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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This is an interlocutory appeal by the prosecution from the trial court’s grant of a motion to suppress. The 5th Circuit recites the following allegations: A police officer, Bryan Miers, stopped a truck being driven by Richard Wallen for speeding. The stop was recorded by a camera mounted in Miers’ cruiser. Wallen asked to get out of the cab to get his license from the other side, which Miers allowed. Miers noticed that Wallen was barefoot, and as Wallen searched through clutter in the passenger’s seat, Miers spotted a handgun lying under a bag. Miers told Wallen to shut the door and step to the rear of the truck, which Wallen did. Miers then asked Wallen if he had a license to carry a concealed weapon. Wallen said he did not, but that he was not carrying a concealed weapon anyway. He said he was transporting guns related to a “handgun oriented” business. Miers told Wallen that the fact that he had a gun business was only a defense to transporting a concealed handgun. Since Miers still didn’t have Wallen’s identification information, he told Miers to “hang tight” at the back of the truck, while Miers went back to his car to call in what information he did have. Wallen moved toward the cab and did not immediately go back to the rear of the truck after being instructed to do so by Miers, but eventually did so. Miers discovered that there was an outstanding warrant out on Wallen in Dallas County, so he handcuffed Wallen and put him in the backseat of the cruiser in temporary custody until the warrant could be confirmed. Miers then searched the truck’s cab, finding four rifles, three handguns and a shotgun. One rifle had been threaded to allow an attachment to be screwed on. Miers then learned that the warrant could not be executed outside of Dallas County. When he went back to Wallen, Wallen admitted to having all of the firearms except the shotgun. Miers kept Wallen in custody, even though the warrant couldn’t be executed, since Wallen was carrying handguns without a permit and because Miers still didn’t know all of Wallen’s information or what he was intending to do with the weapons. Wallen did inform Miers that he owned a shooting range and that he was taking the guns to his house following flooding problems. Miers’ supervisor arrived on the scene. Because of the threaded end of one of the rifles, the pair thought Wallen might be a sniper. Miers and his supervisor then determined that the threaded barrel was one-half inch shorter than the allowable federal limit. They also determined that one of the handguns was fully automatic, and a silencer was found. Wallen was charged with possession of two firearms that were not registered to him in the national registry. He successfully moved the district court to grant his motion to suppress the guns. The government asked for a reconsideration, saying Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983), which allows an officer to search the passenger compartment of a vehicle if he has a reasonable suspicion that the person poses a danger and may gain immediate control of weapons, applied. The district court denied this motion, too, and the government now appeals. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court notes that in its own jurisprudence, under Long, protective searches of automobiles are valid under the Fourth Amendment where the police officer has an objective reason to fear for his safety or the safety of others. In cases where the court has rejected a protective search, the officers had almost nothing on which to base a concern for safety. Here, Miers encountered facts that would objectively cause him reasonably to suspect that there were other weapons in the truck and to worry about his safety: Miers knew Wallen possessed at least three weapons; Wallen disobeyed instructions at least once, when he walked in the general direction of the cab after Miers had instructed him to “sit tight”; Wallen had admitted that he lacked any documentation for the weapons, and he could not provide anything at the time to support his claim that he owned a target range; Miers was aware of a Dallas County warrant issued on Wallen’s arrest; and Wallen was “suspiciously barefoot.” “Miers’s actions were justified, because on these facts,”a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger.’” The court rejects Wallen’s first argument that he was not dangerous because he was handcuffed at the time of the search. The district court’s finding to the contrary misunderstands the nature of the protective search. The fear of a person’s gaining control of weapons is not limited to the time of the stop, but extends throughout the entire transaction. The court rejects Wallen’s second argument that he was not dangerous because Miers did not intend to release Wallen back to his car. The court says the district court’s findings on this point are contradictory. The district court’s finding of fact that there was a possibility that Wallen would be returned to his vehicle establishes the threat of danger that justifies a Long search, despite the fact that at the time of the search the defendant was handcuffed. The court rejects Wallen’s third argument that he was not dangerous because he was cooperative. Wallen disobeyed Miers’ instructions to “hang tight,” and he did not immediately return to the back of the truck when instructed to do so. Finally, the court rejects Wallen’s fourth argument that he was not dangerous because Miers did not in fact fear for his safety. The subjective motivations of police are irrelevant to determining whether a search or seizure is reasonable. “Miers may not have proceeded in his investigation of the traffic stop in the most prudent manner, but his actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment.” OPINION:Smith, J.; Smith, Wiener and Pickering, JJ.

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