United States of America v. Hector Guajardo
OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication pursuant to local rule 28(g). Ralph B. Guy , Jr., Authoring Circuit Judge; Karen Nelson Moore and Richard Allen Griffin, Circuit Judges.
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 1 NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION F ile Name: 10a0480n.06 N o . 08-5964 U N I T E D STATES COURT OF APPEALS F O R THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Aug 05, 2010
LEONARD GREEN, Clerk
U N IT E D STATES OF AMERICA, P l a in tif f -A p p e lle e , v. H E C T O R GUAJARDO, D e f e n d a n t-A p p e llan t. O n Appeal from the United S ta te s District Court for the E a ste rn District of Tennessee a t Chattanooga
/ B efore: G U Y , MOORE, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.
R A L P H B. GUY, JR., Circuit Judge. Defendant Hector Guajardo appeals from the d e n ia l of his motion to suppress evidence--including a large quantity of cocaine and h e ro in -- s e iz e d following the stop and search of his vehicle. The district court, adopting the m a g istra te judge's recommendation, found that the stop was supported by reasonable s u s p ic io n , that the duration of the stop was not unreasonable, and that the search of the two tub s of cat litter in which the drugs were found did not exceed the scope of the defendant's c o n se n t to search. On appeal, defendant challenges the validity of the stop and the scope of th e admittedly consensual search. After review of the record, including the transcript of the e v id e n tia ry hearing and the video recording of the stop, we find no error and affirm.
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 2 No. 08-5964 I. T e n n e s s e e Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Hoppe, a trooper for more than ten years, w a s patrolling I-75 in McMinn County, Tennessee, on the morning of August 29, 2007. At 8 :2 8 a.m., having completed an earlier traffic stop, Trooper Hoppe positioned his marked p a tro l car in the median in order to monitor the northbound traffic. Within twenty or thirty s e c o n d s, Hoppe observed a red sports car traveling in the right-hand lane at well-below the p o s te d speed limit. Hoppe watched as the car approached, and saw it cross the "fog" line s e p a ra tin g the lane of travel from the shoulder several times. The car, being driven by the d e f en d a n t, braked and slowed further once it was in a position for the driver to notice the p a tro l car. Hoppe testified that the car crossed the fog line once more after it passed him. H o p p e was concerned that the driver was either impaired or falling asleep, and e x p la in e d that he was aware of problems with impaired drivers in that area coming from a n e a rb y methadone clinic. Hoppe also noticed that defendant's headlights were not on, even th o u g h it had been raining lightly. Deciding to investigate, Hoppe activated his lights, which a ls o re-activated the dashboard video camera at 8:29:49 a.m., as he pulled out of the median. H o p p e caught up with the defendant's car and--pacing his patrol car with the defendant's-- e s tim a t e d that the defendant was traveling at 48 m.p.h. in a 70-m.p.h. zone. Hoppe also n o te d that two trucks had slowed behind the defendant's car. Defendant sped up to 55 m.p.h. b e f o re pulling over to stop on the shoulder of the highway. W h e n the stop was effected at 8:32 a.m., Hoppe approached on the passenger's side a n d asked to see defendant's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Defendant, who 2
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w a s driving, admitted that he did not have his driver's license because he had lost his wallet an d denied having any other identification. The passenger Jose Lara produced a Texas ID c a rd , but no driver's license. Hoppe asked the defendant to get out of the car with his re g is tra tio n and proof of insurance. Standing behind the car, Hoppe advised the defendant th a t he should have had his lights on because of the rain, and then asked the defendant if he h a d been drinking. Defendant denied being intoxicated, and Hoppe testified that he was q u ic k ly satisfied that defendant was not driving while impaired. L o o k in g at the registration and insurance, Hoppe noted that the month-to-month in s u r a n c e had been purchased a day or two earlier in El Paso, Texas, and proceeded to ask d e f en d a n t where they were from and where they were going. Defendant explained that they w e re from San Antonio, Texas, and were going to Knoxville, Tennessee, to see about doing a sb e sto s -re m o v a l work. Hoppe was familiar with asbestos removal from his service in the N a v y and knew that identification and special certification would be required. When asked a b o u t this, defendant explained that he had lost his wallet the night before in Baton Rouge, L o u is ia n a . During this exchange, defendant exhibited some signs of being nervous,
