United States District Court, S.D. California
WILLIAM Q. HAYES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter before the Court is the motion to suppress evidence
and to hold an evidentiary hearing (ECF No. 35) filed by
Defendant Joanna Aragon Razo.
28, 2017, United States Border Patrol Agent Joshua Nations
was performing his assigned duties in the Boulevard Station
area. When he began his shift, Agent Nations was informed by
on-going agents that earlier that morning they had been
tracking approximately three suspected illegal aliens south
of Old Highway 80 west of Jacumba. Agent Nations positioned
himself at a high vantage point to give him a view of an area
including Highway 80 west of Jacumba using binoculars to
watch for possible illegal smuggling activity.
approximately 3:10 p.m., Agent Nations saw a black Sport
Utility Vehicle (SUV) travel west on Old Highway 80 past the
75 Road and into his view. Agent Nations watched the black
SUV slow, make a u-turn, and come to a stop, now facing east.
The vehicle stopped in the road at a point approximately 200
yards from the border. Agent Nations saw two people dressed
in dark colored clothing emerged from the brush on the north
side of Old Highway 80, sprint across the Highway and enter
the vehicle. The black SUV traveled east, back the way it had
originally come toward Jacumba. The vehicle traveled around a
bend out of sight.
Nations immediately advised other agents in the area on radio
of his observations of the black SUV, including the location
and direction of travel. Agent Whittemore using a scope from
an elevated location saw what he believed was the same SUV
observed by Agent Nations, and monitored the black SUV as it
traveled towards Jacumba reporting the location on the radio.
Agent Whittemore eventually lost sight of the SUV. Agent
Crumpton, also using a scope from an elevated location,
observed what he believed was the same vehicle traveling
through Jacumba reporting the location on the radio. Agent
Crumpton heard Agent Nations report his observations that two
individuals had come out of the brush and entered the dark
SUV. Agent Crumpton lost sight of the SUV as it drove through
Lucatero, who heard the radio reports, saw an SUV matching
the description of the vehicle. Agent Lucatero stopped the
SUV about one mile north of the U.S./Mexico border within
four to five minutes of the initial radio report by Agent
Nations. Agent Seitles responded to the vehicle stop and
confirmed that the two people sitting in the front seat were
United States citizens. Agent Seitles then questioned the two
second row passengers regarding their citizenship in English.
When neither individual responded, Agent Seitles questioned
them in Spanish, and they admitted to being citizens of
Mexico with no legal documents permitting their entrance into
the United States. Defendant, the driver of the black SUV,
was charged in an indictment with two counts of
transportation of certain aliens in violation of 8 U.S.C.
September 22, 2017 and September 28, 2017, the Court held an
evidentiary hearing. (ECF Nos. 64, 65).
OF THE PARTIES
contends that agents did not have reasonable suspicion to
stop the vehicle that she was driving. Defendant asserts that
observation of a vehicle stopping in the roadway and picking
up two people is not sufficient to rise to a reasonable
suspicion that the vehicle was engaged in alien smuggling.
Defendant asserts that the observations made by Agent Nations
are consistent with innocent conduct in a tourist area.
Government contends that reasonable suspicion supported the
stop of Defendant's SUV. The Government asserts that the
totality of the circumstances supported the reasonable
suspicion that the vehicle was engaged in criminal activity,
including the vehicle's proximity to the border, the
sudden u-turn and stop, and the observation of two
individuals sprinting to the vehicle.
prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures extends to
seizures of the person, including the brief investigatory
stop of a vehicle.” United States v.
Rodriguez, 976 F.2d 592, 594 (9th Cir.1992). An agent
may not detain a person without “at least a minimal
level of objective justification for making the stop.”
Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000). The
agent making the stop must be “aware of specific,
articulable facts which, when considered with objective and
reasonable inferences, form the basis for
particularized suspicion.” United States
v. Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000)
(en banc). The requirement of a particularized suspicion
includes an assessment based upon the totality of the
circumstances as well as an assessment that arouses “a
reasonable suspicion that the particular person being
stopped has committed or is about to commit a
crime.” Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d at 1129.
“Whether reasonable suspicion exists depends upon the
totality of the circumstances surrounding the stop, including
‘both the content of information possessed by police
and its degree of reliability.'” United States
v. Williams, 846 F.3d 303, 308 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330 (1990)).
vehicle is stopped in a border area, a number of factors may
be considered to determine whether the stop was justified by
a reasonable suspicion. United States v. Brignoni
Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 884 (1975). Factors may include
proximity to the border, usual traffic patterns on a given
road, and the driver's behavior, such as “erratic
driving or obvious attempts to evade officers. . . .”
Id. at 884-85. The vehicle itself may also be
considered, such as the size or whether it is one that is
often used to transport illegal aliens. Id. at 885.
Officers may also take into account “information about
recent illegal border crossings in the area” and
“previous experience with alien traffic.”
Id. “Nevertheless, an officer's
“experience does not in itself serve as an independent
factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis.”
Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d at 1131 ...