462 F.3d 981 (8th Cir. 2006), 05-4060, United States v. Carpenter

Docket Nº:05-4060.
Citation:462 F.3d 981
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellant, v. Christopher CARPENTER, Appellee.
Case Date:September 18, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 981

462 F.3d 981 (8th Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellant,

v.

Christopher CARPENTER, Appellee.

No. 05-4060.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Sept. 18, 2006

Submitted: May 16, 2006.

Page 982

John James Ware, argued, Assistant U.S. Attorney, St. Louis, Missouri (Catherine L. Hanaway and Sam C. Bertolet, on the brief), for appellant.

Michael Dwyer, argued, Assistant Federal Public Defender, St. Louis, Missouri, for appellee.

Page 983

Before LOKEN, Chief Judge, MELLOY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

The government appeals an order of the district court granting Christopher Carpenter's motion to suppress evidence. See 18 U.S.C. § 3731. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I.

According to the facts as found by a magistrate judge in a report and recommendation and adopted by the district court, on December 18, 2001, Deputy David Rightnowar of the Phelps County, Missouri, Sheriff's Department was operating a ruse drug checkpoint on Interstate Highway 44 near the Sugar Tree Road exit in Phelps County. He placed a sign reading "Drug Enforcement Checkpoint Ahead 1/4 Mile," on each side of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 44, approximately 200-300 yards before the Sugar Tree Road exit ramp. A short distance further east, but still before the exit, he placed two more signs labeled "Drug Dogs In Use." Deputy Rightnowar parked his marked police car so he could observe eastbound vehicles exiting onto Sugar Tree Road. Although there was no actual checkpoint, Deputy Rightnowar was "watching for any nonlocal traffic that would exit the interstate" and trying "to get reason to stop them." He explained that "if they were nonlocals, why, we would try to find out what they were doing up there." Deputy Rightnowar considered "nonlocal" traffic to be cars he didn't recognize, or those with out-of-state license plates.

Carpenter was driving eastbound on Interstate 44 at around 4:00 p.m. in a white Chevrolet Blazer, traveling from Texas to New York, and carrying a quantity of cocaine. After seeing the signs, Carpenter exited at Sugar Tree Road and drove south on County Road 7300. Because his car was low on gas, he decided to look for a service station. Deputy Rightnowar observed the Blazer exit Interstate 44 and turn onto the county road. Because the vehicle "just didn't look right for the area," he decided to follow it.

As Carpenter drove down the road, he realized there were no services at the exit, and when he looked in his rear view mirror, he saw that a police car was following him. Concerned that he had "driven into a trap," he decided to make a U-turn and pulled onto the side of the road. Deputy Rightnowar rounded a curve and saw Carpenter's Blazer parked on the side of the road. Deputy Rightnowar pulled off the road behind the Blazer, activating the emergency flashing lights on top of his police car as he did so.

Rightnowar approached the Blazer and asked Carpenter if he was lost, to which Carpenter responded in the negative. Carpenter then offered that he had exited the highway looking for a gas station, but said that when he realized there were none in the area, he had intended to turn around and get back onto the highway. Rightnowar thought this was suspicious, as there are no gas stations at the Sugar Tree Road exit, but such services are available at nearby exits. From the highway, there are blue signs indicating the presence of a motel and a campground at Sugar Tree Road, but otherwise the area is mostly rural.

Rightnowar inquired as to Carpenter's destination, and Carpenter replied that he was traveling from Austin, Texas, to New York. The deputy then asked to see Carpenter's license and registration, and Carpenter provided his Texas driver's license, along with paperwork indicating that the car was a rental vehicle. At some point in the conversation, Rightnowar leaned into

Page 984

the Blazer and saw that the gasoline gauge indicated the vehicle had a quarter of a tank of gas. He also noticed that Carpenter appeared nervous, as he could see an artery in his neck pulsing.