in c lu d in g swinging his arms, looking distressed, and having his voice crack. H o p p e then talked briefly with Lara, who confirmed that they were going to Knoxville b u t admitted that he did not have any paperwork and had not done asbestos work before. L a ra was wearing a Jose Malverde (grim reaper) pendant, which Hoppe knew to be a ss o c ia te d with drug traffickers. At 8:36 a.m., Hoppe began to take down some information, a n d defendant provided a date of birth and volunteered his driver's license number from
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m e m o ry. At 8:38 a.m., Hoppe called the national database known as the BLOC HIDTA w a tc h center, which is maintained by the Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ( IC E ) , to run computer checks on the defendant and Lara. Hoppe testified that this database w a s more comprehensive and returned results more quickly than calling dispatch.1 T e n minutes later, Hoppe decided to relocate from the shoulder of I-75 and asked the d e f en d a n t to drive to the next exit approximately four miles away. Defendant complied and, w h ile en route, Hoppe received the return call from the HIDTA watch center. The computer c h e ck confirmed that the driver's license number matched the name given by the driver, but p ro v id e d no information about the height, weight, or other identifying features of that person. H o p p e was still unable to confirm that the defendant was Hector Guajardo. After defendant e x ited the highway a few minutes later, Hoppe asked the defendant what he was planning to d o about his driver's license, whether he had anything illegal in the car, and for consent to s e a rc h the car for "ID and stuff." Defendant denied having contraband in the car and gave c o n se n t to search at 8:56 a.m.--approximately 25 minutes after the initial stop. A f te r patting down Lara for weapons, Hoppe started searching the passenger side of th e car. He looked through the trunk next, where two large containers of cat litter caught his a tte n tio n . Hoppe asked Lara about it, who said the cat litter was for defendant's sister in San A n to n io , but said they did not have time to take it to her before leaving for Knoxville. Hoppe th o u g h t this was odd, proceeded to remove all the containers and bags from the trunk, and co n tin u ed to search the trunk. Hoppe searched the driver's side, a bag from inside the car,
There is a break in the video until 8:43 a.m., during which Hoppe changed the tape in the video recorder.
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th e engine compartment, and the passenger side again. Hoppe testified that he once found id e n tif ic a tio n hidden in an engine compartment. Finally, Hoppe called Lara over to the car a n d had him put everything except the cat litter back into the trunk. H o p p e was suspicious that contraband was inside the cat litter containers, noting that th e plastic strip sealing one of the containers appeared to have been tampered with, that both c o n ta in e r s seemed heavier that he expected from their labels, and that one container was h e a v ie r than the other. At 9:15 a.m., Hoppe instructed Lara to open one of the cat litter c o n ta in e rs and Hoppe reached into the cat litter to find a brick of what would later be c o n f irm e d to be cocaine. Lara and the defendant were placed under arrest. Further in v e stig a tio n revealed that the containers held approximately ten kilograms of cocaine and th re e kilograms of heroin.2 D e f en d a n t was charged, along with Lara, in a three-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and two substantive offenses of possession with intent to d is trib u te more than five kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride and more than one kilogram of h e ro in . See 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). Defendant moved to suppress th e evidence on the grounds that the seizure was the product of a constitutionally u n r e a s o n a b le search and seizure. After an evidentiary hearing, the magistrate judge
re c o m m e n d e d that the motion to suppress be denied. Defendant objected and, after a de novo re v ie w of the evidence, the district court adopted the magistrate judge's recommendation and
Defendant does not argue that the stop was pretextual, presumably because it is well settled that the constitutional reasonableness of a traffic stop does not depend on the actual motivations of the individual officer. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996).
