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United States v. Hernandez

United States District Court, D. Utah

October 10, 2018



          Ted Stewart District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the Motion.


         On January 10, 2018, Sergeant Ryan Bauer, an officer with the Utah Highway Patrol, was observing traffic from his patrol car near milepost 63 on Interstate 15. The posted speed limit in the area is 80 miles per hour. Sergeant Bauer observed a red SUV that was travelling northbound. Sergeant Bauer noticed that the vehicle was traveling faster than the other cars. Sergeant Bauer visually estimated the speed of the red SUV at 84 or 85 miles per hour. Sergeant Bauer then used a radar, which showed that the red SUV was travelling between 83 and 84 miles per hour.

         As the red SUV passed Sergeant Bauer's location, he observed that the tint on the front driver's side window appeared to be too dark under Utah state law.[1] While he noticed the window tint as the red SUV passed by, it was the vehicle's speed that first drew Sergeant Bauer's attention.[2]

         Based upon the speeding and the possible window tint violation, Sergeant Bauer initiated a stop of the vehicle. When Sergeant Bauer activated his lights, his dash cam was also activated, recording the stop beginning thirty seconds prior to the activation of the lights.

         After the vehicle stopped, Sergeant Bauer approached and made contact with Defendant, the driver of the vehicle. A female passenger was also in the vehicle. Sergeant Bauer asked Defendant for his license and the vehicle's registration. While Defendant was gathering the documentation, Sergeant Bauer informed Defendant that the window tinting appeared too dark but did not say anything about speeding at that time. Defendant expressed surprise about the window tint and Sergeant Bauer stated that it did not appear as dark as he initially believed. However, Sergeant Bauer did not test the window tint at that time.[3]

         Sergeant Bauer then asked the occupants of the vehicle about their travel plans. Defendant stated that they were travelling to Denver. When asked whether the car belonged to him, Defendant stated it did not. Throughout the encounter, Defendant provided inconsistent statements about who owned the car.[4] Defendant then informed Sergeant Bauer that he did not have a license. He later informed Sergeant Bauer that his license was suspended.

         Defendant then produced documentation regarding the vehicle, which conflicted with Defendant's statements about the ownership of the car.[5] During this exchange, Sergeant Bauer noticed that Defendant was extremely nervous.

         Sergeant Bauer then brought Defendant back to his patrol car. Soon after entering the patrol car, Defendant informed Sergeant Bauer that he might have a warrant for his arrest out of California. At that point, Sergeant Bauer stated, for the first time, that he also pulled Defendant over for speeding. Defendant denied that he was speeding.

         Sergeant Bauer continued to attempt to determine who owned the car. Defendant stated that he did not know who purchased the car.

         Sergeant Bauer then asked Defendant about the passenger. Defendant stated that her name was Maria. That name did not match the identification card the passenger had provided. Additionally, Defendant stated that he had known the passenger for about a year but did not know her last name.

         About nine minutes into the stop, Sergeant Bauer asked for a K-9 unit to assist him. Sergeant Bauer then contacted dispatch to run the information Defendant and the passenger had provided. While waiting for dispatch, Sergeant Bauer continued to ask Defendant about his license status, the possible warrant, the owner of the car, and their travel plans. During this period, Defendant informed Sergeant Bauer that he was on probation in California for having a stolen car and had not informed his probation officer that he was leaving the state.

         Another officer, Trooper Mackelprang, arrived with his K-9 about twenty-one minutes into the stop. Trooper Mackelprang had the passenger exit the vehicle. Trooper Mackelprang then ran his dog around the car beginning approximately twenty-four minutes into the stop. The dog alerted to the car, indicating the presence of narcotics. After the dog indicated, dispatch informed Sergeant Bauer that it had confirmed that Defendant's license was suspended.[6]

         Sergeant Bauer then requested permission to search the car. Defendant stated that he would not say yes, but would also not say no. The officers then conducted a search of the car. They located several ...

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