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United States v. Bautista-Meza

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 23, 2014



ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Juvenal Bautista-Meza's ("Defendant") Motion to Suppress (Doc. 14) and Motion to Sever (Doc. 15). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion to Suppress and denies the Motion to Sever.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 2012, the Finney County Sheriff's Department began investigating an individual, then known to them as Ruben Castillo ("Castillo"), for the possession and sale of methamphetamine. During the course of the Department's investigation, at least three confidential informants ("CI") claimed to have seen methamphetamine at Castillo's residence. Law enforcement also learned that Castillo often drove a blue Pontiac Grand Prix, which was registered to Castillo's roommate, Sergio Colunga ("Colunga").

As a result of their investigation, on April 30, 2013, investigators arranged a controlled buy of methamphetamine between a CI and Castillo. The CI made contact with a blue Grand Prix in a parking lot, entered the vehicle, and then subsequently left the scene, having purchased suspected methamphetamine. Law enforcement and the CI positively identified the driver of the vehicle as Castillo. The purchased substance was later confirmed to be 1.24 grams of methamphetamine. Following this controlled buy, law enforcement continued its investigation into Castillo's alleged drug distribution activity.

On September 19, 2013, law enforcement received information that Castillo's real name was Juvenal Bautista ("Bautista"). A records check showed that Juvenal Bautista had prior arrests and convictions for felony offenses in California and had previously been deported. Law enforcement later positively identified Castillo as Juvenal Bautista.

On September 25, 2013, Finney County Sheriff's Corporal Scott Chalmers ("Corporal Chalmers") observed a blue Grand Prix driving down Maple Street in Garden City, Kansas. Corporal Chalmers noted that the window tint of the vehicle appeared to be darker than allowed by state law and initiated a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle identified himself as Ruben Castillo. Having recently learned of the investigation into Castillo's activities and of the recent identification of Castillo as Juvenal Bautista, Corporal Chalmers checked records for Juvenal Bautista and learned that he had a suspended license. Castillo eventually admitted that his real name was Juvenal Bautista and was subsequently asked to exit the vehicle. Corporal Chalmers requested permission to search the vehicle, which Defendant granted. Corporal Chalmers first conducted a dog sniff of the vehicle, which produced no results. He then began to search the interior of the vehicle and uncovered a small empty capped syringe in the center console. He also discovered a hidden hollow compartment in the area normally occupied by the passenger air bag. Inside the compartment was a second empty capped syringe and a loaded Inter Arms.357 Magnum. The vehicle was towed to a law enforcement facility and Defendant was arrested.

As a result of the traffic stop and discovery of the syringes and gun, Sergeant Jeff Steele ("Sergeant Steele"), the officer assigned to the investigation of Defendant, applied for and was granted a search warrant of Defendant's residence. While executing the warrant, officers seized a small bag of methamphetamine found in Defendant's bedroom, as well as digital scales, syringes, ammunition, and other drug paraphernalia. The officers also noticed that the house was equipped with a video surveillance system.

On February 13, 2014, a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging Defendant with: (1) distribution of methamphetamine, [1] (2) being a felon in possession of a firearm, (3) aggravated illegal reentry, and (4) being an alien in possession of a firearm. Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress (Doc. 14) and a Motion to Sever Count I of the indictment (Doc. 15). This Court conducted oral argument on both motions on May 15, 2014.

II. Analysis

Motion to Suppress

Defendant challenges both the traffic stop and the search of his residence, asserting that the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion and the search warrant obtained to search his residence lacked probable cause. Specifically, with regard to the search warrant, Defendant alleges that the information contained in the accompanying affidavit was at least five months old, making the information stale. Defendant also alleges that the warrant's affidavit failed to contain clear statements that Defendant had recently conducted any drug sales or that he had ever conducted drug sales from his home. While this Court does not agree with Defendant's claims regarding the traffic stop, it does agree with his claims concerning the search warrant for his residence.

A. Traffic Stop

In analyzing the constitutionality of a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment, a court must apply the "reasonable suspicion" standard set forth in Terry v. Ohio.[2] This standard applies to a review of the reasonableness of a traffic stop "regardless of whether the stop is based on probable cause or on some lesser suspicion."[3] To justify a Terry stop, the detaining officer must have, based on all the ...

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