WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.
Joshua T. Payne was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Payne appeals from the district court's
On November 28, 2005, at approximately 4:30 a.m., officers Luke Lewis and Jeff Crow of the Independence, Missouri, Police Department were responding to a residential alarm call on a dead-end street in an area known for prowlers, vandalism, and stolen autos. After concluding that the alarm had been accidentally tripped, the officers left the residence. Shortly thereafter, Officer Lewis observed a vehicle traveling toward the dead-end, and observed no front license plate on the vehicle. As the vehicle passed, Lewis turned his spotlight on the vehicle and one of the occupants covered his face. Lewis became suspicious of the vehicle because of the time of day, the occupants' conduct, and the area's reputation for criminal activity. After approximately thirty seconds, the vehicle reached the dead-end, turned around, and proceeded in the opposite direction down the street. Lewis followed the vehicle based upon his suspicion and his belief that the vehicle did not have a front license plate.
Lewis stopped the vehicle and initiated contact with Payne, its driver. In addition to Payne, there were three other occupants of the vehicle, one of which was the vehicle's owner. Officer Lewis asked Payne for his driver's license and registration. Payne provided a copy of the registration and stated his name, social security number, and birth date, but did not have his driver's license with him. Lewis then contacted the dispatcher and learned that Payne was known to be armed and dangerous and that he had a Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System ("MULES") hit. Although the MULES system shut down before all the information was relayed, Lewis knew that a hit means that the suspect has a prior conviction, the suspect is on probation or parole, or that the suspect has an outstanding warrant. Lewis assumed that Payne had a warrant out for his arrest.
After Payne exited the vehicle, Lewis conducted a pat-down search, which revealed that Payne was wearing a shoulder holster designed to carry a handgun. Thereafter, Lewis returned to the vehicle, moved the driver's seat forward, and observed an unlatched gun case on the floor behind the driver's seat. Lewis opened the gun case, which contained two loaded semiautomatic handguns.
Payne was placed under arrest for being a felon in possession of a firearm and issued a citation for improper display of a license plate because the vehicle's front license plate was attached with wire to the passenger side of the grille.
When reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we review legal conclusions de novo and factual findings for clear error. United States v. Hudspeth, 525 F.3d 667, 674 (8th Cir.2008).
Payne argues that the initial stop of the vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment because Lewis did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. We disagree.
Because a vehicle stop constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, an officer must have at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that the vehicle or its occupants are involved in illegal activity before conducting a traffic stop. Id. at 855. The observation of even a minor violation provides probable cause for a traffic stop, even if the traffic violation is a pretext for other investigation. Id.
When Officer Lewis pulled over the vehicle Payne was driving, he believed that the vehicle did not have a front license plate, in violation of state and local law.
Payne argues that even if the initial stop of the vehicle was proper, he was detained and questioned longer than what was reasonably necessary because the entire traffic stop took approximately thirty-nine minutes and because Lewis did not immediately verify whether the vehicle had a front license plate. We disagree.
After stopping a vehicle, an officer has the authority to ask the driver what his or her destination and purpose is, check the driver's license and registration, or request that the driver step out of the vehicle. United States v. Linkous, 285 F.3d 716, 719 (8th Cir.2002). A traffic stop can last as long as reasonably necessary to conduct this routine investigation, conduct a criminal history search, and issue a citation. United States v. Jones, 269 F.3d 919, 924-25 (8th Cir.2001). If this routine investigation raises the officer's suspicions and the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion, the officer may expand the scope of the investigation. United States v. Allegree, 175 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 1999).
In sum, we conclude that the traffic stop did not last longer than reasonably necessary. Officer Lewis did not exceed the proper scope of the traffic stop, and he conducted each step of the investigation without undue delay.
The judgment is affirmed.