United States Petitions for Cert in Case Involving Tribal Police Authority to Detain Non-Indians

Here is the cert petition in United States v. Cooley:

Cert Petition

Question presented:

Whether the lower courts erred in suppressing evidence on the theory that a police officer of an Indian tribe lacked authority to temporarily detain and search respondent, a non-Indian, on a public right-of-way within a reservation based on a potential violation of state or federal law.

Lower court materials here.


NCAI Amicus Brief

NIWRC Amicus Brief

Waiver of Response

Ninth Circuit Briefs in United States v. Cooley


US Brief

Cooley Brief


An excerpt:

tribal law enforcement officer conducted a welfare check on Cooley, who had pulled over on a public highway where it crosses the Crow Reservation. It appeared to the officer that he was dealing with a non-Indian person. Soon thereafter, the encounter raised suspicion that Cooley was impaired and trafficking drugs and guns. He was detained and transferred to state custody. The district court suppressed the evidence from the stop based on a new Fourth Amendment test it derived from a tribal roadblock case. The district court held that the detention of Cooley and search of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment because, at the time the tribal officer realized Cooley was a non-Indian, it was not obvious that a state or federal crime had occurred. This new obviousness standard, the court held, is “notably higher” than probable cause.

Federal Court Suppresses Key Evidence Procured in Stop of Non-Indian by Tribal Police

Here are the materials in United States v. Cooley (D. Mont.):

34 Motion to Suppress

41 Response

46 Reply

48 DCT Order

An excerpt:

Normally, under Bressi, Officer Saylor would be required to determine whether Cooley was non–Indian shortly after seizing him. 575 F.3d at 896. However, Officer Saylor determined Cooley was non–Indian when Cooley initially rolled his window down. Because Cooley was non–Indian, Officer Saylor had the authority to detain Cooley only if it was “apparent” Cooley had violated state or federal law. Bressi, 575 F.3d at 896. Officer Saylor’s observations up to that point fell considerably below an “apparent” state or federal law violation. When Officer Saylor seized Cooley, he had observed bloodshot and watery eyes, no odor of alcohol, possible but unconfirmed slurred speech, two semi-automatic rifles, wads of cash in Cooley’s pocket, and answers to questions that seemed untruthful to him. Officer Saylor had also heard Cooley explain that he pulled over because he was tired—an occurrence Officer Saylor acknowledged was common on Highway 212—and that the vehicle did not belong to him but instead to a Thomas Spang or Thomas Shoulderblade, one of whom Officer Saylor suspected of drug activity and one of whom was a former probation officer. None of Cooley’s actions, whether taken individually or cumulatively, establish an obvious state or federal law violation. The Court holds Officer Saylor exceeded the scope of his authority when he detained Cooley. All evidence obtained subsequent to Cooley’s seizure is suppressed because it is “fruit of the poisonous tree.” United States v. Ramirez–Sandoval, 872 F.2d 1392, 1395 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing Nardone v. United States, 308 U.S. 338, 341 (1939)).