from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Georgia No. 3:14-cr-00046-CAR-CHW-1
TJOFLAT and MARTIN, Circuit Judges, and MURPHY, [*] District Judge.
TJOFLAT, CIRCUIT JUDGE
appeal presents important questions about the proper confines
of a traffic stop. First, whether a highway patrolman had
reasonable suspicion to stop a motorist for a rapidly
blinking turn signal. Second, if there was reasonable
suspicion, whether the seizure became unreasonable when the
patrolman prolonged the stop by questioning the motorist
about matters unrelated to the stop's mission. The
District Court concluded that the initial stop was valid and
that the questioning about unrelated matters did not
transform the stop into an unreasonable seizure. The District
Court therefore denied the motorist's motion to suppress
inculpatory evidence discovered during a subsequent search.
agree that there was reasonable suspicion to stop the
motorist. But we find that under the Supreme Court's
recent decision in Rodriguez v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 1609 (2015), the patrolman did unlawfully prolong the
stop. Because his actions were permitted under binding case
law at the time, however, the good faith exception to the
exclusionary rule applies. We thus affirm the denial of the
motion to suppress.
about 9:00pm on a brisk night in December 2013, Deputy
Sheriff Robert McCannon was patrolling Interstate 20 in
Georgia when he observed a Nissan Maxima cross the fog
line. McCannon activated the camera on the
dashboard of his patrol car, and after observing the Maxima
cross the fog line a second time and noticing that its left
turn signal blinked at an unusually rapid pace, he pulled the
car over. He approached the Maxima, introduced himself to the
driver, Erickson Campbell, asked him for his driver's
license, and explained why he had pulled him over. After
determining that the Maxima's left turn signal was
malfunctioning, McCannon decided to issue Campbell a warning
for failing to comply with two Georgia traffic regulations:
failure to maintain signal lights in good working condition,
failure to stay within the driving lane. McCannon asked
Campbell to step out of his car and accompany him to the
patrol car while he wrote the warning ticket.
writing the ticket, McCannon asked the dispatcher to run a
check on Campbell's license and engaged Campbell in
conversation. He learned that Campbell was en route to
Augusta to see his family, where Campbell worked, that
Campbell had been arrested sixteen years ago for a DUI, and
that Campbell was not traveling with a firearm. Then he asked
Campbell if he had any counterfeit CDs or DVDs, illegal
alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin,
ecstasy, or dead bodies in his car. Campbell answered that he
did not. At that time, McCannon asked Campbell if he could
search his car for any of those items, and Campbell
McCannon continued writing the warning ticket, Deputy Patrick
Paquette, who had arrived on the scene a few minutes earlier,
began searching the car. McCannon finished the warning ticket
and had Campbell sign it. After giving Campbell the ticket
and returning his license, McCannon joined Paquette in the
search. They found a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, 9mm
ammunition, a black stocking cap, and a camouflage face mask
in a bag hidden under the carpet in the Maxima's trunk.
Confronted, Campbell admitted that he lied about not
traveling with a firearm because he was a convicted felon and
had done time.
was indicted for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Following his
indictment, he asserted that the evidence found in the search
of his car was obtained in violation of the Fourth
Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and
seizures, and moved the District Court to suppress
He presented two arguments in support of his motion. First,
the seizure was unreasonable because Deputy McCannon lacked
reasonable suspicion to believe that a traffic violation had
occurred. Second, even if there was reasonable suspicion, his
seizure became unreasonable when McCannon prolonged the stop
by asking Campbell questions unrelated to the purpose of the
stop. In turn, the unreasonable seizure tainted any consent
he had given the officers to search his car, requiring that
the evidence uncovered during the search be suppressed.
first argument was that his rapidly blinking turn signal did
not supply reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop. All
that O.C.G.A. § 40-8-26 requires is that the turn signal
"indicate a driver's intention to change
lanes," and the Maxima's left turn signal was able
to do that. That the signal was not blinking as designed was
irrelevant, Campbell said, because the statute did not
require that a turn signal "(1) blink in unison with the
other turn signal, (2) blink at a certain pace, or even, (3)
blink as intended by the vehicle
second argument was that McCannon unlawfully prolonged the
stop by asking questions unrelated to the purpose of the
stop. Specifically, he challenged questions on the following
McCannon asked: (1) where he was going, (2) who he was going
to see, (3) where he worked, (4) if he had time off work, (5)
when his last traffic ticket was, (6) if he had ever been
arrested, (7) how old his car was, (8) how good of a deal he
got on his car, (9) whether he had any counterfeit
merchandise in the car, and, (10) if he had a dead body in
on the Supreme Court's decision in Rodriguez,
Campbell maintained that if McCannon prolonged the stop at
all through these inquiries, the stop became unlawful.