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d e n ied the defendant's motion to suppress. Defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty to the conspiracy charge, which preserved his right to appeal the suppression issue, and was s e n te n c e d under the "safety valve" provisions to 87 months' imprisonment. See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f). This appeal followed. II. " W e review the denial of a motion to suppress de novo, but will accept the district c o u rt's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous." United States v. Garrido, 467 F .3 d 971, 977 (6th Cir. 2006); see also United States v. Caruthers, 458 F.3d 459, 464 (6th C ir. 2006). When the district court denies a defendant's motion to suppress, this court c o n s id e rs the evidence in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Smith, 5 9 4 F.3d 530, 535 (6th Cir. 2010); United States v. Carter, 378 F.3d 584, 587 (6th Cir. 2004) (en banc). A. V a lid ity of the Stop T h e Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures by th e government "extend to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of tra d itio n a l arrest." United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002). In determining the co n stitutio n ality of an investigatory detention under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), we e m p lo y a two-part inquiry that asks whether there was a proper basis for the stop and whether th e degree of intrusion was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances of the stop. C a r u t h e r s, 458 F.3d at 464. Although "virtually every other circuit court of appeals has held th a t reasonable suspicion suffices to justify an investigatory stop for a traffic violation," this
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circu it has required probable cause to justify an investigatory stop for completed m is d e m e a n o r traffic violations. United States v. Simpson, 520 F.3d 531, 540 (6th Cir. 2008); s e e also United States v. Sanford, 476 F.3d 391, 394 (6th Cir. 2007). This court has also h e ld , however, that when the stop is for an ongoing violation--no matter how m in o r-- re a s o n a b le suspicion will be sufficient to justify an investigatory stop. Simpson, 520 F .3 d at 541. D e f en d a n t argues that Hoppe did not have probable cause to believe he had committed a n y of the following traffic violations at the time of the stop: (1) driving too slowly in v io la tio n of Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-154; (2) failing to have his headlights on in the rain as re q u ire d by Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-406; or (3) failing to maintain his lane of travel as re q u ire d by Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-123. The government has abandoned any argument that th e first two of these could have provided a valid basis for the stop. In d e e d , the government does not respond to defendant's argument that there was n e ith e r a posted minimum speed in the area, nor probable cause to believe that he was driving in such a way as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic so as to violate T e n n . Code Ann. § 55-8-154. Defendant also emphasizes that Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-94 0 6 (b )( 1 ) requires the use of headlights "when rain, mist, or other precipitation . . . n e c es s ita te s the constant use of windshield wipers by motorists." From the video evidence, it appears that although Hoppe had been using his windshield wipers at least intermittently d u rin g the prior traffic stop, the amount of precipitation at the time of the stop did not n e c e s s ita te the constant use of the patrol car's windshield wipers.
