Submitted: November 14, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of North
Dakota - Bismarck
COLLOTON, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
Ahumada was convicted of two drug trafficking offenses after
the district court denied Ahumada's motion to suppress
heroin seized during the search of his rental vehicle. On
appeal, Ahumada challenges the district court's denial of
his motion to suppress and argues that there was insufficient
evidence to support one of the convictions. We affirm.
case arises from a traffic stop conducted on December 29,
2014, by North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremie Meisel.
Ahumada was a passenger in a car driven by Frank Villa on
Interstate 94. Meisel stopped the vehicle for speeding.
asked Villa to accompany him to his patrol car. Meisel ran a
computer check on Villa and issued him a warning for
speeding. He also asked if Villa would consent to a dog sniff
or a search of the vehicle, but Villa refused. Meisel then
retrieved a drug-detection dog from his patrol car and led
the dog around Villa's vehicle. The dog alerted to the
presence of drugs as it passed the driver's door.
began to search the car and found three used syringes in a
black leather bag in the trunk. Villa admitted that the
syringes were his and that he used them to take drugs. Meisel
arrested Villa and allowed Ahumada to leave. The state patrol
then towed the car to a regional office, and officers
continued the search. Meisel eventually found over
four-and-a-half pounds of heroin in the roof of the trunk.
jury charged Villa and Ahumada with one count of conspiracy
to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute,
heroin, 21 U.S.C. § 846, and one count of possession
with intent to distribute heroin, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).
Ahumada moved to suppress the seized heroin, arguing that
Meisel violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment, as
interpreted in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S.Ct.
1609 (2015). He argued that Meisel, by extending the duration
of the traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff around the
vehicle, effected an unreasonable seizure. After a hearing,
the district court denied the motion. The court concluded
that the seizure was permissible under binding appellate
precedent at the time of the incident, and that the
later-issued Rodriguez decision did not justify
excluding the evidence.
then found Ahumada guilty, and the district court imposed
sentence. In reviewing the denial of Ahumada's motion to
suppress, we review the district court's factual findings
for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo.
United States v. Bell, 480 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir.
2007). Where a defendant challenges the sufficiency of
evidence, we will uphold a conviction if a reasonable juror
could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt. United States v. Washington, 318 F.3d 845,
852 (8th Cir. 2003).
is no dispute that Trooper Meisel had probable cause to seize
Ahumada and Villa when he saw that the car was speeding on
the highway. Ahumada contends, however, that once Meisel
issued a warning to Villa, and Villa refused consent to
search the car, Meisel unreasonably prolonged the seizure for
the time required to conduct a dog sniff around the vehicle.
Rodriguez held that "a police stop exceeding
the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was
made violates the Constitution's shield against
unreasonable seizures." 135 S.Ct. at 1612. Because
police discovered drugs in the car only as a result of this
allegedly unlawful seizure, Ahumada argues that the evidence
should be suppressed pursuant to the judicially created
exclusionary rule. See generally Herring v. United
States, 555 U.S. 135 (2009).
videorecording of the incident shows that Meisel's dog
alerted to the presence of drugs in the car approximately
eight-and-a-half minutes after the trooper issued a warning
notice to Villa. The district court concluded that
suppression of evidence was not justified, because the brief
extension of the seizure ...