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United States v. Rodriguez-Escalera

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIO A. RODRIGUEZ-ESCALERA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Mario Rodriguez-Escalera's Motion to Suppress Evidence (Doc. 60). For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         FACTS[1]

         On October 4, 2016, at approximately 3:01 p.m., Illinois State Trooper Kenneth Patterson was travelling east on Interstate 70 near milepost 21 when he observed a car ahead of him change lanes without signaling. He pulled alongside the car and noted that the vehicle was occupied by the driver (Defendant Blanca Silvia Moran) and a front seat passenger (Defendant Mario Rodriguez-Escalera). Patterson pulled the car over and initiated a traffic stop.

         Patterson approached the passenger side of the vehicle and asked Moran for her license. Moran gave him her driver's license, proof of registration and proof of insurance. Her documentation indicated that she was from Paramount, California, which is near Los Angeles. Patterson informed her that he was going to issue her a warning and requested that she come to his squad car. According to Patterson, it is his routine practice to bring drivers detained for traffic stops because it makes people more comfortable with police.

         As Moran went to his squad car, Patterson returned to her vehicle and asked Rodriguez-Escalera for his identification. While Rodriguez-Escalera retrieved his identification, Patterson asked him where he and Moran were going. Rodriguez-Escalera responded that they were going to Pennsylvania and handed him two Mexican identification cards. Patterson gave one of the ID cards back to Rodriguez-Escalera and returned to his squad car with the other.

         While he was reviewing Defendants' documentation, Patterson questioned Moran. She told him that Rodriguez-Escalera was her fiancé, that she worked as an insurance broker and tax professional and that they were coming from California and going to New York. When Patterson asked Moran where specifically they were going in New York, she stated, “I want to see Manhattan, Brooklyn, the what do you call it, and uh, Statue of Liberty.” She also stated that she had not secured lodging in New York.

         The records check revealed that Moran's driver's license was suspended. Patterson informed Moran that her license was suspended and questioned her about it. She stated that she had recently received a ticket in California, but was not aware that her license was suspended. Patterson asked her if Rodriguez-Escalera had a license and she stated that he had a Mexican license. Patterson then returned to Moran's car to obtain Rodriguez-Escalera's driver's license. As he examined it, Patterson asked Rodriguez-Escalera where in Pennsylvania they were going and for how long. He responded that he did not know where in the state they were going and that the trip was to last “one or two days.” He also stated that they were not going to visit family or friends and had no additional stops planned.

         Patterson then returned to his car and told Moran that Rodriguez-Escalera would need to drive and that he was going to issue her a ticket for driving on a suspended license. He asked her whether they were going any place other than New York and she said they were not. Patterson then asked Moran if Rodriguez-Escalera knew they were going to New York. Moran replied that he thought they were going to Pennsylvania, but that she was going to surprise him with a trip to New York. She also told Patterson that she planned for them to be on the trip for two weeks.

         Approximately 21 minutes after initiating the traffic stop, Patterson requested a K-9 unit to the scene. A few seconds after the K-9 unit arrived, Patterson handed Moran the warnings and citation and stated, “He's [Mario] going to drive from here. However, there is a K-9 behind us that is going to walk around the vehicle real quick for us. So can you close the door real quick? The dog can be aggressive and I don't want him to bite you, okay." The dog completed its sniff without alerting. Patterson returned to his squad car where Moran remained detained and the following conversation then took place:

Patterson: Ma'am, is there anything illegal in the car at all that I should know about?
Moran: No.
Patterson: Okay. Um… Moran: What?
Patterson: Just making sure there is nothing illegal. Just making sure that you guys are actually going to where you're going to, okay? And not Pennsylvania...you're actually going to New York?
Moran: Yes, New York.
Patterson: What kind of possessions do you have in your vehicle, right now, ...

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