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United States v. Beltran

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 1, 2018

JUAN BELTRAN (01), Defendant.


          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge.

         On September 15, 2017, Trooper Jarrad Goheen of the Kansas Highway Patrol (“KHP”) stopped defendant Juan Beltran for speeding. Mr. Beltran says Trooper Goheen violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights during their interactions. Specifically, Mr. Beltran first argues that Trooper Goheen unlawfully extended the traffic stop after he gave Mr. Beltran a warning. Then, Mr. Beltran contends, Trooper Goheen unlawfully searched his vehicle. Finally, Mr. Beltran argues that Trooper Goheen violated his Fifth Amendment rights when Trooper Goheen failed to recite Mr. Beltran's Miranda[1] rights before questioning him. So, Mr. Beltran's Motion to Suppress asks the court to suppress: (1) the evidence seized from the vehicle's search; and (2) his statements to Trooper Goheen. For reasons explained in this Order, the court grants Mr. Beltran's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 18) in part and denies it in part.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from the evidence presented at the July 17, July 27, and August 2, 2018, motion hearings.

         Around 8:20 a.m. on September 15, 2017, Trooper Goheen stopped Mr. Beltran for traveling at 68 miles per hour in a 60-mile-per-hour construction zone established on Interstate 70. When Trooper Goheen initiated the traffic stop, Mr. Beltran pulled over on the right shoulder adjacent to the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70. The stop occurred just east of Exit 199. For simplicity, the court divides Trooper Goheen's interactions with Mr. Beltran into the following five encounters.

         The first encounter begins with Trooper Goheen initially approaching the driver's window of Mr. Beltran's car after Trooper Goheen pulled him over. That encounter lasts until the end of Trooper Goheen's conversation with Lieutenant Scott Walker, another member of the KHP, in Trooper Goheen's patrol car while he ran some traffic checks. The second encounter covers the rest of the traffic stop. It begins when Trooper Goheen again approached the driver's window of Mr. Beltran's car after Trooper Goheen ran traffic checks. And it ends when Trooper Goheen began to walk back to his patrol vehicle but pivoted at the rear edge of Mr. Beltran's car and started back toward the driver's window. The third encounter starts when Trooper Goheen returned to Mr. Beltran's car and asked him some additional questions; it ends when Trooper Goheen searched the trunk of Mr. Beltran's car while Lt. Walker secured Mr. Beltran in the passenger seat of Trooper Goheen's patrol car. The fourth encounter covers Trooper Goheen's conversation with Mr. Beltran while he was seated in the front seat of Trooper Goheen's patrol vehicle. That fourth encounter ends when Trooper Goheen decided to drive Mr. Beltran to the KHP's office in Russell, Kansas. And the last encounter encompasses the car ride from the scene of the traffic stop back to the KHP's Russell, Kansas, office. During this fifth encounter, Trooper Goheen was driving his patrol car, and Mr. Beltran was a passenger in it. A video from Trooper Goheen's dash-mounted camera captures the first four encounters. See Gov. Ex. 1.

         Parts A through E, following, describe the court's findings of fact about these five encounters.

         A. First Encounter

         The first encounter began when Trooper Goheen approached the driver's side window of a car he had stopped. He explained to its driver that he was speeding in a construction zone. Then, Trooper Goheen requested the driver to provide his driver's license. It identified the driver as Juan Beltran, the defendant charged in this action. Trooper Goheen asked Mr. Beltran if he was on vacation. Mr. Beltran said that he was, so Trooper Goheen asked where he was headed. Mr. Beltran explained that he was going to Kansas City. Trooper Goheen then asked if Mr. Beltran had family in Kansas City. Mr. Beltran said he did. Trooper Goheen also learned that Mr. Beltran was from California, and that this was his first time visiting Kansas. Trooper Goheen then asked Mr. Beltran whether the car he was driving belonged to him and whether he had his insurance and registration. While Mr. Beltran retrieved these documents from their location inside the car, Trooper Goheen again asked if Mr. Beltran had family in Kansas City. Trooper Goheen specifically asked, “What part of Kansas City?” Gov. Ex. 1 at 3:15-22. Mr. Beltran responded, “the northern part.” Trooper Goheen then learned that Mr. Beltran was traveling from Bell Gardens, California. Trooper Goheen asked how long Mr. Beltran was going to stay in Kansas City. Mr. Beltran responded, “a couple of days.” Trooper Goheen commented that this was a “pretty quick trip.” Id. at 3:30-42. After asking more questions about Mr. Beltran's occupation and “what happened” to Mr. Beltran's windshield, Trooper Goheen informed Mr. Beltran that he was going to issue him a warning.

