Appeal from the District Court Morgan County District Court
Case No. 14CR245 Honorable Douglas R. Vannoy, Judge
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: Brittny B. Lewton,
District Attorney, Thirteenth Judicial District Robert C.
James, Deputy District Attorney Fort Morgan, Colorado
Attorney for Defendant-Appellee: Frank Moya Denver, Colorado
This is the second of two interlocutory appeals in this case.
Both resulted from orders of the Morgan County District Court
suppressing methamphetamine found in the defendant's
truck and the defendant's incriminating statements to
police after they discovered the drugs.
In the first appeal, we reversed the trial court's order
suppressing this evidence because we concluded that police
lawfully stopped the defendant, Amadeo Chavez-Barragan, for
failure to drive within a single lane (commonly known as
weaving). Because the trial court had not ruled on other
issues raised in the suppression motion, such as the
voluntariness of Chavez-Barragan's alleged consent to the
search that revealed the drugs, our ruling was limited: We
determined only that the initial stop was constitutional.
On remand, the trial court again suppressed the evidence. It
concluded that the seizure that followed the initial stop was
unreasonable. It also concluded that Chavez-Barragan's
consent to the search was involuntary because he was seized
when he consented and coercive police conduct overbore his
will. Because it determined the consent to search was
invalid, the trial court suppressed the methamphetamine. And
because Chavez-Barragan's incriminating statements came
on the heels of what it perceived as an invalid search, the
trial court decided the statements were tainted and
suppressed them as well. The People appealed a second time.
We again reverse the trial court's suppression order. We
conclude on the facts presented here that the investigatory
detention following the traffic stop was reasonable and that
Chavez-Barragan's consent to the search was voluntary.
Thus, the drugs found in the truck should not have been
suppressed. And because no illegal police conduct preceded
Chavez-Barragan's statements, the trial court erred in
suppressing them as fruit of the poisonous tree.
Facts and Procedural History
Just before 3:00 a.m. on October 11, 2014, Morgan County
Sheriff's Deputy Shawna Ponce pulled over
Chavez-Barragan, who was driving a semi-truck on Interstate
76. As set forth in People v. Chavez-Barragan, 2016
CO 16, ¶ 2, 365 P.3d 981, 982, members of a federal drug
task force began following Chavez-Barragan after seeing him
in the company of an individual under investigation. After a
task force member asked Deputy Ponce to develop a basis for a
traffic stop, she pulled the defendant over for weaving in
violation of section 42-4-1007(1)(a), C.R.S. (2016).
Chavez-Barragan, ¶¶ 3-6, 365 P.3d at 982.
The People did not assert that suspicion of drug activity
justified the stop. Id. at ¶ 7, 365 P.3d at
982. We upheld the stop on the basis of the suspected traffic
offense. Id. at ¶ 23, 365 P.3d at 986. This
case picks up factually where that one left
After the truck pulled over, Deputy Ponce motioned for the
driver to step out of the truck. Chavez-Barragan, the
truck's only occupant, complied. The two had a brief
conversation near the back of the truck during which Deputy
Ponce explained the reason for the stop and asked
Chavez-Barragan whether he had any weapons on him. The
defendant said no but agreed to a pat down; Deputy Ponce
found no weapons. The two then walked to the front of the
truck and soon returned with Chavez-Barragan carrying what
the trial court described as a "log book." About
this time, Deputy Ponce took possession of
Chavez-Barragan's driver's license, vehicle
registration, and proof of insurance.
Deputy Ponce asked Chavez-Barragan whether the truck
contained any drugs, weapons, or large quantities of cash.
After Chavez-Barragan responded no, she asked if it would be
okay for her to search the truck. He said yes. This
conversation took place in the first three minutes of the
Feeling it was "pretty cold outside, " and noticing
that Chavez-Barragan was dressed less warmly than she was,
Deputy Ponce asked Chavez-Barragan whether he wanted to sit
in her patrol car. She testified that she simply wanted the
two of them to be warm while Chavez-Barragan completed a
written consent-to-search form. She did not testify whether
Chavez-Barragan embraced her invitation to sit in the car,
and she could not recall who opened the car's front door.
