Wife Provides Evidence to Support Search Warrant

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United States v. Gibson, 2020 WL 2215764 (7th Cir. 2020)

An officer saw Shon Gibson, a suspected drug dealer, walking with a companion and approached to converse. The officer briefly detained Gibson and Gibson consented to a frisk. During the frisk, Gibson went to a knee, claiming he slipped on the snow, though the officer didn’t believe his explanation. The officer took Gibson to the ground and handcuffed him, waiting to complete the frisk until another officer arrived to assist. After Gibson was released, he walked a short distance to his car and drove away. The officer then noticed a meth pipe underneath his patrol car near the spot where Gibson had knelt.

The encounter with Gibson happened near the county line, so the officer radioed to other officers to stop Gibson’s car. Another officer spotted Gibson’s car and signaled for him to stop. Though Gibson stuck his hands out the window, he continued to drive for some distance, stopping only when he pulled into his driveway. A drug detector dog sniffed the car and indicated there were odors of controlled substances, but a subsequent search failed to turn up any drugs.

Somewhere early in the proceedings, Gibson learned that Mrs. Gibson had been providing information for several months to federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents about methamphetamine inside the home.

Forty minutes after the traffic stop, Gibson’s wife came out of the house to see what was happening. She gave consent to a search of the residence, but Gibson denied consent. An officer interviewed Mrs. Gibson. She told the officer she had seen a bag of a crystal methamphetamine sticking out of Gibson’s pocket earlier that day. She also relayed that, upon having found Gibson’s safe open earlier in the day, she had looked inside. She saw money in envelopes and balls of methamphetamine (one she described as baseball-sized, the others as golf-ball sized). The officers obtained a search warrant for the home. They found drugs, drug paraphernalia, currency and AK-47 rifles. Gibson was charged with possession of methamphetamine for distribution and possession of a firearm as a felon.

Gibson asked the court to suppress the evidence from the home search. He claimed it was the fruit of a detention without reasonable suspicion, which led to the traffic stop, which he also claimed to lack reasonable suspicion and to have exceeded a permissible scope. He argued that his wife’s statements resulted from the alleged illegal traffic stop. Somewhere early in the proceedings, Gibson learned that Mrs. Gibson had been providing information for several months to federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents about methamphetamine inside the home.

The court of appeals held that Gibson had not properly challenged the trial judge’s rulings on the initial encounter and traffic stop. Thus, he waived his ability to appeal those rulings. The court also held that Mrs. Gibson’s statements were independently sufficient to sustain findings of probable cause.

This blog was featured in our Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys. Subscribe here!

Ken Wallentine

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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