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United States v. Barraza-Maldonado

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 11, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Edgar Rafael BARRAZA-MALDONADO, Defendant-Appellant.

Submitted: June 14, 2013.

Page 866

Daniel L. Gerdts, argued, Golden Valley, MN, for appellant.

Jeffrey S. Paulsen, AUSA, argued, Minneapolis, MN, for appellee.

Before LOKEN, BRIGHT, and BYE, Circuit Judges.

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Edgar Barraza-Maldonado entered a conditional plea of guilty to possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute after the district court [1] denied his motion to suppress cocaine and other evidence found after a traffic stop of the borrowed car he was driving. He appeals the suppression ruling, arguing that Arizona agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) violated his Fourth Amendment rights as construed in United States v. Jones, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 945, 181 L.Ed.2d 911 (2012), when they installed a global positioning system (" GPS" ) device and used the device to monitor the car's movements while it traveled from Arizona to Minnesota. Concluding that the agents acted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding Ninth Circuit precedent in installing the device, and binding Supreme Court precedent in using the device to monitor the car's movements on public highways, we affirm.

I.

An informant notified DEA agents in Phoenix that a maroon 2006 Nissan Maxima that could be found in a public parking lot in Phoenix would soon transport drugs from Phoenix to Minneapolis. Agents found the car where the informant said it would be, unattended. To monitor its movements, narcotics detective Brian Heisig, assigned to a DEA task force in Phoenix, attached a GPS device to the car without a search warrant, consistent with then-controlling Ninth Circuit precedent. See United States v. Pineda-Moreno, 591 F.3d 1212, 1215-17 (9th Cir.2010), vacated, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 1533, 182 L.Ed.2d 151 (2012).

Nearly four weeks later, Barraza-Maldonado borrowed the car from its registered owner to drive it from Phoenix to Minneapolis. DEA agents used the GPS device to monitor the car's progress. When the car entered Minnesota, DEA agents alerted the Minnesota State Police to the car's location and reported that it was suspected of transporting illegal narcotics. As the car approached his position, Trooper Scott Schneider observed two traffic violations and made a traffic stop. Neither the driver, Barraza-Maldonado, nor his female passenger had a valid driver's license. Schneider decided the car must be towed. The ensuing conversation with Barraza-Maldonado and the passenger raised Schneider's suspicion of the car and its occupants, and his drug-detecting dog alerted to the presence of narcotics. A thorough search of the car after it was

Page 867

towed to a nearby garage uncovered a large quantity of cocaine in the spare tire compartment.

Barraza-Maldonado moved to suppress the cocaine and other evidence seized following the traffic stop on various grounds, only one of which is at issue on appeal. Relying on Jones, a decision issued the day following his arrest, Barraza-Maldonado argued that surreptitiously installing a GPS device and using the device to monitor the car's movements for a lengthy period constituted a search that violated the Fourth Amendment because conducted without a warrant, and that evidence seized following the traffic stop must be suppressed as the tainted fruit of this unlawful search.

The district court rejected this contention for two distinct reasons: First, there was no violation of the Fourth Amendment as construed in Jones, the court concluded, because Barraza-Maldonado lacked standing to challenge installation of the GPS device at a time when he had no interest in the car, and because using the device to monitor the car's movements along public highways was permissible as he had " no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another." United States v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276, 281, 103 S.Ct. 1081, 75 L.Ed.2d 55 (1983). Second, the court concluded, even if continued use of the device after the car came into Barraza-Maldonado's possession amounted to a continuing trespass that he has standing to challenge under Jones, the evidence ...


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