Deputy Rightnowar took Carpenter's license and the rental papers back to his patrol car, where he remained for four or five minutes. In examining the papers, he noticed that the rental agreement indicated that the vehicle had been rented in El Paso, rather than Austin. Rightnowar again walked over to Carpenter's vehicle and asked him what was in the cargo area of the Blazer. Carpenter replied that there were boxes of tile in the vehicle. When Rightnowar asked to look in the boxes, however, Carpenter asked if there was a problem with his license and told Rightnowar that "the boxes were all packaged up and he didn't see why the deputy needed to look inside them." At this point, Rightnowar told Carpenter that he had exited the highway at a drug interdiction area, that he believed Carpenter had exited to avoid the drug checkpoint, that he thought Carpenter had drugs in the car, and that, if Carpenter would not consent to a search, he would call a nearby officer with a drug dog. Carpenter refused to consent to a search, and the deputy asked him to step out of the vehicle and patted down Carpenter's shirt and pants pockets in a search for weapons.

Sheriff Don Blankenship, who had been parked nearby on the north side of the highway with a trained drug detection dog in his vehicle, arrived and walked the dog around the outside of the Blazer. The dog alerted, and Deputy Rightnowar searched the Blazer. When he opened the boxes in the rear cargo area, he discovered bundles wrapped in plastic. Using his pocket knife, the deputy slit open one of the bundles and found it to contain a white powder that he believed was cocaine. Rightnowar then arrested Carpenter.

Carpenter was charged with one count of possessing with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). He moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that he was seized without reasonable suspicion, and that the discovery of the cocaine was the fruit of an unlawful seizure. A magistrate judge recommended to the district court that it grant Carpenter's motion, finding that Carpenter was seized "when Deputy Rightnowar took the defendant's driver's license and rental documents and went back to his patrol car" or "by the time Deputy Rightnowar told the defendant that he suspected that he possessed drugs and asked him to get out of his car." The magistrate judge concluded that the facts and circumstances existing at the time of the seizure did not give rise to a reasonable suspicion justifying the search of the vehicle, in part because "the fact that...

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57 practice notes
  • State v. Bullock, 051016 NCCA, COA15-731
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals of North Carolina
    • May 10, 2016
    ...Contradictory statements regarding one's destination are a strong factor in providing reasonable suspicion. See U.S. v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 987 (8th Cir. 2006). After the conversation, while the data base for defendant's drivers license was checked, the officer had reasonable suspicion......
  • United States v. Gantt, 090220 IWNDC, 20-cr-2020-CJW
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • September 2, 2020
    ...encounter may become an unlawful seizure, however, if “it loses its consensual nature.” United States v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434 (1991)). Even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular......
  • 559 F.Supp.2d 1016 (D.Neb. 2008), 4 08CR3001, United States v. Vargas-Miranda
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit District of Nebraska
    • June 3, 2008
    ...and police may become an unlawful seizure if, during the course of events, “it loses its consensual nature." U.S. v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir.2006)(quoting Bostick, 501 U.S. at 434, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389). Vargas-Miranda argues that his encounter with Deputy Sher......
  • United States v. Woodley, 090115 PAWDC, 13-113
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • September 1, 2015
    ...was not unlawfully seized and suppression of the subsequently discovered evidence is not warranted. See United States v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir. 2006) (finding that an officer's request for identification, and brief retention of those documents, did not constitute a seizure w......
  • Free signup to view additional results
57 cases
  • State v. Bullock, 051016 NCCA, COA15-731
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals of North Carolina
    • May 10, 2016
    ...Contradictory statements regarding one's destination are a strong factor in providing reasonable suspicion. See U.S. v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 987 (8th Cir. 2006). After the conversation, while the data base for defendant's drivers license was checked, the officer had reasonable suspicion......
  • United States v. Gantt, 090220 IWNDC, 20-cr-2020-CJW
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • September 2, 2020
    ...encounter may become an unlawful seizure, however, if “it loses its consensual nature.” United States v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434 (1991)). Even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular......
  • 559 F.Supp.2d 1016 (D.Neb. 2008), 4 08CR3001, United States v. Vargas-Miranda
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit District of Nebraska
    • June 3, 2008
    ...and police may become an unlawful seizure if, during the course of events, “it loses its consensual nature." U.S. v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir.2006)(quoting Bostick, 501 U.S. at 434, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389). Vargas-Miranda argues that his encounter with Deputy Sher......
  • United States v. Woodley, 090115 PAWDC, 13-113
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit
    • September 1, 2015
    ...was not unlawfully seized and suppression of the subsequently discovered evidence is not warranted. See United States v. Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 985 (8th Cir. 2006) (finding that an officer's request for identification, and brief retention of those documents, did not constitute a seizure w......
  • Free signup to view additional results