356 F.3d 130 (1st Cir. 2004), 03-1739, United States v. Maldonado

Docket Nº:03-1739.
Citation:356 F.3d 130
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Lawrence E. MALDONADO, Defendant, Appellant.
Case Date:January 20, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 130

356 F.3d 130 (1st Cir. 2004)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Lawrence E. MALDONADO, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 03-1739.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 20, 2004

Submitted Dec. 2, 2003.

Page 131

Nicholas J.K. Mahoney, on brief for appellant.

Paula D. Silsby, United States Attorney, and Margaret D. McGaughey, Appellate Chief, on brief for appellee.

Before SELYA, Circuit Judge, CYR, Senior Circuit Judge, and LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

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SELYA, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us to decide whether interstate commercial trucking is a pervasively regulated industry, and if so, whether the regulatory scheme applicable to that industry comes within the purview of the administrative search exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. These are questions of first impression in this circuit. We answer both of them affirmatively--and those answers lead us to affirm the judgment below.


Although the parties draw different inferences fro them, the relevant facts are largely undisputed. During the afternoon of August 8, 2002, a Maine state trooper, Robert Flint, Jr., was patrolling the Maine Turnpike. While in Wells, he noticed a northbound moving van that bore the legend "Allied Van Lines." The truck appeared to be exceeding the posted speed limit (50 m.p.h.) and Flint's radar, freshly calibrated, recorded its speed at 66 m.p.h. A second reading showed a slightly reduced speed (63 m.p.h.), consistent with the driver having spotted the trooper.

Flint chased the moving van and pulled it over for speeding. As he walked up to the cab, he noticed that the driver, defendant-appellant Lawrence E. Maldonado, was not wearing a seat belt. Flint asked Maldonado for his driver's license, his medical certificate (a document that is obligatory for all interstate truckers), and the truck's registration. Maldonado produced a New Mexico license, a medical certificate, and a Texas registration. Although the license and medical certificate both noted a need for corrective eyeware, Maldonado was driving without either spectacles or contact lenses. Upon inquiry, he informed Flint that he had left his broken glasses in a motel room in Connecticut.

Maldonado mentioned that he was transporting a shipment of household goods from Alabama to Maine. Because Flint knew that federal regulations required truckers to keep log books for trips of that length, he asked to see Maldonado's log book. The last entry had been made at 11 a.m. on August 7 (more than 24 hours earlier). Flint instructed Maldonado to update the log book. He then returned to his cruiser to check on Maldonado's license. Word came back that the license had been suspended.

Flint was concerned because Maldonado had breached several federal trucking regulations (e.g., he had failed to keep his log book current, 49 C.F.R. § 395.8; failed to wear a seat belt, id. § 392.16; and operated the truck without a valid license, id. § 391.15). For that reason, Flint summoned a fellow trooper, Robert Nichols. Nichols is one of a handful of members of the Maine State Police who specialize in enforcing commercial trucking regulations. Those troopers serve in dual capacities as agents of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and members of the state police. As such, they are "authorized to enter upon, to inspect, and to examine any and all ... equipment of motor carriers...." 49 C.F.R. Ch. III, Subch. B, App. B(1). Only FMCSA agents (including dual-capacity agents) carry the forms that appertain to commercial trucking violations.

Flint also summoned a tow truck because he realized that Maldonado would not be allowed to drive with a suspended license. That was the end of Flint's initiatives; Nichols arrived at the scene about an hour after the initial stop and Flint immediately surrendered control of the investigation (he had not arrested Maldonado, nor did he plan to do so). The tow truck had not yet responded.

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Flint briefed Nichols about the situation and the officers walked to the cab of the moving van. Nichols asked Maldonado for the truck's operating authority (a document that cedes the right to operate a commercial vehicle in Maine). Maldonado did not have any such paperwork. Nichols then requested Maldonado's fuel and toll receipts. Maldonado had no receipts for fuel and only three toll receipts (from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, respectively). Nichols viewed this as suspicious because, in his experience, commercial truckers undertaking long cross-country hauls typically have "a pile" of such receipts and he expected to see, at a bare minimum, additional toll receipts from New Jersey and New York.

Nichols next requested Maldonado's shipping papers (he testified that most moving vans carrying household goods take along what amounts to an inventory of the cargo). Maldonado had no papers; he claimed to have left them in his motel room. On further inquiry, however, he could not name the motel, pinpoint its location, or produce a room key.

Having grown increasingly suspicious, Nichols asked Maldonado to step out of the vehicle. He searched the cab area, knowing that the truck was destined to be towed. He was surprised to find neither luggage nor extra clothing (he did, however, find a machete).

As Flint was preparing to leave, Nichols asked him if he thought that the expiration date on the moving van's registration had been altered. The troopers agreed that it looked suspicious. At that point, Nichols called in a canine drug search unit. While this unit was en route, Flint departed. Nichols proceeded to run the license plate. This check revealed that...

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