United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Del Rio Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
R. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
day, the Court considered Defendant Jaime Santibanez's
[hereinafter "Defendant"] "Motion to
Suppress" (ECF No. 28) [hereinafter "Motion"],
filed on June 24, 2019; the Government's "Response
to Defendant's Motion to Suppress" (ECF No. 29)
[hereinafter "Response"], filed on July 8, 2019;
Defendant's "Supplemental Response in Support of
Motion to Suppress" (ECF No. 38) [hereinafter
"Defendant's Supplemental Brief], filed on August
17, 2019; and the Government's "Supplemental Brief
(ECF No. 39), filed on August 19, 2019, in the
above-captioned cause. Defendant argues that the evidence
obtained as the result of an automobile stop should be
excluded because law enforcement lacked the requisite
reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant's vehicle. Mot.
13. After due consideration, the Court is of the opinion that
the Motion should be denied for the following reasons.
early afternoon of May 7, 2019, agents of the United States
Border Patrol [hereinafter "Border Patrol"]
observed Defendant in the parking lot of the Walmart store
located at 496 South Bibb Avenue in Eagle Pass,
Texas. Mot. 2; Resp. 2. The agents had arrived at
the Walmart parking lot while tracking a tan Ford Edge that
they believed was linked to human smuggling operations. Mot.
1-2; Resp. 1-2." Earlier, the agents had identified
approximately four passengers concealing themselves in the
Ford Edge. Mot. 1-2; Resp. 1-2. Upon arriving at the
Walmart parking lot, the agents observed the Ford Edge
approach and park alongside a parked red 2018 Ford F150. Mot.
2; Resp. 2.
Border Patrol agents then saw two Hispanic males exit the
Ford Edge and enter the Ford F150. Resp. 2. The Ford Edge
then left the parking lot. Id. Next, the agents saw
Defendant exit the Ford F150 and approach a white Dodge Ram
parked a few parking spaces away from the Ford F150. Mot. 2;
Resp. 2. The agents observed Defendant have a conversation
with the driver of the Dodge Ram and then return to the Ford
F150 as the Dodge Ram left the Walmart parking
Mot. 2; Resp. 2. Defendant "appeared nervous and was
continuously looking around and over his shoulders."
Resp. 2. Shortly afterward, the agents saw the same Ford Edge
return to the Walmart parking lot and once again park next to
the Ford F150. Mot. 2; Resp. 2. Thereafter, the agents
observed three additional Hispanic males exit the Ford Edge
and enter the Ford F150. Mot. 2; Resp. 2. The agents then saw
Defendant drive the Ford F150 out of the parking lot with the
Hispanic males inside. Mot. 2. At no point did the agents
observe Defendant or the occupants of the Ford Edge and Dodge
Ram enter or exit the Walmart store. Resp. 12-13.
that Defendant and the occupants of the Ford F150 were
engaged in human smuggling, the Border Patrol agents notified
the Eagle Pass Border Patrol Station and Maverick County
Sheriffs Office about what they had observed and requested
that law enforcement officers in the area assist in
conducting traffic and immigration stops on the Ford F150 and
its occupants. Mot. 2; Resp. 2; Homeland Security
Investigations - Report of Investigation 2 [hereinafter
"DHS Report"], June 24, 2019, ECF No. 28-1.
Subsequently, this request was broadcast to law enforcement
officers in the surrounding area. Mot. 2; Resp. 3. After
receiving this request, Maverick County Constable Alejandro
Gonzalez initiated a traffic stop on the Ford F150 at the
2600 block of Del Rio Boulevard in Eagle Pass,
Texas. Mot. 2-3; Resp. 3. During the stop,
Constable Gonzalez identified Defendant as the Ford
Fl5O's driver and discovered six Hispanic male
passengers. Mot. 3; Resp. 3.
after Constable Gonzalez initiated the traffic stop, Border
Patrol agents arrived to conduct an immigration inspection.