         Trooper Goheen testified about Mr. Beltran's demeanor during this encounter. He opined that Mr. Beltran appeared “very nervous.” Trooper Goheen based this assessment on his observations that Mr. Beltran's hands were shaking, beads of sweat had formed on his forehead, and he was avoiding eye contact with Trooper Goheen. He also noticed that Mr. Beltran's eyes were watery, and they had bags under them-indicating to the trooper that Mr. Beltran was tired. Trooper Goheen then reviewed the registration and insurance documents. He testified that initially he was suspicious because the car was registered to “Alejandro Beltran”-and not Juan Beltran. But this suspicion was dispelled when he saw that Juan Beltran was the name listed on the insurance documentation. Finally, Trooper Goheen noted that Mr. Beltran didn't react to the news that the Trooper only was issuing a warning instead of a citation. Trooper Goheen testified that he tells people they are receiving a warning and then evaluates whether it reduces their level of nervousness. He said Mr. Beltran's nervousness did not subside. This encounter ended with Trooper Goheen returning to his patrol car.

         Once he returned to his patrol vehicle, he ran some traffic checks. Specifically, he checked with his dispatcher about Mr. Beltran's driver's license, registration, and criminal history. While Trooper Goheen waited for the dispatcher to respond, he also checked the License Plate Reader (“LPR”) for Mr. Beltran's license plate. According to Trooper Goheen, the LPR takes pictures of license plates as cars pass through toll booths along the Kansas Turnpike. The LPR showed that Mr. Beltran's vehicle had been in Kansas on June 28, 2017-about three months earlier.

         While Trooper Goheen conducted these checks, Lieutenant Scott Walker, also a member of the KHP, arrived on the scene. He joined Trooper Goheen in the passenger seat of his patrol car. Trooper Goheen and Lt. Walker discussed Mr. Beltran having said he had not been to Kansas before, but the LPR showed that his car had been in Kansas in June 2017. Trooper Goheen commented that “it” was “kinda weird, ” and said Mr. Beltran was “nervous.” Id. at 10:07-10. They then discussed the date of Mr. Beltran's registration-it was issued on June 23, 2017. This was just five days before the LPR showed the car in Kansas. Lt. Walker asked Trooper Goheen about Mr. Beltran's travel plans, and Trooper Goheen explained that Mr. Beltran had told him he was going to Kansas City to visit family, but Mr. Beltran “doesn't know where” in Kansas City. Id. at 10:30-38. Trooper Goheen further explained the extent of Mr. Beltran's knowledge about his destination-“Just Kansas City-[he] doesn't know the address or anything.” Id. at 10:36-40.

         B. Second Encounter

         Trooper Goheen's second encounter with Mr. Beltran lasted just 24 seconds. See Id. at 11:40-12:04. Trooper Goheen again approached the driver's side window of Mr. Beltran's car. He told Mr. Beltran that he was going to give him a warning and instructed him to watch his speed in construction zones. He asked Mr. Beltran if he had any questions-Mr. Beltran said he didn't-and then Trooper Goheen told Mr. Beltran to “have a safe trip.” Id. at 12:00-04. Then, Trooper Goheen began to walk back to his patrol vehicle. But when Trooper Goheen reached the rear edge of Mr. Beltran's vehicle, he pivoted and started back in the direction of the driver's side window of Mr. Beltran's car.

         C. Third Encounter

         As Trooper Goheen turned back toward Mr. Beltran's car, he asked him, “Hey, can I ask you a question, Juan?” Id. at 12:05-07. Although the dash camera video does not capture Mr. Beltran's response, Trooper Goheen testified that Mr. Beltran responded verbally with “yeah” or “yes.” Trooper Goheen then confirmed that Mr. Beltran was going to stay in Kansas City merely for the weekend and again inquired about his occupation. Next, Trooper Goheen asked about when Mr. Beltran planned to return to California. While the wind's interference on Trooper Goheen's microphone makes it difficult to hear the entirety of Mr. Beltran's response, Mr. Beltran said, in part, “maybe Sunday, ” and then he said something about “Saturday night.” Id. at 12:26-34. Trooper Goheen testified at the July 17, 2018, hearing that Mr. Beltran told him he planned to leave Kansas City on Saturday. Trooper Goheen also asked Mr. Beltran about his family. Then, Trooper Goheen again asked if this trip was Mr. Beltran's first trip to Kansas. Mr. Beltran said it was, so Trooper Goheen asked if anyone else ever had driven his car to Kansas. Mr. Beltran responded, “No.” Id. at 12:48-13:06.

