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United States v. Preciado

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 5, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Maria Antonia Preciado 1, and Manuel Lucio Lara 2 Defendants.

          Andrew S. Dunne and David P. Steinkamp, United States Attorney for the Government.

          Kevin M. O'Brien, for Defendant Maria Antonia Preciado; and Eric Hawkins, for Defendant Manuel Lucio Lara.




         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendant Maria Antonia Preciado's Objections [Doc. No. 64] to Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel's February 12, 2018 Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 61] (“R&R”). The magistrate judge recommended that Defendant Preciado's motions to suppress evidence and statements obtained as a result of a search and seizure [Doc. Nos. 41, 42] be denied. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules Defendant Preciado's Objections and adopts the R&R in its entirety.

         Also on February 12, 2018, the magistrate judge issued an R&R recommending the denial of two motions to suppress by Defendant Manuel Lucio Lara [Doc. No. 62].[1]Defendant Lara has filed no objection to that R&R, so the Court will adopt the magistrate judge's recommendation and deny Defendant Lara's motions [Doc. Nos. 28, 29].


         The R&R documents the relevant factual and procedural background of this case, and the Court incorporates it by reference. Briefly stated, law enforcement tracked Defendant's travel from California to Minnesota, by way of Texas, after a confidential informant stated that Defendant would likely be transporting methamphetamine from California to Minnesota in a white Dodge Ram with Texas plates. (Tr. [Doc. No. 54], at 13-15.) Law enforcement obtained a warrant to track the cell phone of one of the suspected traffickers, and the movement of the phone corroborated the informant's tip. (Id. at 16-22.) Officer Michael Flanagan of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension visually confirmed that a white Dodge Ram with Texas plates was traveling through Iowa heading north, following the same path of the tracked cell phone. (Id. at 22-24.) He informed Minnesota State Trooper Patrick Beuning that he had “probable cause to believe that there was methamphetamine inside the vehicle.” (Id. at 39.) Officer Flanagan remained in radio contact with Trooper Beuning during the events that followed. (Id. at 71.)

         After the white Dodge Ram entered Minnesota, Trooper Beuning clocked it traveling 76 miles-per-hour in a 70-mile-per-hour zone. (Id. at 73.) He pulled the truck over, took identification from Preciado, who was driving, and issued a warning for speeding. (Id. 74-83.) This took about thirty minutes, in part because it took Trooper Beuning some time to process Preciado's Mexican driver's license. (Id. at 81-83.) Trooper Beuning observed several things that he considered to be indicia of drug trafficking, including the strong odor of air fresheners in the truck, the presence of a dog in the truck, and inconsistency in Preciado's statement of how long they had been traveling. (Id. at 77-80.)

         Trooper Beuning asked if he could search the vehicle, and the occupants of the vehicle agreed.[2] (Id. at 84.) Trooper Beuning then had the occupants exit the vehicle and wait in two squad cars while he walked his canine partner around the truck. (Id. at 86.) The canine alerted, and the ensuing search discovered packages of methamphetamine beneath the bed lining of the truck. (Id. at 89-90.)

         Defendants Preciado and Manual Lucio Lara both moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of the truck. (See Mots. to Suppress [Doc. Nos. 28, 29, 41, 42].) Defendant Preciado argued that Trooper Beuning unlawfully extended the traffic stop longer than the time reasonably needed to issue a warning for speeding. (Mem. in Supp. of Pretrial Mots. [Doc. No. 57].) Magistrate Judge Noel recommended denying the motions. The magistrate judge determined that Officer Flanagan's investigation, which included cellphone tracking and a corroborated tip from an informant, was sufficient to justify the stop of the vehicle and the dog sniff. (R&R, at 6-8.) After the canine alerted to the presence of narcotics, the magistrate judge held, probable cause justified a warrantless search of the vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. (Id. at 7-8.)


         A. Standard of Review

         A party “may file and serve specific written objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations.” D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). The district court will review de novo those portions of the R&R to which an objection is made, and it “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the ...

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