United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
ORDER ON MOTION TO SUPPRESS
GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Juan Antonio Compian's (Compian)
Motion to Suppress (D.E. 18) and the Government's
Response (D.E. 20). Compian asserts that the events leading
up to his arrest and the evidence obtained thereby violated
his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches
and seizures. After an evidentiary hearing on March 31, 2017,
the Court DENIED the motion for the reasons set out below.
December 4, 2016, Border Patrol Agent Joshua Blanton (Agent
Blanton) was patrolling Highway 281 in his marked Border
Patrol unit about eight miles south of the Falfurrias
immigration checkpoint where Highway 281 intersects Farm to
Market Road 755 (FM 755). Human smugglers commonly use FM 755
as a drop-off, where they unload undocumented immigrants so
that the immigrants can circumvent the checkpoint on foot.
This area is more than 50 miles from the border, but because
of its proximity to the checkpoint, Border Patrol agents have
daily encounters with human and drug smugglers.
Blanton was traveling southbound, moving away from the
checkpoint. Meanwhile, Compian was traveling northbound in a
red suburban. Compian's vehicle caught Agent
Blanton's attention because it braked rapidly, causing
the front of the vehicle to nosedive. Compian had his window
down, and when they made eye contact, he covered his face
with his hand and turned away. Agent Blanton became
suspicious so he took a turnaround and followed Compian. He
noticed that Compian's vehicle veered from side to side
within the lane which, based on training, indicated that
Compian was looking at the Agent instead of the road. Compian
then abruptly pulled over to the shoulder. Agent Blanton also
pulled over, stopping about thirty yards behind him. Compian
got out of his vehicle, approached the front driver's
side tire, and kicked and inspected it for 30 to 40 seconds.
He then got back in his vehicle and continued traveling
north. Agent Blanton, who had worked as a manager at Discount
Tire for about ten years before joining Border Patrol, did
not notice any problems with the tire.
Blanton followed Compian and pulled up next to him to check
for passengers, but did not see any. He noticed that Compian
looked straight ahead as if avoiding eye contact. Agent
Blanton did not believe he had sufficient grounds to stop
Compian so he passed him, but kept watch in the rearview
mirror. Compian abruptly switched lanes and took a turnaround
which almost caused a collision with another vehicle. Agent
Blanton decided to initiate a stop so he turned around and
activated his emergency lights. Compian pulled to the side of
the highway and the Agent expected a bailout-passengers
attempting to flee on foot-but no one left the vehicle. He
asked Compian if he was okay and why he had made the abrupt
maneuver. Compian explained that he was having trouble with
his wheel-it was shaking violently and about to fall off.
However, there did not appear to be anything wrong with it.
safety reasons, Agent Blanton asked Compian about his
criminal history. Compian was evasive and the Agent noticed a
change in his body language and voice as well as what looked
like prison tattoos. He asked Compian to step out of the
vehicle so he could frisk for weapons. Compian continued
being evasive, but eventually admitted that he had been to
prison for assault.
Agent Blanton believed he had probable cause to search the
vehicle, he asked Compian for consent to search to keep the
encounter calm and cordial. Compian gave the Agent permission
to search the vehicle. For his safety, Agent Blanton placed
Compian in handcuffs and placed him the back of the unit. He
advised Compian that he was not under arrest and that the
detention would be temporary while he searched the vehicle.
Two undocumented immigrants were then discovered in the
asserts three arguments: (1) the stop was an illegal
detention not supported by a reasonable suspicion; (2) the
stop was unreasonably prolonged; and (3) the search was not
justified by probable cause or voluntary consent. The Court
considers each argument in turn, and concludes that they are
Legality of the Stop
Fourth Amendment permits a Border Patrol agent conducting a
roving patrol to stop a vehicle for purposes of a temporary
investigation ‘if the officer's action is supported
by reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity may
be afoot.'” United States v.
Galvan-Torres, 350 F.3d 456, 457 (5th Cir. 2011)
(quoting United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273
(2002)). Courts must consider “the totality of the
circumstances of each case to see whether the detaining
officer has a particularized and objective basis for
suspecting legal wrongdoing.” Arvizu, 534 U.S.
at 273. Factors that may be considered include:
(1) proximity to the border; (2) characteristics of the area;
(3) usual traffic patterns; (4) agent's previous
experience in detecting illegal activity; (5) behavior of the
driver; (6) particular aspects or characteristics of the
vehicle; (7) information about recent illegal trafficking in
aliens or narcotics in the area; and (8) the number,
appearance, and behavior of the passengers.
United States v. Jacquinot, 258 F.3d 423, 427 (5th
Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Brignoni-Ponce,
422 U.S. 873, 884-85 (1975)). “No single fact is
determinative of the outcome of a reasonable suspicion
analysis.” Galvan-Torres, 350 F.3d at 458
(citing United ...