21 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 1994), 93-50553, U.S. v. Santiago

Docket Nº:93-50553.
Citation:21 F.3d 1118
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Oscar SANTIAGO, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:April 11, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1118

21 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 1994)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Oscar SANTIAGO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 93-50553.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 11, 1994

Submitted April 5, 1994. [*]

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA9 Rule 36-3 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; No. CR-93-00349-MRP, Mariana R. Pfaelzer, District Judge, Presiding.



Before: POOLE, BEEZER, and T.G. NELSON, Circuit Judges.


Oscar Santiago appeals his conviction following a conditional guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Santiago contends that the district court erred by denying his suppression motion because (1) he was illegally detained when a law enforcement officer questioned him in the airport, (2) he was illegally arrested when he was transported in handcuffs to a holding cell in the airport, and (3) his suitcase was illegally seized and searched. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.



Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Detective Patty May and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Deputy Rob Irmas, both in plain clothes, observed Santiago outside the Los Angeles International Airport. Santiago appeared to be nervous and in a hurry and carried a briefcase and a new hard-sided suitcase, which is often used by couriers to transport cocaine. Santiago checked the suitcase with a skycap and was given a luggage identification tag, which Santiago did not complete. The skycap placed on the suitcase a "heavy tag," indicating that the bag was heavier than normal. Detective May knew that heavy bags were uncommon on domestic flights and such bags often contain drugs.

Santiago entered the airport and sat down at the boarding area inside the terminal. While Deputy Irmas remained about twenty feet away, Detective May sat next to Santiago, showed him her LAPD identification, and asked if she could talk to him. Detective May told him he was not under arrest and was free to leave. She asked if she could see his identification. Santiago produced a credit card, which he did not allow Detective May to see closely, and a Resident Alien Card, which he gave to Detective May. May then asked if she could see his ticket, which he gave to her after taking back his identification. The name on the ticket did not match the name on Santiago's identification. The ticket, purchased that day from a travel agent, was a one-way ticket to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. In Detective May's experience New York is a common drug courier destination. Detective May also knew that people transporting drugs often travel under assumed names with one-way tickets purchased on the day of travel at a travel...

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