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United States v. Ruiz

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 8, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ADRIAN RUIZ, Defendant-Appellant

Argued January 23, 2015.

Page 1135

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1136

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:11-cr-00421-1 -- Robert W. Gettleman, Judge.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Christopher R. McFadden, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL.

For ADRIAN RUIZ, Defendant - Appellant: Thomas W. Patton, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Peoria, IL; Elisabeth R. Pollock, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Urbana, IL.

ADRIAN RUIZ, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Beaumont, TX.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and KANNE and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1137

Tinder, Circuit Judge.

Law enforcement officers approached Adrian Ruiz's car after they witnessed Ruiz engage in what they deemed to be suspicious behavior, including actions consistent with operating a " trap" --a concealed, non-factory compartment in a vehicle often used to hide drugs. Ruiz consented to the search of his car and then followed the officers to a nearby police station where he showed the officers two traps in his car loaded with heroin. Ruiz eventually pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, see 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress all evidence derived from his encounter with the officers. Ruiz appeals, contending: the officers did not have reasonable suspicion

Page 1138

to stop his vehicle; the stop exceeded its lawful purpose and ripened into a de facto arrest; the encounter with the officers was custodial, requiring the suppression of all statements he made prior to receiving Miranda warnings; and he did not consent voluntarily to go to the police station and open the traps.

I. BACKGROUND

During the afternoon of October 26, 2010, Drug Enforcement Agency (" DEA" ) Special Agent Keith Bakewell and DEA Task Force Officer Jay Tapia (collectively, the " officers" )--driving separate, unmarked cars but in radio communication--were surveilling a storefront in Gurnee, Illinois. Based upon a prior drug seizure and information from confidential informants, the officers believed that the store was being used by drug dealers to ply their trade. The officers saw Michael Coleman, who they knew had prior drug-trafficking convictions, exit the rear of the store and get into a blue Pontiac. Agent Bakewell followed Coleman as he drove into a residential neighborhood. Bakewell, who entered the neighborhood approximately a minute after Coleman, saw Coleman's Pontiac parked in the middle of the street beside a black Cadillac Escalade that was registered to the primary target of the officers' drug-trafficking investigation. Soon after Bakewell came into view, the two cars drove away from each other. Bakewell followed the black Escalade to a strip-mall parking lot, where the black Escalade parked next to a silver Escalade that was registered to another target of the investigation. It appeared to Bakewell that the occupants of the two Escalades were engaged in a conversation. The officers then followed the silver Escalade as it left the strip-mall parking lot and drove to the parking lot of another mall, the Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall (" Gurnee Mall" ). Officer Tapia testified that, based upon his training and experience, narcotics transactions often occur in mall parking lots because the high volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic can mask drug-dealing activity.

The silver Escalade parked in the Gurnee Mall parking lot, but nobody exited the vehicle. Agent Bakewell then saw, for the first time, the person he would later identify as Defendant Ruiz walking toward the front passenger-side of the silver Escalade. It appeared to Agent Bakewell that Ruiz was directed to walk to the other side of the car, and Ruiz eventually entered the Escalade through the rear, driver-side door. Two or three minutes later, Ruiz exited the Escalade, walked in one direction, turned around, and then walked in the opposite direction towards an unoccupied Honda Accord parked nearby. Ruiz entered the Accord through the driver's door. Agent Bakewell next saw the Accord's rear brake lights activate and Ruiz began manipulating " some of the ... driver controls" in the vehicle, such as those controlling the air conditioner, the windshield wipers, and the windows. Bakewell then saw Ruiz reach behind the driver's seat and appear to " put something in the rear passenger" area of the vehicle. Bakewell testified that, based upon his experience and training with the DEA, the Chicago Police Department, and the Illinois State Police, trap compartments can exist " [a]nywhere there is a natural void" in a vehicle and can be opened by manipulating the controls of a vehicle in the manner done by Ruiz.

Ruiz then started the Accord and pulled out of the mall parking lot, with the officers covertly following. At this time, Ruiz was driving in what Agent Bakewell described as a " normal, everyday manner," such as going " a couple of miles an hour over the speed limit" and " signaling ...


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