoring the exception here would be a miscarriage of justice by suppressing the truth for no reason other than to teach the government's counsel a lesson.

Judge Martin concurred in part and dissented in part, disagreeing with the majority's decision to apply the good faith exception despite the government's failure to raise it.  She would "not put this Court in the business of resusciating arguments the government was made aware of, then clearly abandoned.  In my experience, this Court rarely extends the same courtesy to the criminal defendants and pro se litigants who come before us."