United States v. Collazo, No. 15-5806 (6th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Collazo was driving on I-40. His wife, Cinthia, was the passenger. Officer Hill initiated a traffic stop after concluding that Collazo’s van was following too closely. Hill observed a jar of what appeared to be urine between the seats and Cinthia behaving erratically. Collazo said that Cinthia might be on pain medication due to recent surgeries. Hill concluded the traffic stop 21 minutes after it began. Collazo remained by the patrol car chatting for another eight minutes, until Officer Montgomery returned with Cinthia’s purse. Montgomery had asked Cinthia if she was nervous because something illegal was in the van. She hesitated, so he asked, “is it a lot?” Cinthia said that it was a lot and handed over her purse, where Montgomery discovered a prescription bottle for Suboxone and several loose Suboxone strips. Hill returned to the van and received Cinthia’s consent to search. Hill did not ask for or obtain written consent, despite the West Tennessee Drug Task Force’s policy. The officers discovered three kilograms of cocaine in the van approximately 90 minutes into the stop. A later search, following an attempted controlled delivery of the cocaine to its intended recipient, revealed 14 kilograms more. After an unsuccessful motion to suppress, Collazo pled guilty to conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 846; 18 U.S.C. 2. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Taken together, the circumstances provided ample evidence to conclude that the officers possessed probable cause to search Collazo’s van.