Resp. 3; DHS Report 3. The agents discovered that all six
Hispanic male passengers were illegally present in the United
States. Mot. 3; Resp. 3. As a result of this discovery,
Defendant was arrested and transported to the Eagle Pass
Texas Border Patrol South Station. Mot. 3-4; Resp. 3. Once
submitted to questioning, Defendant made a series of
statements to the agents before invoking his right to
counsel. Mot. 4; Resp. 3-4. On June 5, 2019,
Defendant was indicted on two counts: (1) Conspiracy to
Transport Illegal Aliens pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §
1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I) & (B)(i), and (2) Illegal Alien
Transportation pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii)
& (B)(i). Indictment, ECF No. 18.
24, 2019, Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress (ECF No.
28). Therein, Defendant avers that both Constable
Gonzalez's traffic stop, and the Border Patrol
agents' subsequent immigration stop, violated the Fourth
Amendment. Resp. 4. Specifically, according to Defendant, (1)
Constable Gonzalez lacked the requisite reasonable suspicion
to conduct a traffic stop because "Obstruction of
View" is not a traffic offense pursuant to Texas state
law, and (2) the agents' observations in the Walmart
parking lot were insufficient to provide reasonable
suspicion. Id. at 5-7. Based on these alleged Fourth
Amendment violations, Defendant argues that the discovery of
the six illegal immigrants in the Ford F150 and
Defendant's subsequent confession at the Border Patrol
station should be suppressed. Id. at 11.
August 9, 2019, after considering Defendant's Motion and
the Government's Response, the Court sua sponte requested
supplemental briefing. Order Requesting Suppl. Briefing, ECF
No. 37. Therein, the Court requested that the parties respond
to the following two questions:
First, if the Court were to determine that the Border Patrol
agents had the requisite reasonable suspicion to make an
immigration stop after the events in the Walmart parking lot,
would that reasonable suspicion extend to Constable Gonzalez
when he was asked to assist with a traffic stop? Second, if
the Court were to determine that Constable Gonzalez lacked
reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop such that the
exclusionary rule may apply, which evidence, if any, should
be excluded if the Court determines that the Border Patrol
agents had reasonable suspicion to make the subsequent
Id. at 2-3. Both parties filed responses.
See Def.'s Suppl. Br.; Government's Suppl.
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
"[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures." U.S. CONST, amend. IV. "A
person is seized by the police and thus entitled to challenge
the government's action under the Fourth Amendment when
the officer, 'by means of physical force or show of
authority,' terminates or restrains his freedom of
movement 'through means intentionally applied."'
Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 254 (2007)
(emphasis removed) (quoting Florida v. Bostick, 501
U.S. 429, 434 (1991); Brower v. Cnty. of Inyo, 489
U.S. 593, 597 (1989); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19
n.16 (1968)). When determining the constitutionality of a
warrantless temporary seizure, courts apply a two-part
inquiry. Terry, 392 at 19-20. First, a court
determines whether a stop was reasonable "at its
inception." Id. at 20. Second, a court
considers whether the officer's subsequent actions were
"reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that
justified the stop of the vehicle in the first place."
United States v. Macias, 658 F.3d 509, 517 (5th Cir.
2011) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-20).
"[f]or a traffic stop to be justified at its inception,
an officer must have an objectively reasonable suspicion that
some sort of illegal activity, such as a traffic violation,
occurred, or is about to occur, before stopping the
vehicle." United States v. Lopez-Moreno, 420
F.3d 420, 430 (5th Cir. 2005); see also United States v.
Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (citing United
States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989)). Reasonable
suspicion exists when, by the totality of the circumstances,
a "detaining officer has a 'particularized and
objective basis' for suspecting legal wrongdoing."
Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 266 (quoting United States
v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18 (1981)). An officer may
not rely on "a mere hunch," yet "the
likelihood of criminal activity need not rise to the level
required for probable cause, and it falls considerably short
of satisfying a preponderance of the evidence standard."
Id. at 274 (citations omitted).
in the Fifth Circuit apply "a multi-factored analysis in
deciding 'whether there is reasonable suspicion to stop a
car in the border area.'" United States v.
Garza,727 F.3d 436, 440 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Brignoni-Ponce,422 U.S. 873, 885 (1975)). Those
factors, as ...