United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge.
the Court is a Motion to Suppress filed by Defendant Carlos
Barahona-Bermudez. ECF No. 26. The government has filed a
response. ECF No. 29. On April 23, 2019, the Court held a
hearing on the motion. The Court finds that the matter is
ripe for consideration.
December 10, 2018, Hempstead County Sheriff's Deputy Reyn
Brown observed a Ford Explorer swerve toward and then
straddle the dividing line between two eastbound lanes of
Interstate 30. Deputy Brown initiated a traffic stop for a
lane violation (driving left of center). Deputy Brown
observed the driver, David Chavez, a front passenger, J.
Mejia, and eight more individuals in the back of the vehicle.
Defendant Carlos Barahona-Bermudez (“Barahona”)
was a passenger in one of the rear seats. Mejia told the
officer that the individuals in the back of the vehicle were
family members from Houston on their way to visit family in
Brown asked for consent to search the vehicle, and Chavez
consented. Deputy Brown asked everyone to exit the vehicle,
and he began his search. Deputy Brown located a clear baggie
of white powder residue in a door pocket near the front
passenger, which he suspects is cocaine, and a similar baggie
in the console. Deputy Brown was not able to obtain
identification or a driver's license from any of the
individuals in the vehicle, including the driver. Mejia told
Deputy Brown that they did not speak English.
Brown placed the driver, Chavez, under arrest on state
charges and made arrangements for the vehicle to be
impounded. Deputy Brown called a taxi service to pick up the
nine passengers from the side of the Interstate. Deputy Brown
left the scene with Chavez. During transport, Chavez told
Deputy Brown that Mejia had placed more drugs behind the
glove box of the vehicle. Deputy Brown located the vehicle,
which was now being towed, near the scene of the initial
traffic stop and found the drugs stashed behind the glove
box. Chavez then told Deputy Brown that Chavez and the
passengers were involved in a smuggling ring and that he had
agreed to transport the passengers to Atlanta, Virginia, and
New Orleans. He stated that he picked up the vehicle full of
passengers in Houston and that all of them were undocumented
immigrants from Mexico.
passengers were still on the side of the Interstate when
Deputy Brown returned. Mejia told Deputy Brown that the
passengers intended to leave the side of the Interstate and
walk to a nearby gas station. Deputy Brown informed the group
that they could not leave because they were under further
investigation. Deputy Brown called off the taxi and requested
a transport bus for the nine passengers, who were loaded into
the bus for transport to the Hempstead County Detention
Center. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was contacted
and it transported eight passengersfrom the detention center to
the HSI office in Texarkana, Arkansas.
agent interviewed the eight passengers for biographical
information, and they were fingerprinted. Barahona was asked
to provide his name, date of birth, and country of origin. He
was also asked if he had any United States-issued
identification documents or proof of lawful admission.
Barahona replied that he did not and provided a Salvadoran
identity card. Barahona's fingerprints were scanned into
the IDENT/IAFIS database and matched to that of a subject
with an immigration file under the name of Carlos
Barahona-Bermuda. He was served with a Notice of Intent to
Reinstate Prior Order of Removal based on records that
revealed he had been previously deported from the United
States. Barahona was arrested on December 10, 2018, and
subsequently indicted for illegal re-entry by a removed alien
in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a). ECF No. 16.
Fourth Amendment provides that “the right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. In the instant
motion, Barahona argues that his Fourth Amendment rights were
violated because Deputy Brown did not have probable cause to
stop the vehicle in which Barahona was a passenger and
because Deputy Brown arrested him without probable cause.
Barahona asserts that all evidence obtained by virtue of the
unlawful traffic stop and arrest must be
suppressed.Further, Barahona argues any statements he
made were taken in violation of Miranda v. Arizona,
384 U.S. 436 (1966), and must be suppressed.
alleges that Deputy Brown's traffic stop violated his
Fourth Amendment rights because Deputy Brown lacked probable
cause to stop the Ford Explorer in which Barahona was a
passenger. Barahona argues that Chavez, the driver of the
vehicle, did not commit a traffic violation before he was
pulled over. The government argues that Deputy Brown had
probable cause and/or reasonable suspicion to initiate the
traffic stop because he observed Chavez driving “left
of center” on the Interstate.
traffic stop constitutes a seizure under the Fourth
Amendment, and thus it must be reasonable to pass
constitutional muster. United States v. Wright, 512
F.3d 466, 469 (8th Cir. 2008). “[A] traffic stop is
reasonable if it is supported by either probable cause or an
articulable and reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation
has occurred.” United States v. Washington,
455 F.3d 824, 826 (8th Cir. 2006). “Any traffic
violation, however minor, provides probable cause for a
traffic stop.” Id. (quoting United States
v. Bloomfield, 40 F.3d 910, 915 (8th Cir. 1994)).
“Even if the officer was mistaken in concluding that a
traffic violation occurred, the stop does not violate the
Fourth Amendment if the mistake was an ‘objectively
reasonable one.'” United States. v.
Herrera-Gonzalez, 474 F.3d 1105, 1109 (8th Cir. 2010)
(quoting United States v. Martin, 411 F.3d 998, 1001
(8th Cir. 2005) (noting that the determinative question is
not whether the driver actually committed a traffic violation
but whether an objectively reasonable officer could have
formed a reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a
present case, Deputy Brown initiated the traffic stop for a
violation of Ark. Code Ann. § 27-51-301, which the
government contends prohibits driving “left of
center.” The statute states that a vehicle shall not be
driven upon the left half of the roadway; however, the
statute defines six exceptions to this rule. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 27-51-301. One of these exceptions is when the roadway
is “designated and signposted for one-way
traffic.” Id. Barahonas asserts that when the
vehicle was pulled over, it was traveling on a portion of the
Interstate that was designated as one way, and thus ...