The trial court found that Deputy Ponce "directed"
Chavez-Barragan to sit in the vehicle's front seat. While
he was in the patrol car, Chavez-Barragan was unrestrained
and the door was unlocked. Once he sat down, Deputy Ponce
conferred outside the car with other officers who had
At 3:04 a.m., about eight minutes after the initial stop,
Deputy Ponce re-entered her car and explained to the
defendant that no search had begun and that her partner,
Deputy Campbell, would remain with Chavez-Barragan in the
patrol car while Deputy Ponce searched the truck. She told
the defendant he could tell Deputy Campbell to terminate the
search at any time. She asked, "You okay with
that?" Chavez-Barragan said, "Sounds good."
Deputy Ponce then handed Chavez-Barragan an English-language
consent form, but he said he could read English only "a
little." Because he stated he could read Spanish, Deputy
Ponce provided him with a Spanish-language form. That form
stated that the defendant could refuse to consent to the
search. Deputy Ponce completed the vehicle description
portion, and Chavez-Barragan signed the form.
Deputy Ponce asked Chavez-Barragan if he had any questions,
and when he did not respond, she reiterated that he could
tell Deputy Campbell to stop the search and that she would
abide by his decision. She then asked what Chavez-Barragan
was hauling. He said the trailer contained plastic. Asked if
there was anything illegal in the trailer or the cab,
Chavez-Barragan said there was not. She asked, "So,
it's okay that I search the cab of the truck?"
Chavez-Barragan replied, "Sure." And when Deputy
Ponce explained that meant she was "going to look in
there, " he said, "Check, no problem."
Officers began searching the truck around 3:10 a.m., about
fourteen minutes after the initial stop. Chavez-Barragan and
Deputy Campbell observed from the patrol car and made small
talk. About twenty minutes into the search, plain-clothes
officers attempted to search the truck's trailer;
Chavez-Barragan made no objection. On the contrary, he
offered to retrieve the trailer keys. A few minutes after
4:00 a.m., the search moved to the truck's engine
compartment, where deputies discovered a package containing
Officers confronted Chavez-Barragan with this discovery, and
he made incriminating statements. After the search, Deputy
Ponce called Chavez-Barragan's ID into dispatch; she
returned his driving documents sometime after 4:30 a.m.
The People charged Chavez-Barragan with possession with
intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance
(more than 112 grams). See § 18-18-405(1),
(2)(a)(I)(B), C.R.S. (2016). He moved to suppress the drugs
and his statements, and the trial court granted these motions
because it concluded the initial stop was illegal. The People
filed an interlocutory appeal, and we reversed.
Chavez-Barragan, ¶ 24, 365 P.3d at 986.
On remand, the trial court concluded that the traffic seizure
was unreasonable and thus unconstitutional. The trial court
also concluded that the People failed to prove the
defendant's consent was voluntary. It therefore
suppressed the methamphetamine and likewise suppressed the
statements as fruit of the illegal search.
The People again sought interlocutory review pursuant to
section 16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2016), and C.A.R. 4.1.
We begin by considering the circumstances surrounding the
investigatory detention following the initial traffic stop.
Because the duration of the detention resulted from the
search of the truck that Chavez-Barragan purportedly
authorized, we then assess whether he voluntarily consented
to the search. Under the totality of the circumstances
presented here, we conclude his consent was voluntary. The
search, therefore, was lawful. Finally, we address
Chavez-Barragan's statements and determine they should
not have been suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. The
seizure and search that preceded his admissions were both
reasonable, and thus no prior illegality tainted the
statements. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's
Scope and Duration of Traffic Stop 1. ...