United States v. Belakhdhar, No. 18-1884 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
DEA agents waited along I-94, for a black Toyota Camry. The previous evening, agents had arranged for a confidential informant to purchase heroin from Soto, who agreed to drive the shipment from Chicago to Detroit. Agents obtained a warrant to track the location of Soto’s cell phone. Agents spotted Soto’s Camry, matching it to the location of Soto’s cell phone. Agents noticed a RAV4 behind Soto, driving at approximately the same speed as the Camry and changing lanes at the same time, concluded that the cars were traveling “in tandem” and asked Michigan State Police to pull over both cars. As a trooper pulled up, the RAV4 slowed to 53 miles per hour, under the minimum speed limit. The trooper effectuated a stop. The RAV4’s driver, Belakhdhar, and his passenger provided identification, explaining that they were driving to visit someone in the hospital. Belakhdhar consented to a car search. Failing to find any contraband, the trooper let them go. DEA continued surveilling the vehicle, determined that Belakhdhar lacked legal immigration status, and requested that Border Patrol stop the car. During that second stop, another agent walked a drug dog around the vehicle. The dog alerted to the back bumper. Opening the trunk, the agents discovered hidden heroin hidden and arrested Belakhdhar. The court suppressed the evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed. As a matter of law, the district court erred to the extent it held that tandem driving with a vehicle suspected of drug activity cannot, alone, support reasonable suspicion.