United States v. Pacheco, 043021 FED8, 20-1392

Docket Nº20-1392
Opinion JudgeGRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Party NameUnited States of America, Plaintiff- Appellee v. Reymundo Yanez Pacheco, Defendant-Appellant
Judge PanelBefore GRUENDER, BENTON, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Case DateApril 30, 2021
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

United States of America, Plaintiff- Appellee

v.

Reymundo Yanez Pacheco, Defendant-Appellant

No. 20-1392

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 30, 2021

Submitted: January 15, 2021.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines.

Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

After pulling over Reymundo Yanez Pacheco ("Yanez") for traffic violations, Cass County Deputy Sheriff Tyler Shiels extended the traffic stop to perform a canine drug sniff. He then conducted a warrantless search of Yanez's trunk, finding roughly forty pounds of methamphetamine. Yanez moved to suppress evidence from that search, arguing that the decisions to extend the traffic stop and to search the trunk were unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The district court1 denied Yanez's motion. We affirm.

I.

On April 9, 2019, after seeing Yanez exceed the speed limit and drift across lanes, Deputy Shiels pulled Yanez over. As Deputy Shiels approached Yanez's vehicle, he noticed that it contained food as well as a case of soda and "looked extremely lived in," which indicated to Deputy Shiels that Yanez was traveling without taking many breaks. Deputy Shiels briefly spoke with Yanez, learning that Yanez was driving a rental vehicle from California. Deputy Shiels also viewed the rental agreement. Deputy Shiels then told Yanez that he was only going to issue a warning and asked Yanez to follow him to his patrol vehicle.

Yanez complied and the two sat in the front of Deputy Shiels's patrol vehicle as Deputy Shiels prepared the warning. While inside, Deputy Shiels saw that Yanez "appeared very nervous" and "uneasy," that he was avoiding eye contact, and that his stomach was visibly "fluttering." As they talked, it seemed to Deputy Shiels that Yanez was trying to control the conversation and asking him "very unusual questions," which, in his experience, was common of people engaged in criminal activity. When Deputy Shiels asked Yanez where he was traveling, Yanez responded "Iowa" even though they were already in Iowa. And when Deputy Shiels asked for a more specific location, Yanez struggled to remember the name of the town. Yanez also indicated that he would be visiting friends in Iowa for four or five days. But Deputy Shiels believed that the rental agreement's term was too short to account for the duration of Yanez's described trip. This struck Deputy Shiels as odd because it suggested that Yanez would drive the rental vehicle from California to Iowa and then fly back to California, which, in his experience, was "very expensive and . . . just not oftentimes reasonable for people to do."

Deputy Shiels issued a warning to Yanez but then asked Yanez to wait in the patrol vehicle so that Deputy Shiels could have his canine conduct a drug sniff of Yanez's vehicle. After walking his canine around Yanez's vehicle, Deputy Shiels returned to the patrol vehicle and asked for Yanez's consent to search the back seat of Yanez's vehicle, which Yanez provided.2 While searching the back seat, Deputy Shiels noticed a spare tire sitting on the floor. When asked why the spare tire was there, Yanez indicated that the rental company had changed the spare tire but then put it in the back seat. Deputy Shiels found this "very bizarre" because rental vehicles are typically "in very good condition" with spare tires in the correct locations. Further, from his experience, Deputy Shiels knew that drug traffickers often transported narcotics in the spare-tire compartment. Deputy Shiels also asked Yanez where his luggage was, and Yanez indicated it was in a backpack in the back seat. In searching the backpack, Deputy Shiels saw "a very minimal amount of clothing," which he considered "not consistent with long travel." When asked why he had not packed more clothes, Yanez said he was planning on purchasing clothes in Iowa.

Deputy Shiels then decided to search the spare-tire compartment in the trunk. Inside that compartment, he found two large plastic bags containing around forty pounds of methamphetamine.

A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Yanez on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846. Yanez moved to suppress the methamphetamine seized from his vehicle, arguing that both the extended traffic stop and the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Deputy Shiels had reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop and probable cause to search the trunk.

Yanez conditionally pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, preserving his right to appeal the suppression denial. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2). The district court sentenced Yanez to 96 months' imprisonment and 3 years' supervised release. Yanez appeals the suppression order.

II.

"In reviewing a denial of a motion to suppress, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error, giving due weight to the inferences police drew from those facts. We review de novo the district court's legal conclusion that reasonable suspicion or probable cause existed." United States v. Smith, 648 F.3d 654, 658 (8th Cir. 2011) (brackets, internal quotation marks, and citations omitted).

Yanez challenges the district court's suppression denial on two grounds. First, Yanez argues that Deputy Shiels lacked reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop. Second, Yanez argues that Deputy Shiels lacked probable cause to search the spare-tire compartment in the trunk. Yanez does not contest that Deputy Shiels was permitted to pull him over in the first place or that he consented to Deputy Shiels's search of the back seat.

A.

We first consider Deputy Shiels's decision to extend the traffic stop so his canine could conduct a drug sniff. Under the Fourth Amendment, an officer may not extend a traffic stop longer than "the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made" unless he has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 350, 358 (2015). Reasonable suspicion requires an officer to have "a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing based upon his own experience and specialized training." United States v. Jones, 606 F.3d 964, 956-66 (8th Cir. 2010) (brackets omitted). Although a mere hunch is insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion, "the likelihood of criminal activity need not rise to the level required for probable cause, and it falls considerably short of satisfying a preponderance of the evidence standard." United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 274 (2002). In determining whether an officer had reasonable suspicion, we consider the totality of the circumstances. Id. at 273.

Considering the totality of the circumstances, Deputy Shiels had reasonable suspicion of...

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