Submitted: March 15, 2019
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - St. Paul
SHEPHERD, ERICKSON, and KOBES, Circuit Judges.
Bettis challenges the denial of his motion to suppress nearly
200 grams of heroin found in a rental car he was driving.
Because law enforcement obtained additional facts during the
traffic stop that "established beyond question the
existence of probable cause," United States v.
Olivera-Mendez, 484 F.3d 505, 513 (8th Cir. 2007), we
affirm the district court.
summer of 2016, informants tipped off police that Bettis was
selling heroin in the Minneapolis area. Bettis, who has two
prior convictions involving trafficking heroin from Chicago,
is married to Natasha Daniels. In a previous investigation,
police had searched his home and found more than 80 grams of
heroin and a fake ID. When law enforcement learned that
Bettis was in Chicago and likely driving a Toyota rented by
Daniels, they set up surveillance on his return route.
before 5 p.m. on November 8, 2016, Minnesota State Trooper
Derrick Hagen stopped the Toyota for speeding on I-94. When
asked for identification, the driver presented an Illinois
photo ID with the name "Vernon Silas." Trooper
Hagen recognized him as Bettis. A passport identified the
passenger as Dalia Taha. Bettis did not have a valid license.
The rental contract showed that Daniels, who was not in the
car, was the only authorized driver.
Hagen smelled a strong odor of raw marijuana coming from the
vehicle. He separated Bettis and Taha and questioned both.
Bettis claimed that he had traveled to Chicago with his son
and attended a cousin's birthday party with Taha. When
the trooper said that he smelled marijuana, Bettis admitted
that he and Taha had smoked in the car. Taha told a different
story. She claimed that she had been at a funeral with
Bettis, but she could not remember any details, including the
decedent's name. She admitted that she had smoked
marijuana but not, she said, in the rental car.
second Minnesota State Trooper arrived and secured Taha in
his patrol car. Trooper Hagen then walked his drug-detection
canine around the rental car. The dog alerted to the
driver's side of the vehicle, and then indicated that the
center console had drugs. Law enforcement found marijuana
remnants in the console.
conducted a roadside search using flashlights but did not
find additional drugs. Based everything they knew and because
drug dealers sometimes use marijuana to mask the odor of
other drugs, the officers suspected additional drugs were
hidden in the Toyota. Shortly after 6 p.m. they towed the
vehicle to a police garage for a more thorough search. Bettis
and Taha were dropped off at a nearby gas station.
next day law enforcement performed another dog sniff on the
rental vehicle. After the dog alerted, they obtained a state
court warrant to search the Toyota. This time, officers
discovered approximately 200 grams of heroin in the
driver's headrest. That same day Daniels called law
enforcement about the vehicle, and the case agent said that
it would be returned directly to the rental company.
jury indicted Bettis on one count of possession with intent
to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(B) and two counts of distribution of
heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) &
(b)(1)(C). Bettis moved to suppress the heroin found in the
Toyota, arguing that law enforcement violated his Fourth
Amendment rights by towing the vehicle to the police garage
after the initial roadside search. The magistrate judge found
that Bettis had standing to challenge the seizure of the
rental car under United States v. Muhammad, 58 F.3d
353 (8th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) and United States v.
Best, 135 F.3d 1223 (8th Cir. 1998). The court denied
the motion to suppress because highway conditions limited the
search's effectiveness and the suspects' misleading
and confusing stories increased the officers' suspicions.
The district court adopted the report and recommendation in
court convicted Bettis on all three charges and sentenced him
to 120 months in prison. Bettis timely appealed the denial of
his motion to suppress the heroin found in the
Toyota. We have jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3742 and 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and review the district