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T h is leaves the third of the alleged traffic violations, which the government contends m a y provide an alternative basis for this court to affirm. That is, the government maintains, h a v in g observed the defendant cross the fog line several times, Hoppe had probable cause to believe that the defendant failed to maintain his lane of travel in violation of Tenn. Code A n n . § 55-8-123. See United States v. Garrido-Santana, 360 F.3d 565, 571 (6th Cir. 2004) (" A police officer may lawfully stop a motorist whom he has probable cause to believe has c o m m itte d a traffic violation."). The district court did not rely on this violation, but instead f o u n d that the stop was justified because Hoppe had reasonable suspicion that the defendant w a s engaged in the ongoing offense of driving while intoxicated in violation of Tenn. Code A n n . § 55-10-401. See Simpson, 520 F.3d at 541. Defendant's main contention on appeal, a p p lic a b le to either of these justifications, is that Hoppe's testimony about observing the d e f en d a n t's car cross the fog line should not be believed. S p e c if ic a lly, defendant argues that the view captured by the dashboard camera after H o p p e had positioned his patrol car in the median suggested that it was "unlikely" that H o p p e could have seen defendant's car cross the fog line. Hoppe, the only witness at the s u p p re ss io n hearing, testified that, in fact, he could see the lines on the roadway and e x p la in e d that his vantage point was different from that of the dashboard camera. Without o f f e r in g any evidence to contradict Hoppe's testimony, defendant states that it is "curious" th a t Hoppe did not see him cross the fog line after the camera began recording. That fact, h o w e v e r, does not contradict or impeach Hoppe's testimony. After pulling out of the m ed ian, Hoppe had to catch up to the defendant, who had undoubtedly seen the patrol car,
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a n d maneuver around truck traffic before pacing defendant's car and signaling for the d e f en d a n t to stop. These arguments do not provide a sufficient basis to set aside the district c o u rt's determination that Hoppe was a credible witness. Garrido-Santana, 360 F.3d at 573. T h a t leaves only the question of whether Hoppe had reasonable suspicion to believe th a t the defendant was driving while impaired. Reasonable suspicion "`requires more than a mere hunch, but is satisfied by a likelihood of criminal activity less than probable cause, and falls considerably short of satisfying a preponderance of the evidence standard.'" Dorsey v . Barber, 517 F.3d 389, 395 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Hoppe testified that he o b s e rv e d defendant's car brake and swerve once it was in a position to see his patrol car, saw d e f en d a n t's car cross the fog line three times in a relatively short distance, and noted that d e f en d a n t was traveling at well-below the posted speed limit. Hoppe suspected that the d riv e r was impaired or falling asleep, and testified that he had arrested an impaired driver c o m in g from the nearby methadone clinic the day before this stop. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to credit Hoppe's testimony concerning his observations of defendant's driving before d e c id in g to make an investigatory stop. Garrido-Santana, 360 F.3d at 572. Because Hoppe h a d reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant was driving while impaired, the initial in v e stig a to ry stop was proper under the Fourth Amendment. T h e second part of the inquiry asks whether the Terry stop was reasonable in scope a n d duration. Id. at 571; see also Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983). That is, the s to p must "last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop," and "the
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in v e stig a tiv e methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to v e rif y or dispel the officer's suspicion in a short period of time." Royer, 460 U.S. at 500. " O n c e the purpose of the traffic stop is completed, a motorist cannot be further detained u n le ss something that occurred during the stop caused the officer to have a reasonable and a rtic u la b le suspicion that criminal activity was afoot." United States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 2 6 4 (6th Cir. 1999). T yp ica lly, "the officer may ask the detainee a moderate number of questions to d eterm ine his identity and to try to obtain information confirming or dispelling the officer's s u s p ic io n s ." Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439 (1984). Here, before Hoppe's re a so n a b le suspicion that defendant was driving while impaired could be dispelled, the initial re q u e st for license, registration, and proof of insurance revealed that the defendant was d riv in g without a license in violation of Tennessee law. Defendant does not dispute that it w a s objectively reasonable and within the scope of the initial stop for Hoppe to ask the d e f en d a n t for this information and to conduct the computer check in an attempt to verify the d e f e n d a n t's identity. See Garrido-Santana, 360 F.3d at 573-74 (rejecting defendant's c o n ten tio n that reasonable suspicion was necessary to continue to detain driver after valid s to p for speeding in order to complete computer check of driver's license even though c itatio n for speeding had already been issued); Hill, 195 F.3d at 269 (holding that driver's license check completed after citation for traffic offense was issued was within original scope
