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7th Circuit: traffic stop constitutional

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A traffic stop in which police found drugs after telling the defendant he was free to go did not violate the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, ruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today.

In U.S.A. v. Fernando Figueroa-Espana, No. 06-4270, Figueroa-Espana challenged the denial of his motion to suppress evidence and his sentence of 176 months for his guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms of cocaine.

An Indiana State trooper stopped Figueroa-Espana March 7, 2006, after seeing him tailgate a car while driving on Interstate 65. During the traffic stop, the police officer spoke in broken Spanish and English to Figueroa-Espana to try to figure out who owned the truck, if he had a valid driver's license, and his destination. Another trooper, who spoke better Spanish, came to the scene. Figueroa-Espana did not have a valid driver's license, did not own the truck he was driving, nor did he know who owned it. Figueroa-Espana told the second trooper he was in the country illegally; both troopers said Figueroa-Espana was acting nervous during the stop.

After issuing him a warning ticket and telling him he was free to go, the troopers decided to ask him some more questions and one honked his police horn, which caused the siren to go off briefly. The second trooper asked Figueroa-Espana if he could search the truck, and Figueroa-Espana consented. The troopers found hidden compartments containing approximately 10 kilograms of cocaine.

Figueroa-Espana was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and admitted to knowingly transporting the drugs. At trial, he filed a motion to suppress the drugs recovered from the search of the truck; the District Court denied his motion. Figueroa-Espana then entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to 176 months in prison and five years' supervised release.

Figueroa-Espana argued that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the search of the truck, so the drugs recovered should not be allowed at trial. The Circuit Court found that his constitutional rights weren't violated because the troopers told Figueroa-Espana he was free to go at any time after he was given the ticket and the activation of the police siren did not indicate a new traffic stop. He was also told he didn't have to allow the troopers to search the truck, but he consented.

Figueroa-Espana did not own the truck he was driving and he had no reasonable expectation of privacy, so he would not have any constitutional protection over the search of the car, wrote Judge William Bauer.

Finally, Figueroa-Espana argued the District Court's sentence was affected by his motion to suppress evidence but, Judge Bauer wrote, the fact he lied repeatedly about who owned the truck impacted his sentence.

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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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