United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
D. DICK CHIEF JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion Requesting a
Ruling on an Unresolved Issue Raised in Defendant's
Motion to Suppress Evidence filed by Defendant, Jesus
Alberto Villafranco-Elizondo (“Defendant”). The
motion is opposed.For the reasons that follow, the Court
finds that Defendant's motion shall be DENIED.
Jesus Villafranco-Elizondo was driving a truck and trailer
from Texas to Louisiana on October 5, 2016 when he was pulled
over on Interstate 10 in West Baton Rouge Parish by Corporal
James Woody of the West Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office
(WBRSO). In the course of the traffic stop, WBRSO deputies
conducted a search of Defendant's truck and trailer,
eventually transporting the vehicle to a WBRSO shop, where
thirty-one kilograms of cocaine were discovered in hidden
compartments in the trailer. Then, on October 13, 2016, a
grand jury in the Middle District of Louisiana issued an
Indictment charging Defendant with Possession with
Intent to Distribute 5 Kilograms or More of Cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Defendant filed a
Motion to Suppress the evidence against him, arguing
that the traffic stop that led to the discovery of cocaine in
his vehicle was not justified by reasonable suspicion at its
inception and that the duration of the stop, among other
factors, gave rise to a Fourth Amendment
violation.After a hearing on May 24, 2017, this Court
granted Defendant's Motion to Suppress.The
Government appealed the ruling to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,  and the Fifth Circuit reversed
this Court on October 10, 2018.
instant Motion, Defendant notes that the
Government's appeal to the Fifth Circuit only challenged
this Court's findings of no reasonable suspicion and
tainted consent. So, Defendant argues, although the Fifth
Circuit held that Corporal Woody did have reasonable
suspicion of criminal activity to justify a prolonged
detention, that holding “did not dispose of the issue
regarding the scope of the consent” that
Defendant raised in his Motion to Suppress.
Specifically, Defendant admits that he consented to the
deputies' search of his truck and trailer,  but contends
that the scope of his consent “was exceeded when
officers took [him] into custody and drove his vehicle to the
Sheriff's Department, kept [him] detained in the backseat
of a police car for approximately two hours during the
ongoing search, and dismantled [his] vehicle before locating
contraband.” Thus, Defendant prays for this Court to
consider and rule on the scope of consent issue.
part, the Government argues that “this Court need not
rule on whether officers exceeded the scope of
defendant's consent, ” explaining that such a
ruling would be unnecessary because “the Fifth Circuit
has decided that there was probable cause to search the car
before it was transported to the shop and searched more
thoroughly. That decision is law of the case and cannot be
reconsidered by this Court.” Because the Fifth Circuit
held that the search was supported by probable cause and not
based on the Defendant's consent, the Government notes
that, as a matter of law, the deputies were justified in
searching “every part of the vehicle and its contents
that may conceal the object of the
search.” Moreover, the Government cites
United States v. Powell, United States v.
Zucco, and United States v. Baneulos-Romero,
cases where the Fifth Circuit held that when officers have
probable cause, the dismantling of a vehicle in the course of
a search is permissible.
Court agrees with the Government that a ruling on the scope
of consent issue is unnecessary. Because the Fifth Circuit
explicitly found that the WBRSO deputies developed probable
cause in the course of the traffic stop,  the law is
clear that regardless of the scope of Defendant's
consent, once they had probable cause, the deputies were
authorized by existing precedent to prolong the search by
moving the vehicle to the WBRSO shop for further, more
for the foregoing reasons, Defendant's
Motion is DENIED.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Rec. Doc. No. 69.
 Rec. Doc. No. 79, Government's
Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Ruling
on Unresolved Issue.
 Rec. Doc. No. 64, p. 7.