United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
A. MENDEZ UNITED STATES DBTRICT JUDGE
matter before the Court is Defendant Jose Manuel
Navarro's Motion to Suppress. Mot. to Suppress
(“Mot.”), ECF No. 14. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
April 2019, the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Team
(“TRIDENT”) began an undercover operation in
Placer and Sacramento Counties. TRIDENT Report, ECF No. 15-1.
Over the course of the investigation, an undercover member of
the team (“UC”) communicated by phone with an
unknown man suspected to be connected with a drug trafficking
operation in Sinaloa, Mexico. Id. The man told UC he
could supply up to 100 pounds of methamphetamines.
Id. Ultimately, the man told UC he would send him 65
pounds of methamphetamines. Id. On the morning of
May 20, 2019, Defendant and UC met in the parking lot of a
Target in Sacramento. Id. UC asked to see the
“product.” Id. Defendant told UC that
all the product was in a hidden compartment in his vehicle,
so he could not show it to him in the parking lot.
Id. UC asked Defendant to follow him to a more
secure location. Id. As UC drove past
Defendant's Ford truck, he noticed the truck had Arizona
plates that ended in “91.” Id. UC
relayed that information to the surveillance team.
this time, Officer Sarabia, a California Highway Patrol
(“CHP”) officer, saw Defendant make an unsafe
lane change in violation of Vehicle Code § 26708(a). CHP
Report, ECF No. 15-2. Following the lane change, Officer
Sarabia also observed Defendant following the vehicle in
front of him too closely in violation of Vehicle Code §
21703. Id. As Officer Sarabia approached
Defendant's vehicle, he noticed Defendant moving onto the
white lines in the road and that Defendant's front
windows were tinted in violation of Vehicle Code §
26708(a). Id. Officer Sarabia pulled Defendant over
for these violations. Id.
Sarabia approached Defendant's truck, requested his
license, and asked him a series of traffic-related questions.
Id. Officer Sarabia also asked Defendant where he
was coming from and where he was going. Id.
Defendant first said he was visiting his son on Madison
Avenue, but then changed his answer, claiming he was going to
visit family in Reno. Id. Based on these
inconsistencies, Officer Sarabia asked Defendant to exit his
truck and walk over to the patrol car. Id.
Defendant exited his truck, Sergeant Powell arrived at the
scene. Id. Sergeant Powell ran a records check on
Defendant while Officer Sarabia asked Defendant if he had
anything illegal inside his vehicle. Id. After
Defendant denied having any contraband, Officer Sarabia asked
Defendant if he could search his truck. Id.
Defendant signed the Spanish consent form Officer Sarabia
provided. Id. Officer Sarabia and his
narcotics-detection dog walked around Defendant's
vehicle. Id. The dog alerted to several areas around
and in the truck. Id. Officer Sarabia then searched
the vehicle and discovered several cellophane-wrapped
packages behind the rear seats. Id. Officer Sarabia
placed Defendant in handcuffs and contacted the TRIDENT team
for assistance. Id.
arrival, members of the team field tested one of the
packages. Id. The package tested positive for
methamphetamine. Id. Officers took the packages-68
in total-to the TRIDENT facility to be processed.
Id. Defendant was placed under arrest. Id.
moves to suppress evidence obtained as a result of Officer
Sarabia's seizure and subsequent search. Defendant
contends the search and seizure were unlawful because Officer
Sarabia (1) did not have reasonable suspicion to pull him
over and (2) impermissibly prolonged the traffic stop. Mot.
at 2-3. The Government argues that the investigatory stop was
supported by reasonable suspicion, the stop was not
unreasonably prolonged, and Defendant consented to a search
of his vehicle. USA's Opp'n to Mot. to Suppress
(“Opp'n”) at 1, ECF No. 15. The Government
further argues the TRIDENT investigation supplied probable
cause for the stop. Id.
Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits
“unreasonable searches and seizures” by the
Government. United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266,
273 (2002). Those protections extend to an investigatory stop
of a vehicle “because stopping an automobile and
detaining its occupants constitutes a seizure . . . even
though the purpose of the stop is limited and the resulting
detention quite brief.” United States v.
Choudhry, 461 F.3d 1097, 1100 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations
omitted). Investigatory traffic stops are akin to the
on-the-street encounters addressed in Terry v. Ohio,
392 U.S. 1 (1968). Id. Accordingly, the same
objective standard applies. Id. “[A] police
officer may conduct an investigatory traffic stop if the
officer has reasonable suspicion that a particular person has
committed, is committing, or is about to commit a
crime.” Id. (internal quotation marks and
traffic violation alone is sufficient to establish reasonable
suspicion.” Choudhry, 461 F.3d at 1100 (citations
omitted). In other words, when an officer has probable cause
to believe a traffic violation has occurred, a stop of the
vehicle is ...