United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Victoria Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
D. RAINEY SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Eduardo Salas Antuna (“Defendant”) is charged
with conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to
distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a), and
841(b)(1)(A). Now pending before the Court is Defendant's
motion to suppress (D.E. 16), to which the United States has
responded (D.E. 24). The Court held an evidentiary hearing on
Defendant's motion on March 29, 2017, after which the
Parties filed supplemental briefing (D.E. 29, 30).
Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Natee N. Wong
(“Trooper Wong”) testified that on October 14,
2016, he was on patrol in his marked patrol car on U.S.
Highway 59 in Victoria County near the rest stop northeast of
Victoria. He was stationary on a crossover watching traffic
travel northbound and conducted a traffic stop on Defendant
after observing him driving in the left lane for
approximately one half mile without passing any vehicles, in
violation of the Texas Transportation Code. When he pulled
out behind Defendant, Defendant pulled over into the right
lane. Defendant gripped the steering wheel hard with both
hands, his elbows were locked, and he appeared to be driving
in an uncomfortable and tense position.
entire interaction between Trooper Wong and Defendant was
recorded on Trooper Wong's dash cam, including the
alleged traffic violation. See Gov't Hrg. Ex. 1,
D.E. 27-1. The video shows Trooper Wong approaching the
passenger side of the car. He immediately tells Defendant
that he was stopped because he was driving in the left hand
lane without passing any vehicles, and he asks Defendant for
his license. As Defendant hands Trooper Wong his Mexico
driver's license, he says he only understands a little
bit of English and that he is traveling to Houston to pick up
his grandfather for a party in Monterrey, Mexico. Trooper
Wong looks in the back seat and asks Defendant,
“Drogas?” (drugs), to which Defendant
responds, “No.” Less than a minute into
the stop, Trooper Wong asks Defendant to exit the vehicle and
continues to ask him questions about his destination. Trooper
Wong then points to the trunk and asks if there are
drogas in the trunk; Defendant again says
no. About two minutes into the stop, Trooper Wong
says, “Can I look? Can I search?” and points to
his eyes and then to the trunk. In response, Defendant opens
the trunk. Trooper Wong motions to Defendant to stand on the
grass as he begins to search the vehicle. Trooper Wong then
closes the trunk and returns to his patrol car to conduct an
EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) computer search
to check for border crossings and Defendant's driving and
criminal history. Around four minutes into the stop, while
waiting for the results of the computer check, Trooper Wong
asks Defendant “Puedo buscar? Can I
search?” and points to his eyes and then points to the
vehicle. Defendant responds,
“Si” (yes). Trooper Wong again asks,
“Puedo buscar?” and Defendant again says
“Si.” Trooper Wong searches the
vehicle's trunk, undercarriage, and interior for several
minutes. Around 14 minutes into the stop, Trooper Wong finds
a bundle later determined to be crystal methamphetamine. His
canine, Yaki, then performs a search and finds eight bottles
containing liquid methamphetamine.
was arrested and transported to the Victoria County Jail,
where he was interviewed by DPS Officer Kopacz and Victoria
County Sheriff's Deputy Rigoberto Robles, whom Officer
Kopacz asked to help translate Defendant's interview.
Deputy Robles testified that he read Defendant his
Miranda warnings verbatim from the card offered into
evidence by the Government (Gov't Hrg. Ex. 4, D.E. 27-4);
however, an audio recording of the interview showed this
testimony was incorrect. The relevant portion of the
interview concerning Miranda was translated into
English as follows:
Robles: Okay. You have the right to take off care (sic) and
not make any statements in any way. Some statement that you
make may be used against you in a - in trial. Some statement
you make may be used as evidence against you in court. You
have the right to have an attorney present to advise you
before and during an examination (sic) - examination (sic).
Do you understand what an examination (sic) is?
Defendant: Yes, yes.
R: If you can't employ an attorney, you have the right to
have an attorney designated to advise you before and during
an examination (sic). You have the right to have - to
terminate the interview at caring (sic) moment. You knowing,
intelligent and voluntarily valve (sic) your rights
established (sic) in the foregoing warning (sic). Do you
understand what I told you?
D: Yes, sir.
R: Okay. Are you going to talk? Are you going to talk to us?
R: He agrees. He understands his rights.
Kopacz: Is he going to waive his rights and talk to us ...