Phillip Jefferson appeals his conviction for possession of cocaine with
intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C). The only
issue on appeal is whether the evidence found in Jefferson’s car after a traffic
stop– including cocaine and a gun– should have been suppressed. The government
argues that the search was properly conducted during a routine inventory search
after the car was deemed “abandoned.” Jefferson argues that the vehicle was not
“voluntarily” abandoned because he left the car while fleeing to avoid the
excessive use of force by the police officer.
The facts elicited at the suppression hearing indicated that Jefferson’s
vehicle was stopped by Richard Barthelemy, an officer with the Atlanta Police
Department (“APD”), for speeding and driving with an expired tag. During the
traffic stop, an altercation occurred between Jefferson and Barthelemy, and
Jefferson fled the scene. Following Jefferson’s flight, Barthelemy conducted an
inventory search of the vehicle pursuant to an APD policy directing inventory
searches to be performed on vehicles with expired tags abandoned on city streets.
The search revealed the cocaine for possession of which Jefferson was convicted.
On appeal, Jefferson argues that he did not abandon the vehicle. Rather, he
argues that he had to flee due to Barthelemy’s unreasonable use of force.
Rulings on motions to suppress involve mixed questions of fact and law.