753 F.2d 785 (9th Cir. 1985), 83-1269, United States v. Corral-Villavicencio

Docket Nº:83-1269.
Citation:753 F.2d 785
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Victor Ruben CORRAL-VILLAVICENCIO, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:February 15, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 785

753 F.2d 785 (9th Cir. 1985)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Victor Ruben CORRAL-VILLAVICENCIO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 83-1269.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 15, 1985

Argued and Submitted June 15, 1984.

Page 786

John S. Leonardo, Asst. U.S. Atty., Tucson, Ariz., for plaintiff-appellee.

Antonio R. Zuniga, Phoenix, Ariz., for defendant-appellant.

Page 787

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of arizona.

Before HUG, TANG and FARRIS, Circuit Judges.

TANG, Circuit Judge:

Victor Corral-Villavicencio ("Corral") appeals from his conviction of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1). He argues that the search of the vehicle he was driving was not justified as an extended border search and that the customs officers lacked probable cause to stop the vehicle. We hold that although the stop and search of Corral's automobile was not made pursuant to a valid extended border search, the initial stop was justified on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and the subsequent search was based on probable cause that his vehicle contained seizable contraband. We therefore affirm his conviction.

I.

FACTS

During the early morning hours of May 25, 1983, Customs Patrol Officers Ellis and Brost were on patrol in Coronado National Park near Douglas, Arizona, a remote area approximately .6 of a mile from the Mexican-United States border. At approximately 5:15 a.m., after just having left the picnic area of Montezuma Canyon and heading east, they passed a green sedan traveling west on Montezuma Canyon Road. The vehicle bore Arizona license plates and the driver of the automobile was the sole occupant.

The Customs Officers initiated a license plate registration check and discovered that the sedan had been registered to a female, one Irma Bermudez. The vehicle was not locally owned, as the registration check showed it was from Tucson. The officers then continued east to the entrance of the canyon and stopped their patrol car. Approximately ten minutes after the officers had first sighted the vehicle, they observed the sedan exit the canyon.

As the vehicle exited the canyon, the officers immediately pulled behind the car and stopped it. In addition to the foregoing, the basis for the stop was that this was a well-known smuggling area and that in the past eight years the customs office, which has had jurisdiction over it for approximately four of the eight years, had made 16 seizures. In fact, one of the customs agents involved in the search of Corral's vehicle had participated in the seizure of narcotics in the same area less than one month earlier.

After the stop, Officer Brost approached the vehicle and asked the driver to exit the sedan. He asked the driver for title to the car. The defendant replied that the car was not his and he did not know who the owner was. He produced a title, signed and notarized in blank. During this period the defendant appeared very nervous. Officer Brost then asked the driver his name and the driver advised that his name was Victor Corral. Officer Brost then used the keys of the vehicle to open the trunk of the sedan. A search of the trunk revealed over 100 pounds of marijuana. Corral was then arrested by the customs officers.

Corral was indicted for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1). Before trial, Corral moved to suppress any statements made by him at the time of the stop and the marijuana uncovered during the vehicle search. The suppression motion was denied by the district court and following a jury trial Corral was convicted on the marijuana possession charge. Corral was sentenced to a term of three years imprisonment. On condition...

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