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 11 No. 08-5964 o f traffic stop).3 R a th e r, defendant asserts without elaboration that the purpose of the stop was c o n c lu d e d once the computer check confirmed that the name given by the driver matched the d riv e r's license number he had provided from memory. As a result, defendant asserts that H o p p e unreasonably extended the stop once they reached the exit by asking defendant a d d itio n a l questions and requesting permission to search the car. On the contrary, the results o f the computer check confirmed only that the driver's license number belonged to Hector G u a jar d o , not whether the driver was in fact Hector Guajardo. The district court found both th a t the driver's identity had not been established and that no arrest or citation had been is s u e d for driving without a license. See TENN. CODE ANN. § 40-7-118(b)(1) and § 55-503 5 1 . As a result, the stop had not been concluded when, at the next exit, the defendant got o u t of his car and Hoppe asked the defendant when he would get his license and requested p e rm is s io n to search the car for "ID and stuff." Defendant consented at 8:55 a.m. to a search o f the car. T h e district court did not err in finding that the initial stop was proper, that the c o n tin u e d detention was justified, reasonable in duration--lasting approximately 25 m in u te s-- a n d reasonably related in scope to the circumstances of the stop. 11
Nor does defendant claim that it was unreasonable for Hoppe to ask questions that were unrelated to the reason for the initial stop, including whether weapons, drugs, or anything else illegal was in the car. See Arizona v. Johnson, __U.S.__, 129 S. Ct. 781, 783 (2009) ("An officer's inquires into matters unrelated to the justification for the traffic stop . . . do not convert the encounter into something other than a lawful seizure, so long as those inquiries do not measurably extend the stop's duration."); see also United States v. Everett, 601 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding some questioning about unrelated conduct permissible "so long as the officer's overall course of action during a traffic stop, viewed objectively and in its totality, is reasonably directed toward the proper ends of the stop").
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 12 No. 08-5964 B. S c o p e of the Consensual Search D e f en d a n t concedes that he voluntarily consented to a search of his car, and disputes o n ly whether Hoppe exceeded the scope of that consent by searching the sealed containers o f cat litter in which the drugs were found. A district court's determination whether a search e x c e e d e d the scope of the consent is a question of fact, which we review for clear error. G a r r id o -S a n ta n a , 360 F.3d at 570. "The standard for measuring the scope of a suspect's c o n se n t under the Fourth Amendment is that of `objective' reasonableness--what would the typ ic a l reasonable person have understood by the exchange between the officer and the s u s p e c t? " Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 251 (1991). T h e video evidence shows that after stopping on the exit ramp, Hoppe called the d e f en d a n t over, asked him when he was going to get his license, and then asked if there was " a n yt h i n g of an illegal nature in the vehicle . . . any alcohol, guns, anything like that." D e f e n d a n t answered, "no." Hoppe replied, "I want to look in it for ID and things like that, d o you have a problem with that?" Defendant answered, "no." Hoppe added the following: O k a y, if I found--I'm not going to find no--you got no--you're not a drug u s e r, nothing like that--no alcohol, no guns . . . okay. W h a t I want to look for, what I get a lot of times is people say they lost their ID s and they're not who they say they are. And you may be that, and if you are w e 're going to go on, if I don't find any ID up there, okay, but I get a lot of p e o p le who say, "oh, my name's Hector so and so," and their real name is B o b b y Lewis. You know, you don't have any pictures on you and that's a p ro b le m , okay, just take your hand out of your pocket. Do you mind if I search it for ID and stuff? D e f en d a n t argues that the only reasonable understanding of this exchange is that the consent w a s to a search for identification only--not contraband such as drugs, alcohol, or guns--and 12
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 13 No. 08-5964 that the consent did not extend to the closed container of cat litter. In Garrido-Santana, this court held that by asking the defendant whether he possessed a n y illegal contraband such as drugs or stolen goods and then asking for consent to search th e defendant's car, the officer reasonably informed the defendant that such contraband was th e object of any search. 360 F.3d at 576. The court then held that because the defendant c o n se n ted to the search without explicit limitation on its scope, it was objectively reasonable f o r the officer to conclude that the defendant had consented to a search of the car for drugs o r stolen goods and that the consent would extend to a search of any containers within the c a r that could reasonably be expected to hold such contraband. Id. H e re , Hoppe asked the defendant if there was anything of an illegal nature such as d ru g s, alcohol, or guns in the car, which informed the defendant of the wide-ranging objects o f the requested search. The defendant consented to the search of the car without expressly lim itin g the scope, and it was not clear error for the district court to conclude that a re a so n a b le person would have understood this exchange to consent to a search of the car for id e n tif ic a tio n , pictures, or items of an illegal nature such as drugs, alcohol, or guns.4 T h is brings us to the question of whether defendant's consent to search extended to th e closed cat litter containers taking up most of the trunk. The Supreme Court explained in J im e n o that, although one may delimit the scope of a search to which he consents, no explicit a u th o riz a tio n is required to search a particular container "if his consent would reasonably be 13
The district court assumed that Hoppe was referring to pictures like illegal pornography, but pictures were not mentioned with the things of "an illegal nature." It seems more likely that pictures would be relevant to establishing the defendant's identity.
