United States District Court, S.D. Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
F. MOORER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Grand Jury for the Southern District of Alabama indicted the
defendant, Linda Lancon (“Lancon” or
“Defendant”) on January 31, 2019. The Indictment
charged Lancon with one count of conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and one
count of possession with intent to distribute approximately
30 kilograms of cocaine. See Doc. 25. Pending before
the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Suppress
Statements and Evidence (Doc. 47, filed 2/22/19) and the
Government's Response in Opposition to
Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 51, filed
Court held an evidentiary hearing on May 30, 2019. Based on
the evidence presented to the Court, arguments of the
parties, and for the reasons set forth herein and contained
in the Government's Response, the Defendant's Motion
to Suppress (Doc. 47) is DENIED.
Background and Motion to Suppress
facts of the case are essentially not in dispute as the
encounter was recorded and a copy of the video and audio was
provided to the Court during the suppression hearing. The
crux of the Defendant's argument is that the traffic stop
was unreasonably lengthened beyond the scope of the original
about January 15, 2019, Saraland Police Officer Austin
Sullivan (“Officer Sullivan”) saw a tractor with
no trailer travelling northbound on Interstate 65. The
exterior of the truck was very clean and freshly painted;
however, there was “ghosting” on the side of the
tractor where two letters appeared to have been removed from
the name of the trucking company. Additionally, other
portions of the tractor were rusty from lack of use which
contrasted with the clean and newly painted tractor. As
Officer Sullivan passed the tractor, he observed that there
was no tag displayed on the front of the tractor as required
by Alabama law. Therefore he conducted a traffic stop for the
tag violation. The tractor did not immediately stop, so
Officer Sullivan followed it with his blue lights on until it
finally pulled over.
Sullivan approached the vehicle on the passenger side, but
Defendant Victor Estrada Rodriguez
(“Co-Defendant” or “Estrada”) jumped
out from the driver's side of the truck to the ground to
meet him. Officer Sullivan requested Estrada's license,
registration, and insurance. Estrada had trouble locating the
relevant documents so Officer Sullivan continued to question
him about those documents and explained that he stopped the
vehicle for the tag violation. Ultimately, Estrada produced
paperwork which showed several companies associated with the
vehicle, including one which appeared on the side of the
truck “Silient Trucking” and “Resilent
Trucking.” Further, Estrada produced a document taped
to the windshield of the truck that showed the vehicle
registered “Lucky 5 Trucking.” Additionally,
Officer Sullivan noticed a number of personal items in the
truck including a house plant and a DVD player.
Sullivan and Estrada went to the patrol car where Officer
Sullivan also began checking law enforcement databases on the
vehicle, the companies, and Estrada. Eventually Officer
Sullivan asked Estrada if he could search the truck to which
Estrada agreed. Officer Sullivan also heard back on his
inquiry that a person with the same name was wanted on
criminal charges from another state with full extradition.
Officer Sullivan asked for additional information to see if
Defendant Estrada had the same physical characteristics as
the wanted subject. Though Estrada had denied prior arrests
in their earlier conversion, Officer Sullivan eventually
determined from Estrada that he had been previously arrested.
Officer Sullivan then requested, but never received, a
portable fingerprint device to confirm whether Estrada was
the wanted person.
this time, Lt Culley responded as a back-up officer and
arrived on the scene with his drug detecting dog. Lt Culley
walked his dog around the outside of the truck and the dog
gave a positive indication for the odor of narcotics on both
sides of the truck near the doors. Officer Sullivan
confronted Estrada with the drug dog's positive alert and
Estrada admitted everything in the truck belonged to him. At
this time, Lt Culley and Officer Sullivan conducted a full
search of the truck and found cocaine bundles in a large box
behind the passenger's seat. They advised Estrada of his
Miranda rights and he admitted to his involvement in
the traffic stop lasted a little over one hour. Midway
through the traffic stop, Officer Sullivan asked Lancon to
get out of the truck to sit in a different police vehicle.
She remained there for the rest of the stop.
filed her motion to suppress and alleges the traffic stop was
unreasonably prolonged and therefore ultimately not a
constitutionally valid stop. See Doc. 47 generally.
The Government filed its response on March 4, 2019.
See Doc. 51. The Government argues the traffic stop
was supported by probable cause as the officer witnessed a
traffic infraction for the failure to display a tag. The
Court convened an evidentiary hearing on the matter on May
30, 2019 and heard testimony from Saraland Police Officer
Austin Sullivan. The Court also received several exhibits
including the video from the dashcam and audio.
Law and Discussion A. Standing
well established that for a defendant to move to suppress
evidence, he must have standing. United States v.
Eyster, 948 F.2d 1196, 1208-09 (11th Cir. 1991). A
defendant has the burden of showing standing under the Fourth
Amendment. United States v. Brazel, 102 F.3d 1120,
1147 (11th Cir. 1997). To claim the protection of the Fourth
Amendment, an individual must have a “reasonable
expectation of privacy in the invaded place.” Rakas
v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 143, 99 S.Ct. 421, 58 L.Ed.2d
387 (1978). A defendant's expectation of privacy must be
“personal” and “reasonable, ” and
it must have “a source outside of the Fourth Amendment,
either by reference to concepts of real or personal property
law or to understandings that are recognized and permitted by
society.” Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83,
88, 119 S.Ct. 469, 142 L.Ed.2d 373 (1998) (internal quotation
marks omitted). That said, “[s]tanding does not require
an ownership interest in the invaded area.” United
States v. Hernandez, 647 F.3d 216, 219 (5th Cir. 2011)
(noting that the Supreme Court has recognized that an
overnight guest in a home has a legitimate expectation of
privacy in that home).
individual has standing to challenge a search if “(1)
he has a subjective expectation of privacy, and (2) society
is prepared to recognize that expectation as objectively
reasonable.” United States v. Harris, 526 F.3d
1334, 1338 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v.
Segura-Baltazar, 448 F.3d 1281, 1286 (11th Cir. 2006).
Courts assess on a case-by-case basis the standing of a
particular person to challenge an intrusion by government
officials into an area over which that person lacked primary
control. Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 191
n. 13, 104 S.Ct. 1735, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984). Moreover, the
Eleventh Circuit has held that where a defendant is neither
the owner nor the lessee of the place searched, in order to
contest a search, he must ...