         Trooper Goheen then asked why Mr. Beltran was staying in Kansas City for such a short amount of time. Trooper Goheen confirmed, again, that Mr. Beltran was leaving on Saturday night. Next, Trooper Goheen asked Mr. Beltran if he had any guns, drugs, or large amounts of currency in the car. Mr. Beltran said no. Trooper Goheen then asked Mr. Beltran if he could search the car. Mr. Beltran said no. Finally, Trooper Goheen inquired why Mr. Beltran was so nervous, and then asked him if everything was okay.

         Trooper Goheen then directed Mr. Beltran to get out of his car, and Trooper Goheen walked Mr. Beltran to the rear of the car. Trooper Goheen patted him down and informed him that Lt. Walker was going to employ a police K-9. This news upset Mr. Beltran, who explained that he had had bad experiences with cops.

         1. Dog Sniff

         Lt. Walker then deployed his police canine, Zeke. Lt. Walker is assigned to the KHP's Police Service Dog Unit, and he has served as a KHP canine handler since 2009. Zeke is a KHP patrol canine whom Lt. Walker trained and handled. Lt. Walker, in addition to his patrol duties, trains canines to detect controlled substances (and to perform other law enforcement functions) for the KHP. Before Zeke's initial deployment as a patrol canine, Lt. Walker and Zeke participated together in a ten-week training regimen. The program was designed to train Zeke to function as a narcotics detection and patrol-certified dog. Zeke graduated from this training program in May 2015, and, after graduation, Zeke was certified in narcotics detection and patrol duties.

         In addition to Zeke's initial training, Lt. Walker conducts weekly “maintenance” trainings designed to keep Zeke's detection and patrol abilities honed. Also, as part of Zeke's training and maintenance, Zeke is certified annually. Annual certification involves Zeke participating in scenarios designed to test his ability to detect the presence of controlled substances reliably. The KHP trains and maintains all their police canines “in-house, ” and it relies on non-KHP personnel to test and certify their canines. As relevant here, Overland Park Police Department Officer Cory Flaming certified Zeke on October 3, 2016. Zeke was due for recertification on October 3, 2017.

         During their October 3, 2016, certification test, Lt. Walker and Zeke received an overall team score of 2.18. Gov. Ex. 3. This was a passing score and fell in the “commendable” score range.[2] Lt. Walker testified that Zeke never has received a score lower than a four. And, during the October 3, 2016, certification, Zeke did not identify and locate the source of any substance other than contraband, i.e., he had no false positives.

         During Mr. Beltran's stop, Lt. Walker directed Zeke to begin sniffing counterclockwise along the passenger side of the car. Zeke deviated from his normal sniffing pattern and began intensely sniffing along the seam on the driver's side of the trunk and moving toward the passenger side of the trunk seam. Lt. Walker reported that Zeke's sniffing was intense and focused on the car's trunk seam. Lt. Walker testified that this behavior constituted an “alert.” To Lt. Walker, Zeke's behavior suggested that he had detected an odor of controlled substances, but not the strongest source of that odor. Lt. Walker then directed Zeke to sniff at a medium height around Mr. Beltran's car. When they arrived back at the rear of the car again, Zeke began sniffing the trunk seam methodically. According to Lt. Walker, Zeke then began to sit down-a response that Lt. Walker interpreted as an “indication.” Indicating is a behavior that demonstrates Zeke has located the strongest source of the odor.

         2. Car Search

         Lt. Walker then informed Trooper Goheen that Zeke had indicated drugs were in the trunk of Mr. Beltran's car. While Lt. Walker stood at the front of Mr. Beltran's car with Mr. Beltran, Trooper Goheen began searching the trunk. Shortly after initiating his search, Lt. Walker called Trooper Goheen to assist him. Lt. Walker explained his request, testifying that Mr. Beltran had become uncooperative. Lt. Walker testified Mr. Beltran was acting as though he wasn't paying full attention to Lt. Walker's directions. Specifically, Lt. Walker said that he saw behavior indicating that Mr. Beltran was thinking about whether to fight or flee from the scene. At this point, Lt. Walker requested Trooper Goheen's help. Together, they handcuffed Mr. Beltran, and Lt. Walker escorted him to the hood of Trooper Goheen's patrol car. Lt. Walker testified that Mr. Beltran still was not compliant. While Mr. Beltran did not resist Lt. Walker's instructions overtly, he continued to pull away from Lt. Walker.

         Trooper Goheen then resumed his search of the car's trunk. He quickly found a package of something he believed was methamphetamine. It was located inside a duffel bag in the trunk. Trooper Goheen searched the duffel bag while Lt. Walker secured Mr. Beltran in the passenger seat of Trooper Goheen's patrol vehicle.