District Court held an evidentiary hearing on Campbell's
motion to suppress. Deputy McCannon, whom the Government
called to the stand at the outset of the hearing, was the
sole witness. Aside from his testimony, the Court had the
benefit of the video created by the dashboard camera. The
video portrays what transpired between McCannon's
activation of the camera and Campbell's arrest, including
the questioning Campbell complains of as unrelated to the
purpose of the stop. The video's timestamps indicate
precisely when this questioning took place. The following
bullet points, headed by the timestamps, demonstrate this.
• 0:00: McCannon activates the camera.
• 2:05-16: McCannon provides the
Sheriff's Office dispatcher with the car's license
plate number. The dispatcher runs the number and informs him
that it belongs to Erickson Campbell, an "active
• 2:31: McCannon activates his patrol
car's flashing lights.
• 2:36-58: Campbell pulls over.
• 3:25-32: McCannon approaches the car
from the passenger side and requests Campbell's
• 3:34-4:42: McCannon explains to
Campbell that he stopped him for "weaving in his
lane" and because his left turn signal was blinking
rapidly. McCannon says the rapid blinking means
"you've got a bulb out somewhere." He then
checks the lights in the front and back of the car, none of
which are out. McCannon says it must be that the turn signal
is "about to go bad," but that he won't write a
ticket for that- just a warning.
• 4:43-5:09: McCannon asks Campbell
where he is going. Campbell says he is traveling to Augusta,
Georgia. McCannon asks why he is going there, and Campbell
responds that he is going to see his family.
• 5:10-13: McCannon asks Campbell to
step out of the car and walk with him to the patrol car where
he will write the warning.
• 5:48: McCannon begins writing the
• 6:13-29: McCannon asks Campbell about
his family in Augusta, adding that he knows a little about
Augusta. Campbell says he does not know much about Augusta;
he just has family there. McCannon continues writing the
• 6:30-57: McCannon asks Campbell what
type of work he does. Campbell says that he works for
American Woodlawn, building for Home Depot and Lowes.
• 7:07-27: McCannon asks Campbell where
his family lives in Augusta. Campbell responds that his
family lives off of Watson Road. McCannon indicates he knows
approximately where that is, and continues writing the
• 7:48-8:30: McCannon stops writing to
retrieve his jacket from the patrol car.
• 8:32-38: McCannon asks Campbell if he
is traveling with a firearm. Campbell shakes his head no.
• 9:07: McCannon acknowledges Sergeant
Paquette, who has just arrived off camera.
• 9:12-18: McCannon asks Paquette to
"come here and let me ask you about this location."
McCannon tells Campbell that Paquette is from Augusta.
• 9:31-39: McCannon calls the
dispatcher to run a check on Campbell's driver's
• 9:40-54: McCannon asks Campbell if he
had been arrested before. Campbell responds yes, about
sixteen years ago, for a DUI.
• 10:00-56: McCannon and Paquette ask
Campbell about his destination and where his family lives in
Augusta, while McCannon continues to intermittently write the
• 11:16-19: McCannon: "I know I
asked you if you have any firearms tonight, and you said
'no.'" Campbell nods and says "yes,
• 11:20-45: McCannon: "Any
counterfeit merchandise that you're taking to your
relatives in Augusta? And what I mean by that is-any purses?
Shoes? Shirts? Any counterfeit or bootleg CDs or DVDs?
Anything like that? Any illegal alcohol? Any marijuana? Any
cocaine? Methamphetamine? Any heroin? Any ecstasy? Nothing
like that? You don't have any dead bodies in your
car?" Campbell shakes his head or otherwise responds in
the negative to each question.
• 11:47-55: McCannon: "I know you
said you didn't have that, and I'm not accusing you
of anything-can I search it? Can I search your car for any of
those items I asked you about?" Campbell responds in the
affirmative, nodding and gesturing toward the car.
• 12:02-13:05: Paquette pats down
Campbell after McCannon indicates that he had not yet done
so. McCannon ...