919 F2d 146 United States v. Ramirez-Garcia
919 F.2d 146
NOTICE: Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3 provides that dispositions other than opinions or orders designated for publication are not precedential and should not be cited except when relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Jose Manuel RAMIREZ-GARCIA, Defendant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Nov. 16, 1990.*
Decided Nov. 20, 1990.
Before FLETCHER, WIGGINS and RYMER, Circuit Judges.
Jose Manuel Ramirez-Garcia appeals his conviction, following a conditional guilty plea, on one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. Secs. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(vii). Ramirez-Garcia contends that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence because the officer who stopped his vehicle lacked a founded suspicion of criminal conduct. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 and we affirm.
A police officer may not stop a vehicle even for the limited purpose of questioning its occupants unless the officer has a founded suspicion of criminal conduct. United States v. Ramirez-Sandoval, 872 F.2d 1392, 1395 (9th Cir.1989). Founded suspicion exists when an officer is aware of specific articulable facts that, taken together with rational inferences drawn from them, reasonably warrant a suspicion that the person to be detained has committed or is about to commit a crime. United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 416-18 (1981); United States v. Robert L., 874 F.2d 701, 703 (9th Cir.1989). In evaluating the lawfulness of the stop, the totality of the circumstances should be considered, including the modes or patterns of operation of certain types of lawbreakers and any police reports concerning the vehicle to be stopped. Cortez, 449 U.S. at 418; Thomas, 844 F.2d at 681-82. Observation that a vehicle entered and exited a known drug smuggling area within a short time can support a founded suspicion that the vehicle made a drug pickup. United States v. Corral-Villavicencio, 753 F.2d 785, 789 (9th Cir.1985).
Here, Border Patrol Agent Schneider was told by a Border Patrol radio officer that a blue and white stepside van had been just seen entering Buena Vista ranch and that it might be smuggling aliens or narcotics. This information was provided to the radio officer by another Border Patrol agent who had also seen the van enter the ranch area on prior occasions. Agent Schneider knew Buena Vista ranch to be a popular locale for narcotics smuggling due to its proximity to the Mexican border. Agent Schneider arrived at the ranch 13 to 14 minutes after receiving the information and saw the van leaving the ranch. Based on his experience, Agent Schneider knew that 13 to 14 minutes was enough time for the van to load up with contraband. Agent Schneider also noted that the front and rear license plates were in odd locations on the van, that the license plates and the van itself were from out of the area, and that it was odd for the van's rear door to be partly ajar on a bumpy road.
These facts and circumstances supported a founded suspicion of criminal conduct, and the district court properly denied the motion to suppress. See Thomas, 844 F.2d at 681-2; Corral-Villavicencio, 753 F.2d at 789.