US v. Eli Stafford, No. 12-4281 (4th Cir. 2013)

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 12-4281 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff Appellee, v. ELI STAFFORD, Defendant - Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at New Bern. Louise W. Flanagan, District Judge. (4:10-cr-00075-FL-1) Submitted: February 28, 2013 Decided: March 15, 2013 Before KING and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. James S. Weidner, Jr., LAW OFFICE OF JAMES S. WEIDNER, JR., Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant. Thomas G. Walker, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Yvonne V. Watford-McKinney, Assistant United States Attorneys, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. PER CURIAM: Eli Stafford was found guilty following a jury trial of possession violation carrying of of trafficking (2006), with and 21 a intent U.S.C. firearm crime in being a to distribute §§ 841(a)(1), during and 851 in cocaine (2006), relation violation of felon possession in 18 crack U.S.C. in use to and a drug § 924(c)(1)(A) of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924 (2006), resulting in a sentence of 420 months imprisonment. On appeal, Stafford argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress the fruits of a warrantless search of his automobile after a prolonged traffic stop, and that the district court erred by not requiring the Government to prove prior convictions noticed under 21 U.S.C. § 851 (2006) beyond a reasonable doubt. This appeal was placed in abeyance pending the Supreme Court s decision in Florida v. Harris, No. 11-817, __ S. Ct. __, 2013 WL 598440 (U.S. Feb. 19, 2013). 2013. Therefore, this Harris was decided on February 19, appeal is now ripe for review. We affirm. Stafford first challenges the district court s denial of his suppression motion. In considering this claim, we review the district court s legal determinations de novo and its factual determinations for clear error. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705, 709 (4th Cir. 2012). 2 United States v. Using the analytic framework of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), we determine first whether the officer s actions inception of the traffic stop. were justified at the If they were, we then address whether the continued stop was sufficiently limited in scope and duration. Vaughan, 700 F.3d at 709 (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, it is undisputed that the initial traffic stop was justified. Following a traffic stop, an officer may: detain the offending vehicle for as long as it takes to perform the traditional incidents of a routine traffic stop. . . . [The] officer may request a driver s license and vehicle registration, run a computer check, and issue a citation. . . . [O]nce the driver has demonstrated that he is entitled to operate his vehicle, and the police officer has issued the requisite warning or ticket, the driver must be allowed to proceed on his way. . . . If a police officer wants to detain a driver beyond the scope of a routine traffic stop, . . . he must possess a justification for doing so other than the initial traffic violation. . . . Thus, a prolonged automobile stop requires either the driver s consent or a reasonable suspicion that illegal activity is afoot. United States v. Branch, 537 F.3d 328, 337 (4th Cir. 2008). Here, we conclude that there was sufficient reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic stop by what was, at most, a few minutes. more than The entire incident, from stop to arrest, was no twenty minutes in total. The traffic stop was extended in part because officers at the scene were unable to verify Stafford s Stafford s nervous identity. demeanor Under sufficed 3 to these create circumstances, a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, at least to justify a minor intrusion. Therefore, we conclude that the district court did not err when it denied Stafford s motion to suppress. Finally, Stafford contends that the district court erred when it did not require the Government to prove the prior convictions reasonable in its doubt. 21 U.S.C. While § 851 noting that (2006) the notice beyond Government was a not required to prove the disputed facts because Stafford did not contest their validity below, we further conclude that any error that the district convictions were court more committed than five was harmless years old, because and the therefore Stafford was barred from challenging them by 21 U.S.C. § 851(e) (2006). Accordingly, we affirm the district court s judgment. We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the material before this court and argument will not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED 4