Stop and search of vehicle was proper


Felipe De Jesus Gutierrez conditionally pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (defining principals), reserving his right to contest the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. He challenges the district court’s denial at the end of an evidentiary hearing of his motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle and his post-arrest confession. The 5th affirmed. (no other facts provided)


A. Vehicle stop

First, Gutierrez challenges the court’s finding reasonable suspicion justified the stop of his vehicle. Reasonable suspicion is a low threshold, requiring only a minimal level of objective justification. See Alvarez. The officers responded to a tip containing a range of details related to the planned drug transaction, including predictive information. See SCOTUS Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325 (1990) (highlighting importance of tip’s prediction of future conduct); Powell, (Reasonable suspicion can be formed by a confidential informant’s tip so long as the information is marked by indicia of reliability). The officers independently corroborated the tip and observed predicted activities. Based on the totality of the circumstances, reasonable suspicion supported the stop of Gutierrez’ vehicle.

B. Search of vehicle

Next, Gutierrez asserts the search of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. We hold the officers had probable cause to search Gutierrez’ tractor-trailer when a dog alerted to the presence of narcotics in it. See Ned (permitting warrantless searches of automobiles if supported by probable cause); Resendiz (A drug-sniffing canine alert is sufficient, standing alone, to support probable cause for a search.).

Nor did Gutierrez show the officers’ actions converted the stop into an arrest. See United States v. Sanders, 994 F.2d 200 (5th Cir. 1993) (Using some force on a suspect, pointing a weapon at a suspect, ordering a suspect to lie on the ground, and handcuffing a suspect—whether singly or in combination—do not automatically convert an investigatory detention into an arrest requiring probable cause).

C. Confession

Finally, Gutierrez contends his confession was involuntary and not sufficiently attenuated from his claimed illegal arrest to be admissible. The testimony at the suppression hearing establishes Gutierrez: initiated the meeting with the officers following his initial request for an attorney; was never threatened or coerced; and was aware of his rights but waived them. Gutierrez’ confession was therefore voluntary. See SCOTUS Wyrick v. Fields, 459 U.S. 42 (1982) (explaining once suspect invokes right to counsel, government may not interrogate him further unless he initiates); Mendez (concluding statement was voluntary where defendant was twice advised of Miranda rights, voluntarily waived them, there was no evidence of physical coercion, and defendant was not threatened).

And, because we hold Gutierrez’ arrest was constitutional, his confession was also not the fruit of an illegal arrest. See McCowan (ruling arrest permissible when officers have probable cause to conclude suspect committed offense).