Friday, August 02, 2013

Traffic Stop Extension was Reasonable

U.S. v. Hernandez-Lizardi, 2013 WL 3802135 (7/23/13) (Kan.) (unpub'd) - There was reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify extending the traffic stop where: (1) the defendant was using a dealer's tag even though he claimed to have purchased the pickup; (2) there were 3 mobile phones in the pickup, but only 2 occupants [the 10th acknowledges having mobile phones is not as big a deal as it used to be, but having more mobile phones than occupants was not completely innocuous]; (3) the pickup's bill of sale stated an implausible $1,000 purchase price for a '03 Chevy extended-cab pickup; (4) the bill of sale listed an address in Kansas City for the defendant, while the defendant and his license indicated he lived in Anaheim; (5) the passenger exhibited nervous behavior by avoiding eye contact; and (6) the defendant's "bizarre" travel plans (driving 1,600 miles to pick up the passenger, then drive 1,200 miles to repair a friend's car and then drive 1,600 miles home). The defendant's consent to take a "quick look" in the pickup was voluntary, even though he was involuntarily detained, given that the officer's demeanor was "pleasant" and the encounter took place on a public highway. Granted, many of the officer's "requests" were phrased as directives. But the request to search was phrased as a request for permission. The defendant understood the officer's statements in English even though the defendant knew Spanish better. "The law recognizes an inevitable level of pressure inherent in being the subject of law enforcement scrutiny and assumes that an ordinary person can still exercise a free choice." The 10th does suggest the defendant might have been arrested, despite the government's argument to the contrary, when he was told to drive his pickup to the station while sandwiched between the troopers' vehicles. But there was probable cause that the defendant was involved in drug trafficking justifying the arrest in light of the 6 factors noted above plus, after denying having any money in the pickup, the defendant volunteered, as the officer began the search, that he had a huge amount of cash, which totaled $14,400 conveniently banded by denomination.