415 F.3d 407 (5th Cir. 2005), 04-60874, United States v. Castelo

Docket Nº:04-60874.
Citation:415 F.3d 407
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David CASTELO, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:June 29, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 407

415 F.3d 407 (5th Cir. 2005)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


David CASTELO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-60874.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

June 29, 2005

Page 408

Charles Wiley Spillers, Asst. U.S. Atty., David Anthony Sanders (argued), Oxford, MS, for U.S.

Bobby T. Vance (argued), Batesville, MS, for Castelo.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi

Before JOLLY, HIGGINBOTHAM, and JONES, Circuit Judges.

E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:

In this appeal we consider whether the warrantless search of the appellant's truck falls within either the automobile exception or the pervasively regulated industry exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

During a roadside inspection, Mississippi Department of Transportation ("MDOT") officers found approximately 112 pounds of cocaine in the trailer of Castelo's truck. At trial, Castelo moved to suppress the cocaine. After a hearing, the motion was denied. Castelo ultimately accepted a plea agreement, under which he reserved the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. We hold that the Mississippi statutory scheme satisfies the requirements of New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691 (1987), that the initial stop was lawful under that scheme, that after the stop the officers acquired probable cause to believe the truck contained contraband, and that the ensuing search was properly conducted under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.


On November 12, 2003, David Castelo and Luis Roberto Quintero were stopped by MDOT officers while driving a tractor-trailer rig north on Interstate 55 in Grenada County, Mississippi. The officers, Sergeant James T. Luttrell and Officer Mark Hendrix, were designated as a "portable scale team", assigned to weigh and perform roadside inspections of commercial vehicles.

Luttrell motioned the driver, Quintero, to the rear of the trailer and asked whether it was loaded. Quintero stated that the trailer was loaded with scrap metal. When asked where the trailer had been loaded, Quintero could not recall, but stated that it was "just a few miles from here". Luttrell then asked Quintero to produce various required documents for inspection -- specifically, the permit book, international fuel tax agreement, bill of lading, log book, driver's license, and registration. While Quintero was retrieving the documents, the officers inspected the seal and

Page 409

padlock on the trailer, and noted that the seal was fastened but not locked.

Luttrell later testified that, while he was inspecting the documents, Quintero was repeatedly sipping water from a bottle and kicking grass on the shoulder of the road, and generally appeared uneasy. During the inspection, Luttrell discovered that the vehicle's registration had been illegally altered. When questioned, Quintero admitted that he had changed the registration's expiration date by writing the number "1" in front of the eight, causing the actual date -- November 8 -- to appear as November 18 (thus falsely indicating that the registration was valid at the time of the stop).

The officers then instructed Quintero to remove the padlock on the trailer so that they could verify that the actual cargo matched what was listed on the bill of lading. Quintero explained that the trailer had been sealed, to which Luttrell responded that he would break the seal, re-seal it after inspecting the cargo, and "sign off on his bill [of lading] that he had broken the seal".

Quintero proceeded to unlock the trailer and Luttrell entered to inspect the load. Luttrell testified that he saw two "soft carry bags" and a pillowcase lying on the floor of the trailer, and that outlines of "brick-shaped objects" protruded from the sides of the pillowcase. Suspecting that the objects were cocaine bricks, Luttrell exited the...

To continue reading