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United States v. Fernandez

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

February 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARCO JIMENEZ FERNANDEZ and MARGARITA ROBLES-AGUIRRE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the oral and written Findings and Recommendation and Order (Filing Nos. 35, 38) of the magistrate judge[1] recommending the Court deny (1) defendant Marco Jimenez Fernandez's ("Jimenez Fernandez") Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 24) and (2) defendant Margarita Robles-Aguirre's ("Robles-Aguirre") Motion to Suppress (Filing No. 26). Jimenez Fernandez objects to the magistrate judge's Findings and Recommendations. Robles-Aguirre does not. For the reasons stated below, Jimenez Fernandez's objection is overruled and both Motions to Suppress are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 1, 2016, Jimenez Fernandez and Robles-Aguirre were traveling east on Interstate 80 in Omaha, Nebraska, in a vehicle borrowed from a family member. Jimenez Fernandez was driving and his wife, Robles-Aguirre, was in the passenger seat. At approximately 10:30 a.m., Douglas County, Nebraska, Sheriffs Deputy David Wintle ("Deputy Wintle") stopped them for having an obstructed license plate in violation of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-399(2) because he was unable to read the name of the issuing state.

         After Jimenez Fernandez stopped on the shoulder, Deputy Wintle asked him for his license and registration and asked him to join him in his cruiser so he could explain the violation to him. Before joining Jimenez Fernandez, Deputy Wintle asked Robles-Aguirre some questions about the couple's travel plans.[2] Robles-Aguirre indicated they were traveling to Iowa on vacation, but she did not know the name of the city.

         Deputy Wintle returned to his cruiser to speak with Jimenez Fernandez. After discussing the reason for the stop, Deputy Wintle asked Jimenez Fernandez about the couple's travel plans. Jimenez Fernandez indicated they were traveling to his brother's house in Iowa, but he too could not name the city. Denying he had any address for his brother, Jimenez Fernandez stated he input "Iowa downtown" into his GPS to know where to go. During the interview, Deputy Wintle ran records checks on Jimenez Fernandez and Robles-Aguirre and their vehicle. When the checks revealed nothing significant, Deputy Wintle returned all of the documents to Jimenez Fernandez and informed him that he was not going to issue any tickets. He advised Jimenez Fernandez he may want to remove the license bracket at the next gas station or rest stop so he would not get stopped again.

         Deputy Wintle asked Jimenez Fernandez if he had any questions. He did not. Deputy Wintle then asked if he could ask "a couple more questions, " and Jimenez Fernandez said, "Sure." When asked again about his destination city, Jimenez Fernandez reported he did not know the city because it was his first time. He again said he input "center Iowa" and "downtown" into the GPS. Deputy Wintle asked how Jimenez Fernandez would find his brother in Iowa and whether Jimenez Fernandez had a phone number for him. Jimenez Fernandez denied having a phone number; he explained he was to meet up with his brother by posting a message on Facebook. His brother would then come to meet him.

         Deputy Wintle asked Jimenez Fernandez if it would be all right to speak with Robles-Aguirre and if Jimenez Fernandez would mind waiting in the cruiser. Jimenez Fernandez agreed. Deputy Wintle advised Robles-Aguirre he was not going to issue any tickets and asked if he could ask her some questions. Robles-Aguirre agreed and again said she did not know the city to which the couple was traveling.

         Deputy Wintle returned to the cruiser, asked whether there was contraband in the vehicle, and obtained Jimenez Fernandez's written consent to search. The consent form was written in English and Spanish. Five minutes elapsed from the time Deputy Wintle returned Jimenez Fernandez's documents to the time he asked for consent to search. Jimenez Fernandez read and signed the consent form about a minute later. Deputy Wintle then obtained Robles-Aguirre's written consent on the same form two to three minutes after that.

         Having obtained consent, Deputy Wintle and another officer who had arrived on the scene searched the vehicle and found a compartment under the front seat that contained a large amount of cocaine. The vehicle was impounded, and Jimenez Fernandez and Robles-Aguirre were arrested. Jimenez Fernandez later voluntarily made incriminating statements to the police.

         On November 28, 2016, Jimenez Fernandez and Robles-Aguirre each moved to suppress the evidence derived from the traffic stop and the search of their vehicle. The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing at which Deputy Wintle was the only witness. The magistrate judge also admitted into evidence photographs of the rear license plate, a copy of the consent form, and a video and audio recording of the stop taken from a camera in Deputy Wintle's cruiser.

         After considering the evidence and the parties' respective arguments, the magistrate judge determined that the traffic stop was valid and that, after the stop ended, Jimenez Fernandez voluntarily agreed to answer questions and consented to the search.

         The magistrate judge alternatively found Deputy Wintle had "reasonable suspicion to continue the detention further." With respect to Robles-Aguirre, the magistrate judge concluded she did not have standing to challenge the search because she failed to establish a reasonable "expectation of privacy in the floorboard of the vehicle." The magistrate judge recommends the Court deny both Motions to Suppress.

         II. ...


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