United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V, EAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is defendant Julian Trujillo Morales's
motion to suppress evidence (Dkt. # 31). Defendant is charged
by indictment with drug conspiracy in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii) (count one), and
possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
841(b)(1)(A)(viii) (count two). Dkt. # 23. Defendant moves to
suppress approximately four (4) kilograms of methamphetamine
recovered by Pryor Police Department (PPD) officers in
connection with a traffic stop conducted on March 9, 2019.
Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion to
suppress (Dkt. # 34), and attached as an exhibit to the
response a compact disc (CD) containing officer body-cam
footage (Dkt. # 35). A pretrial conference/suppression
hearing was held on May 28, 2019, at which PPD Officer
Mitchell Phillips testified. See Dkt. # 45. Pursuant
to the Court's request during the hearing, the parties
filed notices of supplemental authority (Dkt. ## 46, 47).
Phillips's testimony as to the events of the early
morning of March 9, 2019 is summarized below and, where
appropriate, is supplemented by reference to the body-cam
footage. See Dkt. # 35.
approximately 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 9, 2019, Phillips
observed a silver Toyota RAV-4 SUV, with a Texas paper tag,
traveling northbound on Route 69 in Pryor, Oklahoma, and
operating fog lights in violation of Oklahoma state law.
Phillips signaled for the driver of the Toyota to pull over,
and proceeded to conduct a traffic stop in the parking lot of
a business located at 715 North Mill Street, Pryor, Oklahoma.
Phillips was accompanied by Pryor Police Reserve Officer
Steven Dill. Phillips approached the Toyota from the
passenger side, and asked the driver and passenger for their
licenses and proof of insurance. The driver and the passenger
provided their licenses to Phillips. The driver of the
vehicle was identified as defendant Morales, and the
passenger was identified as Victor Ybarra Robles,
Robles looked for the proof of insurance, but he was unable
to find it. Phillips suggested that he might be able to find
the vehicle's proof of insurance using his cruiser's
in-car computer system.
asked defendant to exit the Toyota. While waiting for
defendant to exit the Toyota, Phillips shined a flashlight
onto the exterior of the Toyota to see what was in plain view
through the windows. Phillips performed a brief pat-down of
defendant and then placed him into the passenger seat of the
patrol car. Phillips testified that defendant showed signs of
nervousness when he first entered the patrol car.
Specifically, defendant was breathing heavily and his carotid
artery was pulsating rapidly. Phillips testified that
motorists are generally nervous to some degree when he stops
them, but they are usually not as nervous as defendant seemed
the patrol car, Phillips asked defendant where he and his
passenger were headed, and defendant responded that they were
headed to work. Phillips asked defendant where they work,
what they do, and how long they would be there. Defendant
explained that they were going to Springfield, Missouri, that
they own a company that cleans Walmarts, and that he was
“thinking it'll maybe take ten hours” to
clean the Walmart in Springfield. Phillips then asked where
he and his passenger were coming from, and defendant stated
that they were coming from Dallas, Texas.
then turned the conversation to defendant's criminal
history. Phillips asked defendant whether he had ever been in
trouble and, if so, for what. Defendant responded that he had
been in trouble for “possession” and for
“automotive burglary.” Phillips asked defendant
what he had possessed, and how much of it he had possessed.
Defendant responded that he had possessed approximately 116
kilograms of marijuana. Phillips asked defendant where he was
arrested for possession, and defendant stated that he was
arrested in El Paso, Texas. Phillips asked defendant when he
had last crossed the border, and defendant stated that he has
not crossed the border.
four minutes into the traffic stop, Phillips asked defendant
for the name of the passenger. Defendant responded, “I
just know him by Vic.” Phillips asked defendant how
long he has known “Vic.” Defendant responded that
he had started working for him approximately one-and-a-half
to two years prior. Phillips asked who owned the Toyota, and
defendant responded that he did not know, and that he was
just helping to drive.
testified that, at this point, which was approximately four
minutes and thirty seconds into the traffic stop, he had
acquired reasonable suspicion of drug trafficking. Further,
Phillips testified that, based on his training, once an
officer has reasonable suspicion, the officer's options
are to ask for consent to search the vehicle or to request a
drug detection canine. In response to the Court's
questioning, Phillips testified that he could not request a
drug detection canine because there would not have been one
available at that time. Moreover, Phillips testified that he
did not ask for consent to search at that time, because he
had not yet completed the traffic stop. Phillips testified
that he wanted to complete the traffic stop, so that he could
then address the possible criminal activity.
asked defendant how big the Walmart in Springfield is, and
defendant responded that it was his first time going to
Springfield. Phillips asked which Walmarts defendant usually
cleans. Defendant explained that “it is regional, so it
could be Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico.”
