348 F.3d 881 (10th Cir. 2003), 03-5017, U.S. v. Manjarrez

Docket Nº:03-5017
Citation:348 F.3d 881
Party Name:U.S. v. Manjarrez
Case Date:November 04, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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348 F.3d 881 (10th Cir. 2003)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Sergio Antonio MANJARREZ, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 03-5017.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

November 4, 2003

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Submitted on the briefs [*]

Julia O'Connell, Assistant Federal Public Defender, and Barry L. Derryberry, Research and Writing Specialist, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Tulsa, OK, for Defendant-Appellant.

David E. O'Meilia, United States Attorney, and Melody Noble Nelson, Assistant United States Attorney, Tulsa, OK, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before MURPHY, BALDOCK, and O'BRIEN, Circuit Judges.

BALDOCK, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Sergio Antonio Manjarrez entered a conditional guilty plea to possessing, with the intent to distribute, approximately twenty-nine kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). See Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(a)(2). As part of his conditional plea, Defendant reserved the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress the cocaine. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) the initial stop of his vehicle was unjustified; (2) his consent to questioning was involuntary and not supported by reasonable suspicion; and (3) the pat-down of his person was unlawful and vitiated any prior consent to search his car. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and affirm.

I.

The historical facts as found by the district court and supported by the record are

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as follows: On March 13, 2002, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Vernon Roland observed a Ford Mustang traveling east-bound on Interstate 44 near Stroud, Oklahoma. According to Trooper Roland, the Mustang failed to signal when it exited the interstate into the toll plaza and failed to signal again when it changed lanes and proceeded towards the toll booth. Trooper Roland stopped the Mustang. Defendant exited the vehicle and approached Trooper Roland with his license and insurance information. Trooper Roland explained to Defendant that he was only going to issue a warning citation and asked Defendant to accompany him to the patrol car.

In the patrol car, Trooper Roland and Defendant engaged in a brief conversation while Trooper Roland wrote the warning citation. Defendant had a heavy Spanish accent but was able to communicate with Trooper Roland in English. After issuing the warning, Trooper Roland handed Defendant his documents and told Defendant he was "through."

As Defendant opened the patrol car door, Trooper Roland asked Defendant if he would answer some additional questions. Defendant replied "okay." Trooper Roland asked Defendant if he was carrying any guns or alcohol in the car. Defendant replied "no." Trooper Roland then asked Defendant if he could search his car. Defendant replied "yes." Trooper Roland conducted a brief pat-down of Defendant before searching the car.

Trooper Roland retrieved his drug detection dog from the back of his patrol car. The dog conducted a "sniff" around Defendant's car. The dog alerted to the front bumper of the Mustang. Subsequently, Trooper Roland discovered several bundles of cocaine taped inside the bumper. Defendant was arrested for possession of cocaine.

Based on the foregoing, the district court, in a thorough order, denied Defendant's motion to suppress the cocaine. Specifically, the court concluded: (1) Defendant's initial stop was justified; (2) Defendant consented to the search of his car; and (3) the pat-down of Defendant did not vitiate his consent to search the car.

II.

When reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, we accept the findings of the district court unless they are clearly erroneous. United States v. Patten, 183 F.3d 1190, 1193 (10th Cir. 1999). In reviewing the district court's findings, "we are mindful that at a hearing on a motion to suppress, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given the evidence together with the inferences, deductions and conclusions to be drawn from the evidence, are to be determined by the trial judge." United States v. Werking, 915 F.2d 1404, 1406 (10th Cir. 1990). The ultimate determination of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is a question of law that we review de novo. United States v. Mikulski, 317 F.3d 1228, 1230-31 (10th Cir. 2003).

A.

Defendant first argues his initial stop violated the Fourth Amendment. A traffic stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Botero-Ospina, 71 F.3d 783, 786 (10th Cir. 1995) (en banc). "A traffic stop is valid under the Fourth Amendment if the stop is based on an observed traffic violation." Id. Whether the stop is routine or ordinary is immaterial and the subjective motivations of the officer are irrelevant. Id.; accord Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810-18, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996). "Our sole inquiry is whether this particular officer

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had reasonable suspicion that this particular motorist violated any one of the multitude of applicable traffic and equipment regulations of the jurisdiction." Botero-Ospina, 71 F.3d at 786.

Trooper Roland testified he observed Defendant exit his lane from the turnpike without properly signaling. Trooper Roland also testified he observed Defendant change lanes on his way to the toll plaza without properly signaling. The district court specifically found that Defendant "violated Oklahoma law when he failed to signal his exit from the turnpike and his lane choice at the toll booth." See 47 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 11-309(1). 1 Defendant nevertheless argues that exiting the turnpike to the toll plaza does not constitute a "lane change" as contemplated by § 11-309(1) and that he was not required to signal when choosing a lane on his way to the toll plaza. The district court, however, concluded that "[b]ased on the video evidence, leaving the turnpike to go on to the toll plaza is leaving a lane as contemplated by Oklahoma statutes and therefore, precipitates an obligation to signal." 2 We agree, and note that a signal is required when exiting the interstate. See, e.g., Okla. Dep't of Transp. Driver's Manual, Chap. 7-Lane Usage and Maneuvers (requiring drivers that exit the expressway to signal at least 100 feet before exiting). Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding Trooper Roland had an objectively reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant for violating Oklahoma traffic law. 3

B.

Defendant next argues he was unlawfully detained once the purpose of the stop was complete. Typically, an officer must allow the driver to leave once the initial justification for a traffic stop has concluded. United States v. Ozbirn, 189 F.3d 1194, 1199 (10th Cir. 1999). An "investigative detention usually must 'last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop,' and '[t]he scope of the detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification.' " United States v. Hunnicutt, 135 F.3d 1345, 1349 (10th Cir. 1998) (quoting Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983)). A stop generally ends when the officer returns the driver's license, registration, and insurance information. Werking, 915 F.2d at 1408. At this point, questioning must cease and the driver must be free to go. Id. This general rule, however, is subject to an important exception. Additional questioning unrelated to the traffic stop is permissible if the detention becomes a "consensual encounter." Hunnicutt, 135 F.3d at 1349.

Whether an individual consents to further questioning is based on the totality of the circumstances. Patten, 183 F.3d at 1194. This...

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