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United States v. Lopez-Tubac

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 6, 2019

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
Misael Saqueo Lopez-Tubac Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: September 27, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Ft. Dodge

          Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

         Misael Saqueo Lopez-Tubac entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of unlawful use of identification documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a). Lopez-Tubac now appeals his conviction, arguing that the district court[1] erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.


         In January 2017, authorities in Bremer County, Iowa alerted Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") Deportation Officer Bryce Callison that they had arrested an alien for driving while under the influence. The authorities had released the alien but suspected he may be illegally present in the United States. As part of a subsequent investigation, Officer Callison learned that the suspect had been removed from the United States to Mexico in 2011. He also learned that the car the suspect was driving at the time of arrest was not registered to him but instead to a female who resided at 537 Montero Drive, an address that corresponded to a mobile home park in Waterloo, Iowa.

         Over the next sixteen months, Callison attempted to locate the suspect. Callison found a description of the suspect in his arrest record, including that he had brown eyes, dark brown hair, stood at approximately 5'3", and weighed roughly 187 pounds. Callison also obtained a photograph of the suspect taken after his 2011 arrest. He then contacted the manager of the mobile home park, who, after viewing the photograph of the suspect, verified that he lived at 537 Montero Drive-the address the suspect provided at the time of his January 2017 arrest. Armed with this information, Callison conducted periodic surveillance of the residence, observing the property six to eight times between February 2017 and May 2018. In March 2018, he observed the vehicle associated with the suspect at the residence. While surveilling the property, Callison also observed several Hispanic males but none who looked like the suspect.

         On the morning of May 8, 2018, Officer Callison again conducted surveillance outside the suspect's residence. There, he observed Lopez-Tubac emerge from between 537 Montero Drive and 541 Montero Drive and enter the passenger side of a vehicle stopped nearby. Callison testified that Lopez-Tubac passed within thirty feet of him and that he was able to observe him for ten to fifteen seconds. From his viewpoint in his car, Callison believed Lopez-Tubac matched the picture of the suspect.

         After following the vehicle for ten minutes, Callison initiated an investigative stop. During the stop, appellant identified himself as Misael Saqueo Lopez-Tubac, stated that he was a citizen of Guatemala, and admitted that he did not have permission to be in the United States. ICE officers took Lopez-Tubac's fingerprints to determine whether he was the suspect. He was not. But in completing their investigation, they learned Lopez-Tubac had previously been charged with an immigration offense. Lopez-Tubac was arrested for being illegally present in the United States and taken to an ICE office for further processing.

         An inventory search of Lopez-Tubac's belongings produced an employee identification card. ICE agents then contacted the employer listed on the card and obtained documents falsified by Lopez-Tubac, including a W-4 tax form, a Form I-9, and photocopies of a permanent resident card and a Social Security card. Lopez-Tubac was charged with the unlawful use of identification documents.

         Before the district court, Lopez-Tubac moved to suppress all evidence stemming from the traffic stop, including his roadside statements and all documents found during the inventory search and subsequent investigation, on the grounds that this evidence comprised fruit of an unconstitutional search and seizure. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-85 (1963). The district court denied the motion to suppress, finding, in relevant part, that Officer Callison had a reasonable suspicion to stop Lopez-Tubac. Lopez-Tubac appeals.


         Lopez-Tubac argues that the district court erred by not granting his motion to suppress because the stop and subsequent search violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. As an initial matter, he argues that Callison lacked a reasonable suspicion to stop his actual suspect. He thus claims that Callison lacked an underlying reasonable suspicion necessary to justify his mistaken stop of Lopez-Tubac. In the alternative, Lopez-Tubac claims that it was unreasonable for Callison to mistake him ...

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