Phillips returned to the topic of defendant's criminal
history. Phillips asked, “What else have you been in
trouble for?” Defendant responded, “That's
it.” Phillips asked defendant whether he served time in
prison, how much time, and whether he was in state or federal
prison. Phillips then asked defendant, once again, for
specific details about his possession conviction, such as how
many kilograms he had possessed at the time of his arrest,
whether he had possessed them in a tractor trailer or car,
and whether the crime was related to a drug conspiracy.
Phillips then asked whether defendant had anything illegal in
the Toyota, and defendant responded that he did not.
asked defendant how well he knows the passenger, and
defendant again stated that they work together. Phillips
asked for which company he works, and defendant stated that
it is the passenger's company, and that it is called
“Victor Robles, Incorporated.” Phillips then
asked defendant for how long they would be in Springfield,
and defendant responded, “Approximately a day, but you
never know.” Phillips asked defendant how many workers
they have, where they were, and what their tasks are.
Defendant explained that, other than himself, there are two
more people. Approximately nine minutes into the stop,
defendant asked Phillips, “So fog lights are illegal
here?” Phillips briefly explained that they are illegal
whenever you are in traffic and there is not inclement
weather. Phillips then exited the patrol car.
the entirety of his conversation with defendant, which lasted
approximately six minutes (from about minute three to minute
nine of the traffic stop), Phillips was simultaneously using
his in-car computer system, the Oklahoma Law Enforcement
Telecommunication System (OLETS), to run the tag number, to
find the vehicle identification number, to determine the name
of the vehicle's buyer, and to run defendant's and
Robles's drivers licenses. Phillips found that the tag
was valid, that the vehicle is registered to Yolanda Robles,
and that defendant had a valid driver's license and no
warrants. Phillips was not able to pull up the vehicle's
insurance information using OLETS.
response to the Court's questioning, Phillips confirmed
that, by the time he exited the patrol car at the end of his
conversation with defendant (about minute nine of the stop),
he believed his only option with respect to his reasonable
suspicion of drug trafficking was to ask for consent to
search. As a matter of fact, he did not ask for consent to
search until about 32 minutes into the traffic stop.
nine minutes into the traffic stop, after speaking to
defendant in the patrol car, Phillips approached the Toyota
to speak to Robles. Phillips asked Robles where they were
headed and for what. Robles responded that they were headed
to Joplin, Missouri to clean Walmarts. Phillips asked how
long they would be there, and Robles responded “until
Sunday, maybe before Sunday.”
then asked Robles whether the Toyota is his vehicle, and
Robles responded that it is his wife's vehicle. Phillips
asked Robles how long they have had the car. Robles responded
that they have had the Toyota for a while, but explained that
it was his mother-in-law's car, and that she passed away
and so it was transferred into his wife's name.
then began to ask Robles about his criminal history. Phillips
asked Robles whether he had ever been in trouble, and for
what. Robles responded that he had been in trouble for
dealing drugs. Phillips asked Robles for specific details
about his prior drug charges, such as whether he was charged
with drug trafficking, with which drugs he was caught,
whether it was a conspiracy case, the amount of drugs
charged, and whether he served any prison time.
asked Robles where they were coming from, and Robles
responded that they were coming from Dallas. Phillips once
again asked Robles how long they would be in Joplin. Robles
responded that it depended, but maybe until Sunday. Phillips
then asked Robles for details as to what they do, and who
owns the company. Robles stated that they strip and wax
floors for Walmart and that he owns the company. Phillips
asked for the name of the company, and Robles responded that
it is “V and Y Cleaning Services.” Phillips then
asked for the name of the driver of the Toyota, and Robles
responded that his name is Julian. Phillips asked Robles how
long he has known Julian, and Robles responded that he has
known him for about two years. Phillips asked how long Julian
has been working for him, and Robles responded about three or
four months. Phillips asked Robles how long it takes to clean
a Walmart. Robles responded ...