285 F.3d 716 (8th Cir. 2002), 01-3286, United States v Linkous

Docket Nº:01-3286
Citation:285 F.3d 716
Case Date:January 15, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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285 F.3d 716 (8th Cir. 2002)




No. 01-3286

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 15, 2002

April 5, 2002

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before Loken, Richard S. Arnold, and Murphy, Circuit Judges.

Murphy, Circuit Judge

James Linkous pled guilty to a charge of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii) (2000), and was sentenced by the district court1 to 168 months. He appeals from the denial of his motion to suppress evidence which he alleges was obtained through an illegal search and seizure. We affirm.

On the morning of October 18, 2000 Officer Lance Dixon of the Van Buren, Arkansas Police Department observed an eastbound van with Tennessee plates following too close to another vehicle in a highway construction zone. After he saw the driver change lanes without signaling, Dixon stopped the van at 8:43 a.m. He approached the driver and asked him to step out of the vehicle and show his driver license and vehicle registration. Tony Yates was the driver, and he displayed a Tennessee license. James Linkous owned the van and was sitting in the passenger seat. Dixon asked Yates where he and the passenger were coming from, and Yates told him they had towed a pickup truck to Texas. Dixon observed that Yates appeared nervous, made no eye contact, and kept his arms crossed. He also noticed that a vein in Yates' neck was throbbing and that the van did not have either a towing apparatus or a place for a trailer hitch. These observations aroused Dixon's suspicions that something was amiss.

Dixon then approached James Linkous, requested his driver license, and asked him about their route. Linkous gave Dixon a South Carolina license and told him that he and Yates had hauled a pickup truck to California. Dixon became increasingly suspicious that Linkous and Yates could be concealing narcotics due to the discrepancies in their stories about their trip, their license registration in two different states, Yates' excessive nervousness, and the absence of a towing apparatus or trailer hitch on the van. At this point, approximately five minutes after Dixon had stopped the van, he radioed for assistance.

Dixon's suspicions increased as he continued to talk with Linkous. When he asked Linkous if he had any weapons, Linkous answered that there were knives inside the van. Dixon asked Linkous to Page 719

step out of the van and saw that there was a noticeable bulge inside his pants. Dixon asked Linkous whether he was concealing something in his pants, and Linkous made an off color remark suggesting that it was his penis. Later at the jail it was determined that the bulge was caused by a bag of marijuana, a drug pipe, and a small bag of methamphetamine which Linkous had concealed in his pants.

Sergeant Larry Brown was in the near vicinity with a drug dog in his car, and he arrived at the scene approximately three minutes after Dixon's call for assistance. He led the dog around the van, and it alerted to drugs within three or four minutes. This prompted Linkous to volunteer nervously that he had been stopped the week before in Virginia where another dog had alerted to the same spot in the van. The van was searched, and a package appearing to contain methamphetamine was found. Linkous and Yates were placed under arrest at 9:02 a.m. and given Miranda warnings.

The total amount of drugs seized as a result of the arrest were 411 grams of 32% pure methamphetamine, 6.8 grams of 31% pure methamphetamine, and 2 grams of marijuana. Linkous later admitted to Drug Enforcement Administration agents that the methamphetamine in the van was part of an operation during which he had transported at least 20 pounds of methamphetamine from Mexico to sell to truck drivers in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.

Linkous was indicted for possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, and he moved to suppress evidence resulting from an illegal detention. United States Magistrate Judge Beverly S. Jones held a hearing and recommended that the motion be denied. Linkous filed written objections, and the district court denied the motion after a de novo review. Linkous subsequently entered a conditional plea of guilty, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion. The district court sentenced him to 168 months after finding him responsible for a mixture weight of 9.072 kilograms of methamphetamine.

Linkous contends that evidence concerning drugs and his statements to the officers should be suppressed because he and Yates were detained longer than necessary for a traffic stop and without reasonable suspicion. The government responds that the facts observed by Officer Dixon created a...

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