United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.
Koa Akira Uu (“Uu”) seeks an order suppressing
evidence relating to the seizure and subsequent search of his
backpack by the Maui Police Department (“MPD”).
The court finds that the MPD unreasonably delayed obtaining a
search warrant for 20 days after seizure of the backpack, and
thus violated Uu's Fourth Amendment rights. As a result,
the Motion is GRANTED.
April 26, 2017, Uu was indicted by a federal grand jury on a
single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm on
or about February 14, 2017, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g). ECF No. 5. On June 30, 2017, Uu filed a Motion to
Suppress, claiming that the initial seizure of his backpack
(from which the firearm was ultimately seized) on February
14, 2017 was illegal, and that the delay between the time the
backpack was seized and the time that MPD obtained a search
warrant was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. ECF No.
26. The court held an evidentiary hearing on September 15,
2017. The testimony and exhibits admitted during the hearing
establish the following:
early morning hours of February 14, 2017, MPD Officers Travis
Abarra, Lance Yorita, and Devin Schoeppner responded to a
motor vehicle accident on Hana Highway. Shortly before 3:00
a.m., while officers managed traffic at the accident site, Uu
approached the officers on a motorcycle. Although Officer
Schoeppner motioned for Uu to continue past the accident
scene, Uu pulled the motorcycle to the side of the road,
where it stalled. The officers then observed that the
motorcycle had no license plate. Officer Yorita approached Uu
and asked if Uu had a driver's license. Uu stated that he
did, but failed to produce one. During this time, Uu was
unsuccessfully attempting to re-start the motorcycle.
then told to dismount the motorcycle, which he did. Upon
questioning, Uu provided the police his name and birthdate.
Officer Yorita then contacted MPD dispatch, and learned that
Uu did not have the required driver's license to operate
a motorcycle,  and that Uu had an outstanding bench
Uu was informed that he was being arrested based on the bench
warrant, he hesitated and then attempted to flee. But he
didn't get far-after only a few steps he was taken to the
ground and handcuffed while he was wearing a backpack. Uu was
then escorted to the patrol car, where his handcuffs were
removed one at a time while Officer Abarra grabbed the top of
the backpack and then placed the backpack on the ground.
After Uu was re-cuffed, Officer Abarra then took hold of the
top of the backpack with his left hand and placed it on the
trunk of the patrol vehicle. Uu was then placed inside the
patrol vehicle. Although the record is not clear as to the
exact timing, around this point in the encounter Uu told the
officers that “you can't search my backpack.”
Abarra then grabbed the top handle of the backpack with his
right hand, and placed his left hand at the bottom of the
backpack for support. With his left hand, Officer Abarra
immediately recognized what “felt like a large, hard
handle resembling like a pistol grip.” Officer Abarra
testified that, at this point, he did not manipulate the
backpack for the purpose of feeling its contents. Then, in an
effort to determine if the firearm was holstered, Officer
Abarra did manipulate the backpack to feel the firearm. After
determining that the firearm was not in a holster, he called
his supervisor and was told to seize the backpack as evidence
pending application for a search warrant.
same early morning, Officer Yorita transported the backpack
to MPD's Wailuku station, and then submitted the backpack
as evidence pending an application for a search warrant.
also on that same day (February 14, 2017), MPD Detective
Christopher Schmitt was assigned Uu's case. At that time
he was on vacation, returning to MPD on February 16, 2017.
But, for reasons never fully explained, Detective Schmitt did
not learn that Uu's backpack had been seized pending a
search warrant application until 8 days later, on February
24, 2017. On that date, he contacted the Maui County
Prosecutor's Office to consult with a prosecutor on the
search warrant application. But, again without any reason
given, Detective Schmitt waited until March 6, 2017 to
present his search warrant affidavit to a judicial officer.
In all, 20 days passed between the time of the seizure of the
backpack and the time when a judicial officer approved its
search. The warrant was then executed two days later, on
March 8, 2017. The firearm giving rise to Uu's
indictment was recovered from the backpack.
Motion to Suppress, Uu claims that: 1) Officer Abarra
manipulated Uu's backpack such that he was able to
discern the presence of the firearm, and this manipulation
falls outside of the “plain touch” doctrine; and
2) the delay in obtaining a search warrant and then executing
that warrant was unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. Because the court agrees that the delay in
obtaining the search warrant violated Uu's Fourth
Amendment rights, the Motion to Suppress is