463 F.2d 129 (5th Cir. 1972), 71-2810, United States v. McDaniel

Docket Nº:71-2810.
Citation:463 F.2d 129
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Richard McDANIEL, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:May 11, 1972
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 129

463 F.2d 129 (5th Cir. 1972)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Richard McDANIEL, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 71-2810.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

May 11, 1972

         Rehearing Denied June 15, 1972.

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Page 131

         Donald R. Scoggins, Dallas, Tex., for defendant-appellant.

         Anthony J. P. Farris, U. S. Atty., James R. Gough, Ronald J. Waska, Anthony C. Aguilar, Asst. U. S. Attys., Houston, Tex., for plaintiff-appellee.

         Before WISDOM, GOLDBERG and CLARK, Circuit Judges.

         GOLDBERG, Circuit Judge:

         This is a case allegedly under the aegis of the "border search" doctrine, whose borders have never been geodetically defined and whose legal undulations are manifold. Transits and other paraphernalia, both legal and paralegal, lead to no certain perimeters. Given precedential latitude and constitutional longitude, we conclude that the search under the spotlight in this case came within the legal confines of a border search and within the constitutional confines of the Fourth Amendment.

         Appellant, Richard L. McDaniel, and a companion were stopped by Border Patrol agents at 12:30 a. m. at a permanent immigration point some seven miles north of Laredo, Texas, and about eight miles from the Mexican border. The checkpoint was located along an interstate highway that leads from Laredo to San Antonio and points east. The agents had decided to stop every vehicle that night in search of aliens illegally entering. Having determined to his satisfaction that McDaniel and his companion were United States citizens, the agent requested that McDaniel open the trunk of his car. The agents testified that they were opening every trunk that night in search of aliens. The agent who talked with McDaniel also testified that the behavior of the car's occupants had aroused his suspicions; McDaniel was "nervous" and "a little bit too glib, too cooperative," while his rider was "almost frozen." When McDaniel opened the trunk the agent spotted four large burlap bags, partially covered with a Guadalajara newspaper. The contents were not discernible from the exterior of the bags. In response to the agent's question, McDaniel stated that the bags contained alfalfa. That response further aroused the agent's suspicions since, he testified, he had never seen alfalfa carried in that manner. In response to the agent's request, McDaniel opened the bags, and the agent felt and smelled what appeared to him to be marijuana. At that point the agents took McDaniel and his companion to the Border Patrol van and advised them of their Miranda rights. Although he stated that he understood each of his constitutional rights, McDaniel declined to sign the written waiver at the bottom of the Miranda form. Asked whether the substance in the trunk had been declared at the bridge, McDaniel responded that it had not, that "the marijuana had been brought across up river . . . by another party." At about 1:00 a. m. the agents took McDaniel to the Border Patrol headquarters in Laredo, where the suspected contraband in the trunk was removed. A different agent readvised McDaniel of his Miranda rights. McDaniel again stated that he understood those rights, but again he declined to sign the written waiver. The agent asked McDaniel if he would consider "cooperating and delivering this to the ultimate destination, wherever it was," apparently without expressly alluding to the substance as marijuana. McDaniel asked questions about how that would be accomplished, and the agents responded with a plan. McDaniel asked to discuss the proposition with his companion, and the agents left the two alone for a period of about one-half hour. McDaniel emerged and declined to continue his journey with the contents of the trunk.

Page 132

         McDaniel was indicted and convicted by a jury of violations of 21 U.S.C.A. § 176a, knowing introduction of marijuana into the United States. McDaniel brings this appeal by alleging that evidence was improperly and unconstitutionally admitted in two instances: (1) by an illegal search, and (2) by a failure to abide the constitutional guidelines of Miranda v. Arizona, 1966, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694. We find both allegations without merit, and we affirm the verdict and judgment below.

         The Fourth Amendment protects the American citizenry from "unreasonable searches and seizures," but, of course, reasonableness may vary with circumstance. United States v. Rabinowitz, 1950, 339 U.S. 56, 70 S.Ct. 430, 94 L.Ed. 653. The border search at an international boundary is a familiar rite to many citizens. An immigration officer is authorized to search any vehicle within a "reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States" if he has "reasonable cause to suspect" illegally-entered aliens. 8 U.S.C.A.§§ 1357, 1225; 8 C.F.R. § 287.1. A customs officer is empowered to search vehicles upon the same standard, "reasonable cause to suspect," although the customs statutes do not prescribe any distance limitations to the search. 19 U.S.C.A. §§ 482, 1581; 19 C.F.R. §§ 23.1(d), 23.11. The standards for what has been termed a "border search" have been judicially restated as "reasonable suspicion" of acts...

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