Unpublished Disposition, 935 F.2d 277 (9th Cir. 1989)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 935 F.2d 277 (9th Cir. 1989)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Arnoldo RIOS-SANCHEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 90-50504.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted May 7, 1991.Decided June 4, 1991.

Before TANG, REINHARDT and WIGGINS, Circuit Judges.


MEMORANDUM* 

Appellant Arnoldo Rios-Sanchez appeals the denial of his motion to suppress the fruits of an illegal detention and search and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for possession of 55 pounds of marijuana. We find that the initial detention of Rios-Sanchez's vehicle was authorized by United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), and that the appellant consented to the search. Furthermore we find that sufficient evidence supports Rios-Sanchez's conviction for possession of marijuana. We therefore affirm.

On December 31, 1989, Rios-Sanchez was stopped by Border Patrol Agent Tippit at a fixed checkpoint on Highway 111 in Southern California. During a brief detention in the primary inspection area, Agent Tippit asked Rios-Sanchez questions regarding his citizenship status. Because Rios-Sanchez appeared nervous, Agent Tippit then requested permission to search the trunk of the vehicle. Rios-Sanchez consented and stepped out of his car; when the door opened, Agent Tippit detected the strong scent of air freshener. Agent Tippit took a "quick look" inside the trunk, which revealed nothing unusual, and then referred Rios-Sanchez to the secondary inspection area for a more thorough investigation. At secondary, Rios-Sanchez again consented to a search of his vehicle, and eventually 55 pounds of marijuana was discovered in hidden compartments in the front fenders of the car.

Rios-Sanchez filed a motion to suppress the fruits of the search conducted in secondary, arguing that his referral to secondary was for non-immigration related reasons. According to Rios-Sanchez, his detention in secondary was invalid because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion, and his consent to the search was invalid because it was vitiated by the illegal detention. The motion was denied by the magistrate who tried him, and the district court later affirmed that denial.

Pursuant to United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), no particularized suspicion is required to stop a vehicle at a fixed checkpoint for brief questioning regarding citizenship and immigration status. Thus, the detention of Rios-Sanchez at primary was clearly legal. A detention that is more intrusive than the brief immigration questioning contemplated by Martinez-Fuerte, however, must be supported by particularized suspicion. Id. at 567. The first question on appeal is whether the referral of Rios-Sanchez to secondary exceeded the scope of Martinez-Fuerte.

Rios-Sanchez argues that a complete Martinez-Fuerte inspection took place in primary and that Agent Tippit therefore needed either reasonable suspicion or probable cause regarding the possession of drugs to refer him to secondary. The district court disagreed, finding that the immigration inspection at primary was incomplete and that the referral to secondary was made " [b]ecause traffic was backing up on the road behind the [primary] checkpoint." The district court noted that prior to referring Rios-Sanchez to secondary, Agent Tippit had only taken a "quick look" inside the trunk of Rios-Sanchez's vehicle and had not yet had a chance visually to examine the backseat area of the car. Moreover, Rios-Sanchez appeared nervous. Thus, the district court concluded, "it was reasonable for Agent Tippit to want to conduct a thorough investigation at the secondary inspection area."

Our review of the record supports the determination that the Martinez-Fuerte detention at primary was incomplete and that the referral to secondary was made at least partly for immigration reasons. Thus, particularized suspicion regarding drugs was not required. Once at secondary, Rios-Sanchez consented to the ensuing search of his car. Because his consent was not tainted by an illegal detention, the search was not rendered illegal. See United States v. Delgadillo-Velasquez, 856 F.2d 1292, 1299 (9th Cir. 1988). The motion to suppress was properly denied.

Viewing the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the government, we will uphold the conviction if any rational trier of fact could have found Rios-Sanchez guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of each essential element of the crime with which he was charged. United States v. Penagos, 823 F.2d 346 (9th Cir. 1987).

In order to convict him of possession of marijuana, the government was required to prove that Rios-Sanchez knowingly possessed the marijuana. United States v. Behanna, 814 F.2d 1318, 1319 (9th Cir. 1987). His possession of a substantial quantity of narcotics hidden in secret compartments of his car is sufficient to raise a strong inference that he was aware of the marijuana. See United States v. Collins, 764 F.2d 647, 652 (9th Cir. 1985); United States v. Walitwarangkul, 808 F.2d 1352, 1354 (9th Cir. 1987) (Ferguson, J., concurring). Although Rios-Sanchez claimed that he had just purchased the car, he offered no proof of that fact. The government introduced evidence that the car had crossed the border several times within the past few days, including one time earlier on the day of Rios-Sanchez's arrest. Finally, the government introduced evidence that three cans of air freshener were discovered in the car.

Viewing this evidence in a light most favorable to the government, we determine that a rational trier of fact could have found Rios-Sanchez guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of possession of the 55 pounds of marijuana. His conviction is therefore supported by sufficient evidence.

Agent Tippit's referral of Rios-Sanchez to secondary was authorized under Martinez-Fuerte and Rios-Sanchez's subsequent consent to search was therefore not tainted by an illegal detention. Furthermore, the inference justified by Rios-Sanchez's possession of 55 pounds of marijuana, when combined with the other evidence presented by the government, was sufficient to show his knowledge of the marijuana. Thus, sufficient evidence existed for a rational trier of fact to find Rios-Sanchez guilty of possession of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt.

For the reasons stated above the decision of the district court is

AFFIRMED.

 *

This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3