Unpublished Disposition, 921 F.2d 282 (9th Cir. 1990)Annotate this Case
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Julian VALENCIA, Defendant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Dec. 18, 1990.* Decided Dec. 20, 1990.
Before GOODWIN, Chief Judge, and SCHROEDER and BRUNETTI, Circuit Judges.
Julian Valencia appeals his conviction, following a jury trial, for one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (1). Valencia contends that the district court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress evidence seized following his arrest because the arrest was not supported by probable cause. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.
A warrantless arrest must be supported by probable cause. United States v. Del Vizo, No. 89-50141, slip op. 13729, 13739 (9th Cir. Nov. 8, 1990) (pattern of activity consistent with participation in drug trafficking sufficient basis for probable cause to arrest); United States v. Hoyos, 892 F.2d 1387, 1392 (9th Cir. 1989) (pattern of activity, including trading vehicles, consistent with participation in drug trafficking sufficient basis for probable cause to arrest). The determination of probable cause is a mixed question of law and fact in which the legal issues predominate, and is therefore subject to de novo review. Hoyos, 892 F.2d at 1392; United States v. Smith, 790 F.2d 789, 791 (9th Cir. 1986). We must accept the underlying facts as found by the district court unless clearly erroneous. United States v. Greene, 783 F.2d 1364, 1367 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1185 (1986).
"The test for probable cause is whether 'facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge ... are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, [to believe], in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, or is committing or is about to commit an offense.' " Smith, 802 F.2d at 1123 (citing Michigan v. De Fillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979)) (citations omitted); see also Del Vizo, slip op. at 13,739. Law enforcement officers may draw upon their experience and expertise in determining the existence of probable cause. Hoyos, 892 F.2d at 1392. Thus, seemingly innocent conduct may provide the basis for probable cause when viewed in light of all of the information known at the time of the arrest. United States v. Rodriquez, 869 F.2d 479, 483 (9th Cir. 1989) (pattern of activity consistent with participation in drug trafficking sufficient basis for probable cause to stop vehicle and arrest defendant when he took delivery of vehicle from persons suspected of involvement in narcotics trafficking, even though surveilling officers saw no narcotics). "The arresting officer need not have personal knowledge of the facts sufficient to constitute probable cause. Probable cause may be based on the collective knowledge of all of the officers involved in the investigation and all of the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom." Hoyos, 892 F.2d at 1392 (citations omitted).
Here, the district court found that Special Agent Wadkins, the arresting officer, was aware of the following facts either personally or via information supplied by other officers before he decided to arrest Valencia: (1) that Valencia's codefendants Barbara Paniagua and Maria Marin had participated in a "car switch" delivery of cocaine on July 1, 1989; (2) that the cocaine which Paniagua and Marin supplied on July 1, 1989 almost certainly had been stored at a residence located at 2191 Canyon Drive, Costa Mesa, California; (3) that on July 3, 1989, officers conducting surveillance at the Canyon Drive residence saw Paniagua and Marin drive a Chevrolet Celebrity automobile into the residence's garage and close the door; (4) that Paniagua and Marin later drove the Chevrolet out of the garage and proceeded to drive to the Costa Mesa Courtyards Shopping Center parking lot where they parked the Chevrolet, walked towards the mall buildings, entered a red Grand Am, and drove away; and (5) that Valencia then entered the vehicle and drove it out of parking lot.
Thus, there were sufficient facts present for Officer Wadkins, based on his approximately twenty years of experience in narcotics law enforcement, to have probable cause to believe that Valencia was engaged in the transport of a controlled substance. Paniagua and Marin were known to traffic in narcotics. See Rodriquez, 869 F.2d at 483. Paniagua and Marin were known by Special Agent Wadkins to use the "car switch" method when delivering their narcotics. Paniagua and Marin engaged in a pattern of activity on July 3, 1989 in delivering the Chevrolet to Valencia at the Costa Mesa Courtyards Shopping Mall similar to the one that they had followed delivering drugs to Garcia and the undercover officers just two days earlier in delivering the Chevrolet to the parking lot. See Del Vizo, slip op. at 13,740; Hoyos, 892 F.2d at 1393.
Therefore, the district court did not err by denying Valencia's motion to suppress evidence seized following his arrest by Special Agent Wadkins. See Del Vizo, slip op. at 13740-42; Hoyos, 892 F.2d at 1393; Rodriquez, 869 F.2d at 483.