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u n d e rs to o d to extend to a particular container." Jimeno, 500 U.S. at 252. The Court in J im e n o held that because the officer told the suspect he believed there were narcotics in the c a r before asking for permission to search the car, and the suspect consented without placing a n y explicit limitation on the scope of the search, "it was objectively reasonable for the police to conclude that the general consent to search [the suspect's] car included consent to search c o n ta in e rs within that car which might bear drugs." Id. at 251. Explaining that "[a] rea so n ab le person may be expected to know that narcotics are generally carried in some form o f a container" and are rarely "`strewn across the trunk or floor of a car,'" the Court held that the consent to search extended to a closed paper bag lying on the floor of the car. Id. (citatio n omitted). In reaching this conclusion, the Court in Jimeno distinguished another case in which it was "held that consent to search the trunk of a car did not include authorization to pry open a locked briefcase found inside the trunk." Id. Defendant relies on the Court's further c o m m e n t that: "It is very likely unreasonable to think that a suspect, by consenting to the s e a rc h of his trunk, has agreed to the breaking open of a locked briefcase within the trunk, b u t it is otherwise with respect to a closed paper bag." Id. at 251-52. In this case, defendant argues both that a reasonable person would not expect to find id e n tif ic a tio n in a sealed container of cat litter, and that, as with a locked briefcase, one w o u ld not expect the general consent to search to extend to a "factory-sealed" container of c a t litter. These questions need not be resolved in this case because, as the district court also f o u n d , Hoppe had probable cause to believe contraband would be found in the cat litter
Case: 08-5964 Document: 006110698639 Filed: 08/05/2010 Page: 15 No. 08-5964 c o n ta in e rs at the time they were opened and searched. A s the stop developed, Hoppe learned that the defendant was driving across country w ith o u t identification, to see about asbestos removal work without identification or c e rtific a tio n s, presented month-to-month insurance purchased days before, and claimed to h a v e taken the two large tubs of cat litter because there was not time to deliver it to d e f en d a n t's sister. Hoppe knew from experience that it was not uncommon for someone who c laim e d to have lost his license to be lying about his true identity, and defendant's identity co u ld not be confirmed. When Hoppe lifted the supposedly factory-sealed tubs of cat litter, h e noted that they seemed heavier than the 35 pounds they were supposed to be and, more im p o rta n tly, that one was heavier than the other. Also, one of the blue plastic seals was s tria te d so as to suggest that it had been tampered with. At the time the first cat litter c o n ta in e r was opened, Hoppe had probable cause to believe that contraband would be found in s id e . See California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580 (1991) (holding the Fourth Amendment d o e s not preclude a warrantless search of a container in an automobile where there is p rob ab le cause to believe that it contains contraband). A F F IR M E D . 15
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