United States District Court, D. Colorado
Judge Christine M. Arguello UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
PAUL RUBIO-SEPULVEDA, a/k/a Pelon, No.-5
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS
(DOC. ## 1419, 1420, 1421)
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motions to
Suppress Evidence, filed on September 19 and 20, 2016. (Doc.
## 1419, 1420, 1421.) The Government filed Responses
challenging the Motions on October 3, 2016, (Doc. ## 1430,
1431), and the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the
Motions on January 5, 2017. Following the hearing, the
parties filed supplemental briefing on the suppression
issues. (Doc. ## 1582, 1587.) Having reviewed the
parties' written and oral arguments, as well as the
evidence presented at the hearing, the Court denies the
Motions for the following reasons.
following facts are derived from Defendant's motions, the
Government's responses, and the evidentiary hearing on
has been charged with numerous criminal counts in connection
with his alleged involvement in a drug trafficking
organization that has purportedly distributed and sold
significant quantities of heroin and cocaine to street-level
drug dealers in the Denver, Colorado area. Since at least
August 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration Front Range
Task Force (FRTF) had been monitoring Defendant in connection
with this alleged activity. At the start, FRTF Investigators
only knew Defendant by the name “Pelon.” On
January 3, 2013, FRTF investigators were tracking his
vehicle, believed that Defendant was in the midst of dealing
narcotics, and requested that the Denver Police Department
(DPD) conduct a traffic stop of the vehicle so that they
might obtain his identity. DPD Officers Randy Yoder and Danny
Perez effectuated the stop and requested Defendant's
identification. Defendant obliged and was released minutes
January 14, 2014, FRTF investigators were again tracking
Defendant. Based again on their belief that he was in the
midst of distributing drugs, the investigators requested that
local law enforcement conduct a traffic stop. Officer Michael
Jelen of the Westminster Police Department conducted the stop
and requested Defendant's driver's license. Defendant
could not produce a valid Colorado driver's license and
Officer Jelen placed him under arrest. Officer Jelen then
conducted a pat-down search of Defendant, uncovering over
$4000 in his pockets, and called for a K-9 unit to search
Defendant's vehicle. The dog alerted the driver's
seat, but no drugs were uncovered. Law enforcement seized
four cell phones from the car.
Officer Jelen transported Defendant to the Westminster police
station. Before advising Defendant of his
Mirandarights, Officer Karin Marquez, at the
request of Officer Jelen, asked Defendant if he had any drugs
on him, to which Defendant replied affirmatively. Defendant
then removed a baggie, later confirmed as containing heroin
and cocaine, from his pants and gave it to the officers.
Government subsequently charged Defendant in connection with
this, and other, conduct. Claiming violations of his Fourth
Amendment rights, Defendant moves to suppress any evidence
obtained during the traffic stops and search of his person
and car. (Doc. ## 1419, 1420.) Defendant also moves to
suppress the drugs uncovered at the police station as having
derived from an illegal interrogation. (Doc. # 1421.)
THE TRAFFIC STOPS
Court first addresses Defendant's challenges to the
January 3 and 14, 2014, traffic stops. The Court finds that
the stops were justified.
Fourth Amendment safeguards “[t]he right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 326
(2001). In consideration of the Fourth Amendment's
protections, “a traffic stop is justified at its
inception if an officer has (1) probable cause to believe a
traffic violation has occurred, or (2) a reasonable
articulable suspicion that a particular motorist has violated
any of the traffic or equipment regulations of the
jurisdiction.” United States v. Winder, 557
F.3d 1129, 1134 (10th Cir.2009). It is irrelevant that the
officer may have had other subjective motives for stopping
the vehicle. Id.
apart from a traffic violation, a traffic stop may be
justified if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that
criminal activity is afoot. United States v.
Cortez-Galaviz, 495 F.3d 1203, 1205-06 (10th Cir. 2007).
In particular, the police may stop a car if they have
probable cause or a reasonable articulable suspicion to
believe the car is carrying contraband. United States v.
Chavez, 534 F.3d 1338, 1343-44 (10th Cir. 2008). To
determine whether reasonable suspicion exists, the court
considers “the totality of the circumstances” and
ask whether the officer had “a particularized and
objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped
of criminal activity.” United States v.
Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417-18 (1981).
the collective knowledge doctrine, the particular officer who
makes the stop need not have reasonable suspicion that
criminal activity is afoot. Instead, the knowledge and
reasonable suspicions of another officer can be imputed to
him. United States v. Whitley, 680 F.3d 1227, 1235
(10th Cir. 2012); Chavez, 534 F.3d at, 1345-46. The
collective knowledge doctrine has two categories-horizontal
and vertical. See Whitley, 680 F.3d at 1234. The
vertical category applies in this case. “Under the
vertical collective knowledge doctrine, a . . . stop is
justified when an officer having probable cause or reasonable
suspicion instructs another officer to act, even without
communicating all of the information necessary to justify the
argues that for the collective knowledge doctrine to apply,
the officer with reasonable suspicion or probable cause must
communicate his reasons to the officer conducting the stop;
otherwise the stop is improper. This Court's reading of
the applicable case law, however, suggests a different
conclusion-namely that a suspecting officer may instruct
another officer to effectuate stop without communicating the
basis for the stop, so long as the communicating officer
would be justified in making the stop himself. Id.
For example, in Chavez, 534 F.3d at 1347-48, the
Tenth Circuit upheld the validity of a traffic stop where a
federal agent with probable cause requested that a state
officer stop a suspect without communicating to the state
officer the reasons for the stop or the nature of the federal
investigation. The panel noted, citing multiple courts in
agreement, “a police officer may rely on the
instructions of the DEA (or other law enforcement agencies)
in stopping a car, even if that officer himself or herself is
not privy to all the facts amounting to probable
cause.” Id. at 1347. Numerous cases in other
jurisdictions support this application of the vertical
collective knowledge doctrine. See United States v.
Ramirez, 473 F.3d 1026, 1037 (9th Cir. 2007) (“We
are satisfied that the collective knowledge doctrine includes
no requirement regarding the content of the communication
that one officer must make to another. Where one officer
knows facts constituting reasonable suspicion . . . and he
communicates an appropriate order or request, another officer
may conduct a warrantless stop . . . without violating the
Fourth Amendment.”); United States v.
Williams, 429 F.3d 767, 771-72 (8th Cir. 2005)
(“[W]e also hold that the collective knowledge of the
DEA team was sufficient to provide reasonable suspicion to
stop [the co-defendant's] vehicle, and such knowledge was
imputed to the officer at the scene when he received [another
officer's] radioed request.”); United States v.
Burton, 288 F.3d 91, 99 (3d Cir. 2002) (“[T]he
arresting officer need not possess an encyclopedic knowledge
of the facts supporting probable cause, but can instead rely
on an instruction to arrest delivered by other officers
possessing probable cause.”); United States v.
Ibarra-Sanchez, 199 F.3d 753, 758-59 (5th Cir. 1999);
United States v. Celio, 945 F.2d 180, 183 (7th Cir.
where the collective knowledge doctrine applies, the Court
need only consider whether the officer requesting the stop
had reasonable suspicion or probable cause and need not
consider whether the officer making the stop had independent
justification for doing so. Whitley, 680 F.3d at
1235; Winder, 557 F.3d at 1134.