United States v. Vargas, No. 18-1250 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Vargas rented a parking place for his truck in a Chicago lot without assigned spaces. Agents in Ohio arrested Hueter as he transported cocaine that, Hueter asserted, he had purchased from Vargas the previous day at his parked truck. Hueter described Vargas, the truck, and the lot. Illinois agents then entered the lot by following someone through the gate. Approaching a truck that met Hueter’s description, they sent a photo to the Ohio agents. Hueter identified the truck. A dog alerted to the odor of drugs. Agents then broke a window, opened the truck's door, and found eight kilos of cocaine. Convicted of cocaine offenses, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), Vargas was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit rejected his argument that the judge should have suppressed drugs seized from his truck. By the time the agents broke into the truck they had probable cause, based on Hueter’s statements plus confirmation from the photo and the dog. Vargas neither owned the parking lot nor had a leasehold interest in any particular spot. Vargas was entitled to park his truck in any open space but not to exclude anyone else. Agents did not need probable cause or a warrant to enter the lot. The court also rejected Vargas’s remaining arguments; the judge did not violate the Due Process Clause, which deals with only egregious transgressions of trial rules and decorum.