         D. Fourth Encounter

         Trooper Goheen then walked to where Mr. Beltran was seated and began talking to him. He told Mr. Beltran to relax and not to make things worse. Gov. Ex. 1 at 19:29-55. Trooper Goheen told Mr. Beltran that they could “work through it together.” Id. Mr. Beltran responded by asking how, and Trooper Goheen responded, “We'll discuss that.” Id. at 19:59-20:09.

         Next, Trooper Goheen closed the door of the car where Mr. Beltran was sitting, but the door did not latch. Trooper Goheen then began talking with Lt. Walker outside the patrol car. They discussed how to get Mr. Beltran's car back to the KHP office. Within ten seconds of Trooper Goheen closing the door, Mr. Beltran nudged it open with his leg and said, “Yo, come here.” Mr. Beltran then said, “I'll tell you where everything's at.” Trooper Goheen responded, “What's that?” Mr. Beltran repeated, “I'll tell you where everything's at.” Id. at 20:26-33.

         Trooper Goheen responded, “Okay, all right, I appreciate that.” Trooper Goheen then made the following statement to Mr. Beltran: “Let me tell you something, I don't know if he explained something to you. You can . . . you can do one of two things, okay, you can . . . you can calm down, and we can talk about this, and you can help yourself out, okay, and I can help you.” Mr. Beltran responded by asking Trooper Goheen, “How are you going to help me?” Trooper Goheen responded, “On these charges.” Trooper Goheen then asked Mr. Beltran if there was any “more” in the car. Mr. Beltran nodded his head affirmatively and said, “On the left side.” Then, Mr. Beltran yelled “left side” multiple times. Id. at 20:24-21:40.

         Trooper Goheen testified that the officers found several more packages of methamphetamine under the carpet of the trunk on the left side. He explained that the packages were easy to find because they were in a place where officers commonly search.

         Trooper Goheen and Lt. Walker then discussed the logistics of transporting Mr. Beltran and his vehicle to the KHP office. Trooper Goheen decided to use his patrol car to transport Mr. Beltran to the KHP's office in Russell, Kansas.

         E. Fifth Encounter

         During this transit, Trooper Goheen testified that he informed Mr. Beltran of his Miranda rights. He also testified that Mr. Beltran confirmed that he understood his rights. At some point during the trip, Mr. Beltran told Trooper Goheen that he had dropped a methamphetamine pipe on the floor of the patrol vehicle. Mr. Beltran also told Trooper Goheen that he had methamphetamine in his sock. Trooper Goheen later recovered about eight grams of methamphetamine from Mr. Beltran's sock.

         The government says law enforcement officers recovered 11 packages from the duffel bag found in the trunk of Mr. Beltran's car. They found seven more packages inside the trunk lining on the driver's side of the vehicle. All packages were wrapped in black duct tape, and some had “M-36” labeled on them. A field test was done on one of the packages, and it tested positive for methamphetamine. The gross weight of the packages was estimated at 23 pounds.

         II. Request to Suppress Evidence

         Mr. Beltran now asks the court to suppress all evidence acquired during the search of his car. He also moves to suppress the statements he made to Trooper Goheen.

         A. Fourth Amendment Standard

         The Fourth Amendment[3] to our Constitution forbids unreasonable searches and seizures. California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390 (1985). When a defendant challenges the reasonableness of a search or seizure, the government bears the burden to prove the reasonableness of that search or seizure by the preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 (1974); United States v. Zubia-Melendez, 263 F.3d 1155, 1160 (10th Cir. 2001). If the court determines that a search or seizure violated the Constitution, the exclusionary rule prohibits admission into evidence the fruits of all evidence seized illegally. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 487-88 (1963).

         B. Analysis

         Mr. Beltran argues that: (a) Trooper Goheen did not have the requisite probable cause to detain him-as he did during the third encounter-because the third encounter was not consensual; (b) the dog sniff did not provide probable cause to search his car; and (c) the court should suppress his statements to Trooper Goheen and evidence that officers found as a result because the questioning violated his Fifth Amendment rights. Doc. 19 at 4. The court also addresses other relevant issues-albeit briefly, since Mr. Beltran's motion did not raise those issues.

         Ultimately, the court concludes that the third encounter was a consensual encounter. During this consensual encounter, Trooper Goheen developed reasonable suspicion to detain Mr. Beltran long enough for a dog sniff. The dog sniff provided the law enforcement officers with probable cause to search Mr. Beltran's vehicle. In contrast, the court determines that it must suppress some of Mr. Beltran's statements-i.e., those he made during the fourth encounter. Finally, the court concludes that it should not suppress the statements Mr. Beltran ...

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