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United States of America v. Roberto Ceja Sandoval

May 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge


Defendant Sandoval moves for suppression of "all evidence derived as a result of the warrantless search of [his] car, including, but not limited to, approximately five pounds of methamphetamine, approximately ten kilograms of cocaine, a Motorola brand cellular phone, indicia, and any other evidence to be developed that was seized as a result of the search." (Mot. 1:25-2:2.) The government opposes the motion.

Defendant requests an evidentiary hearing on this motion. Id. at 2:6-7. However the disputed factual issues need not be decided in light of the uncontroverted facts which evince the deputies had reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant and probable cause to search his vehicle. Therefore, an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary and Defendant's motion to suppress will be denied. See United States v. Guzman-Baez, No. CR 07-0794-DLJ, 2008 WL 2168414, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 22, 2008)("An evidentiary hearing is required on a motion to suppress if the court concludes from the moving papers that there are material contested issues of fact regarding the validity or legality of the search.")(citing United States v. Walczak, 783 F.2d 852, 857 (9th Cir. 1086)).


On April 20, 2011, Defendant was driving through Shasta County on Interstate 5. (Dep. Guiducci's Investigation Report ("I.R.") at 3, Ex. 1 to Guiducci Decl. filed in Supp. of Opp'n.) Deputy Nolan Guiducci ("Guiducci") of the Shasta County Sheriff's Department was parked on the side of Interstate 5 and noticed Defendant as he was driving by. Id. Guiducci declares: "[m]y attention was drawn to a green Ford Focus traveling northbound passing my location in the number one lane. The Focus appeared to be traveling faster than the flow of traffic. I estimated the vehicle's speed at approximately 75 mph." Id. Guiducci waited for the traffic to clear and began to follow Defendant. Id. Guiducci declares he "caught up to the vehicle . . . [which] appeared to slow slightly." Id. Guiducci declares he "paced the vehicle at approximately 71 mph in a posted 65 mph zone." Id. Defendant denies that he was speeding. (Sandoval Decl., Ex. B to Mot.)

Guiducci conducted a traffic stop of Defendant along northbound Interstate 5. (I.R. at 3.) Between approximately one and five minutes into the traffic stop, Shasta County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Moon ("Moon") and his canine, Darco, arrived on the scene. Id.; Dep. Moon Supp. Report, Ex. 1 to Moon Decl. in Supp. of Opp'n; Sandoval Decl.) Upon arriving, Moon walked Darco around Defendant's vehicle. (Dep. Moon Supp. Report; Sandoval Decl.) Moon declares Darco "gave a positive alert to the presence of narcotics on the vehicle as he walked [Darco] around it." (Dep. Moon Supp. Report.) Moon avers he informed Guiducci that Darco alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle and then returned Darco to his patrol vehicle. (Moon Decl. ¶ 3.) Concerning Darco's alert, Defendant declares "[t]he dog circled the car two times and didn't scratch or bark[.]" (Sandoval Decl.) After Moon returned Darco to his patrol vehicle, Deputy Chris McQuillan ("McQuillan") arrived on scene. (Guiducci Decl. ¶ 7; Moon Decl. ¶ 5.)

Guiducci declares he asked for Defendant's consent to search the vehicle after he was informed Darco alerted to the presence of narcotics in his vehicle. (Guiducci Decl. ¶ 9.) Guiducci declares Defendant consented to the search. Id. Defendant denies that he consented to the search. (Sandoval Decl.)

Guiducci and McMillin searched Defendant's vehicle. (Guiducci Decl. ¶¶ 11-12.) Two hidden compartments were found in the sidewalls of the vehicle behind each door. (I.R. at 5; Guiducci Decl. ¶ 12.) Both compartments contained narcotics. (I.R. at 5; Guiducci Decl. ¶¶ 12-13.)


On a motion to suppress, which challenges the legitimacy of a traffic stop, the government has the "burden of production [to] com[e] forward with specific and articulable facts to support [the officer's] suspicion of [a traffic violation]." United States v. Willis, 431 F.3d 709, 715 n.5 (9th Cir. 2005)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Defendants then bear "the burden of proof . . . and as such must 'introduce contrary evidence[.]'" United States v. Morales, No. CR-11-02782-TUC-CKJ (JCG), 2011 WL 5855126, at *5 (D. Ariz. Nov. 22, 2011)(quoting Willis, 431 F.3d at 715 n.5.).

"[T]he government . . . bears the burden of proving that [a] warrantless search of [a] vehicle was conducted pursuant to a 'specifically established exception[] to the warrant requirement.'" United States v. Brunick, 374 Fed. Appx. 714, 715 (9th Cir. 2010)(quoting United States v. Hawkins, 249 F.3d 867, 672 (9th Cir. 2001)).


Defendant argues the motion to suppress should be granted for the following reasons: Guiducci "did not have reasonable suspicion to stop [him] for speeding because [he] was not driving faster than the speed limit[;]" the officers did not have probable cause to search his vehicle since the "narcotics detector dog, Darco, was neither certified nor reliable[;]" and Defendant's "alleged consent to the ...

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