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United States v. Delgado-Lopez

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 28, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTIAN DELGADO-LOPEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter came before the court on November 19, 2018, for an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 14.) The motion has been fully briefed and the court is prepared to rule. (Docs. 24, 25.) For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

         I. Facts

         In the early evening of Sunday, June 3, 2018, Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper James Cody Parr was patrolling on U.S. Highway 54 in Meade County, Kansas. Parr, who was westbound on the two-lane highway, passed by a white pickup truck traveling east. The truck was driven by Defendant Christian Delgado-Lopez. In his review mirror, Parr saw the truck's tires cross the center line of the highway for about two seconds. Parr turned around, pursued the pickup, and conducted a traffic stop. The truck, a newer model Ford F-150 with a California license plate, pulled over on the shoulder.

         Parr approached the passenger side of the truck and explained to Defendant and his passenger that he made the stop because he saw the truck cross the center line and wanted to make sure the driver was not impaired, texting, or falling asleep. Defendant assured him that was not the case. Parr requested Defendant's license, which he produced with some difficulty, as his hands were shaking. Parr noted the license was from California and asked Defendant and his passenger, Brandon Wade, what brought them to Kansas. Defendant said they were on their way to Wichita, to which Parr asked whether it was business or vacation. Defendant and Wade both answered “vacation.” Parr laughed and said, “no way.” Parr could see that Wade was visibly sweating. Parr told Defendant to come back to the patrol car while he checked his information. Defendant got out of the truck, shook hands with Parr (who introduced himself), and got in the front passenger seat of the patrol car. Parr had not yet called in information on the truck because there had been radio traffic as he was making the initial stop.

         Parr began entering information on a laptop that allowed him to check on Defendant's driver's license and determine if he had any outstanding warrants. As he did so, the two men conversed. Parr asked about Dana Point, California, Defendant's hometown. He also asked Defendant what he was going to do in Wichita, to which Defendant said he was going to visit family with his friend Brandon. Parr asked who had family in Wichita. Defendant said Brandon did, but that he (Defendant) did not. Parr also asked Defendant if he owned the pickup; Defendant said it was a rental. Parr asked who rented it, to which Defendant said Brandon did but they were both on the agreement. Parr asked what family Brandon had in Wichita and whether he grew up there. Defendant indicated his friend did not grow up in Wichita and that he was “pretty sure it's probably like an aunt or an uncle.” Parr asked how long they were going to stay; Defendant said just a couple of days. Parr looked up Dana Point on his computer as the two talked. Defendant indicated that he and Wade grew up together.

         Parr went to the passenger window of the truck to get the rental agreement from Wade. Wade produced a copy of the agreement on his phone. His hands were trembling as he did so. Wade said he had rented the truck and that Defendant was also listed on the agreement. When Parr noted that not many people came to Wichita for vacation, Wade said they were just “going to check it out.” Parr asked if Wade had family or friends there; Wade said no. Parr examined the agreement and noted the truck had been rented the day before (June 2) and was due back in California on June 5.

         Parr returned to the patrol car and asked Defendant what day the pickup was due back. Defendant indicated it was two days later, on Tuesday. When Parr observed that it would take two days just to get there, Defendant said they would probably call in and get an extension. Parr radioed in the license plate information on the truck. He received a report back indicating the license and registration were valid. Parr asked if there were any firearms in the truck; Defendant said there were not. Parr began typing up a “digi-ticket” warning citation before radioing in a request for a “Triple I” criminal history check on Defendant.

         Parr returned to the pickup again and asked Wade if he could check his I.D. since he was on the rental agreement. Wade said “of course” and produced his driver's license. Parr returned to the car and asked Defendant if they had hotel reservations. Defendant said yes, but when Parr asked where, Defendant said they would figure that out when they got there and they were “just going to go with his [Wade's] family.” Parr received a dispatch indicating Defendant's license was valid and he had no criminal history. In response, Parr asked for a Triple I criminal history check on Wade. Parr finished typing in the information for a warning citation and printed out the ticket.

         Parr said he was waiting on a return report from dispatch as he handed Defendant his license, the warning ticket, and Wade's license. Parr said “you are free to go, ” but asked if he could ask Defendant a few more questions “before you take off.” Without hesitation Defendant said, “Sure.” Parr asked whether he had anything illegal in the pickup; Defendant said no. At that point Parr received the dispatch report stating that Wade had no criminal history other than a 2010 DUI.

         Parr again told Defendant he was free to go, before asking whether there was any marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin in the truck. Defendant responded no to each of these questions. Parr then asked, “May I search the pickup?” to which Defendant immediately said, “Yes, if you want.” Parr said, “It would be alright?” Defendant again replied without hesitation in a positive tone, “Yeah.” Parr told Defendant to “hang out here for a second” as he got out of the patrol car and began a search.

         Parr went back to the truck and told Wade that his and Defendant's “stories don't match” and that Defendant gave him permission to search the truck. He asked Wade to wait out in front of the truck as he searched, to which Wade responded, “of course, ” and got out of the truck. Parr then engaged in an extensive search of the truck, including through the luggage, behind the seats, through the bed, and in various crevices. About fifteen minutes into the search, another officer arrived and assisted by watching Wade. Parr retrieved various tools from the patrol car, including a screw driver, which he used to remove and replace some paneling on the tailgate or bed area. After about twenty-five minutes of searching, Parr examined a spare tire that was attached under the bed of the pickup. He eventually located a large quantity of methamphetamine hidden in the spare tire.[1] Defendant made no objection and never attempted to revoke his consent, despite the fact that Parr returned to the patrol car several times to retrieve some tools.

         II. Motion to Suppress

         Defendant's motion to suppress argues that Trooper Parr unnecessarily and unreasonably prolonged the traffic stop by asking questions unrelated to the stop. (Doc. 14 at 6.) He argues Parr had no objective reason for asking about or looking up information on Dana Point, California, or for investigating Wade's criminal history. (Id. at 8-9.) Defendant also argues that his consent for the search was not freely and voluntarily given. He contends a reasonable person in his position would not have felt free to disregard ...


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