92 F.3d 1186 (6th Cir. 1996), 95-3406, U.S. v. Rijo

Docket Nº:95-3406.
Citation:92 F.3d 1186
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Elano Cedeno RIJO, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 24, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 1186

92 F.3d 1186 (6th Cir. 1996)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Elano Cedeno RIJO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 95-3406.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 24, 1996

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA6 Rule 28 and FI CTA6 IOP 206 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, No. 94-00308; Paul R. Matia, Judge.

N.D.Ohio

AFFIRMED.

Before: MERRITT, Chief Judge, and WELLFORD and DAUGHTREY, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM.

The defendant, Elano Cedeno Rijo, was convicted of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1), and of interstate travel to promote the distribution of cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1952. He appeals the district court's order denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from his automobile on the night of his arrest. Rijo claims that he was illegally detained by police after being stopped for a traffic violation, and that this illegality vitiated the purportedly voluntary nature of the consent he gave police to search the vehicle. We conclude that Rijo's arrest was not illegal and that he validly consented to the search of his car. We therefore affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At 10:18 p.m. on August 21, 1994, Ohio State Trooper Terrance Helton pulled over the defendant, Elano Cedeno Rijo, after he observed the defendant's vehicle cross over the center line several times. Trooper Helton videotaped the stop, the ensuing investigation, and the search of the automobile with a mounted camera that is activated when the officer uses his overhead lights. The officer first requested the defendant's registration and license. He then began to ask Rijo questions about how long he had been on the road, where he was headed, and whether he was tired, and about his driving record, the identity of the owner of the vehicle, and the name on the title to the car. The officer requested that the defendant step out of the car, again questioned him regarding the documentation for the vehicle, his driver's license, his destination and point of departure, and other matters. The officer then asked Rijo to sit in the back of his cruiser while he investigated further, and the defendant complied. (Rijo remained locked in the vehicle because the door handles in the back of the patrol car were not operational.)

Approximately 20 minutes into the stop, and after determining that the car was not stolen and that Rijo had no outstanding warrants or tickets, the officer stated that he had decided to give Rijo merely a warning. The following conversation ensued: 1

Trooper: Okay, I'm going to have to do some more checking of this as far as the ownership of the vehicle, but as far as the violation I stopped you for ... ah, I'll probably get you going with just a written warning, I'm not going to issue you a ticket or a citation but I do want you to watch your driving, okay if you keep going like that you're going, you're going to be in a crash, ... okay and that is the last thing you want, you were over five times....

Rijo: (Unintelligible)

Trooper: I'm going to give you a warning, a written warning on the violation.

Rijo: All right ...

Trooper: Okay. I'm not going to give you a ticket.

Rijo: (Unintelligible)

Trooper: You don't have to pay anything.

Rijo: (Unintelligible)

Trooper: You don't have to pay anything.

Rijo: (Unintelligible)

Trooper: But I want you to watch it ... okay?

Rijo: All right.

(Radio broadcast)

Trooper: I definitely want you to watch it, I'll get a warning written up here.

Rijo: All right.

Trooper: We'll get you going here as quick as we can ... You say you've been in Houston for about a month? 2

Rijo: Yeah.

Trooper: Okay. 3

(Long pause)

So you may not even go back to Puerto Rico, huh.

(Pause)

I asked you ah, about weapons in your vehicle and you said there was none, ah, there's nothing illegal of any nature in your vehicle, right?

Rijo: Right.

Trooper: Okay ... we have to keep a close eye on things out here any more I'm sure you're aware of that if you do ah lot of traveling ... Do you do quite a bit, with your family living in New York, do you do quite a bit of traveling?

Rijo: Yeah.

Trooper: Okay, there is nothing you said no firearms, no type of narcotics, or anything illegal as far as contraband in your vehicle?

Rijo: No, no you can check it out.

Trooper: Okay ... You said you wouldn't mind if I went and took a look?

Rijo: Huh?

Trooper: You said you wouldn't mind if I took a look in your vehicle?

Rijo: I don't know what you're saying?

Trooper: You said I could look in your vehicle?

Rijo: Yeah.

Trooper: You don't have any objection?

Rijo: No ... you want to check it out, you check it out. 4

Soon after terminating this conversation, Trooper Helton requested and then waited for a backup officer to arrive. The two officers then conducted a search of Rijo's car, during which Helton observed that the top of the air conditioning unit had smudges on it, that the screws had been tampered with, and that the seal had been pried apart. As a result, the officer entered...

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