United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER SUPPRESSING EVIDENCE
CHRISTINA ARMIJO CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Suppress Evidence filed January 27, 2017. [Doc. 26] The
Court has considered the written submissions of the parties,
the evidence adduced at the April 26, 2017 evidentiary
hearing, the record, and the applicable law, and is otherwise
fully advised. Defendant's Motion is well taken,
and shall be granted.
Rudis Alexander Cornejo is charged with nine counts of
transporting an illegal alien, contrary to 8 U.S.C.
§§ 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) and (B)(i); and one count of
conspiracy to transport an illegal alien, contrary to 8
U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I). [Doc. 9] Defendant seeks
to suppress the evidence against him on the ground that the
traffic stop which ultimately led to the charges was not
founded upon reasonable suspicion. [Doc. 26 p. 2] The Court
held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's
Motion on April 26, 2017. A single witness, Leonard
R. Armijo, Deputy First Class of the Bernalillo County
Sheriff's Department, testified at the hearing.
Law Governing the Traffic Stop
validity of a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment turns
on whether [the] particular officer had reasonable suspicion
that [the] particular motorist violated any one of the
multitude of applicable traffic and equipment regulations of
the jurisdiction.” United States v.
Valdez-Valdez, 525 F.3d 987, 991 (10th Cir. 2008).
Although “[a]n officer's reasonable mistake of
fact, as distinguished from a mistake of law, may support the
probable cause or reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a
traffic stop, an officer's failure to understand the
plain and unambiguous law he is charged with enforcing is not
objectively reasonable.” Id. (alterations
omitted). “The dispositive inquiry is whether state law
provided the officer with an objectively justifiable basis
for the stop.” Id. at 991-92 (alterations
Armijo initiated a traffic stop based on his suspicion that
Defendant had violated New Mexico's “minimum speed
regulation” statute. [Exhibit 1] That law provides that
“[a] person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a
slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of
traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe
operation or to be in compliance with law.” NMSA 1978,
§ 66-7-305(A) (2003). Defendant argues that he was not
driving in a manner that violated this statute. [Doc. 26 p.
June 3, 2016, Deputy Armijo was assigned to the Interstate
Enforcement Team. The assignment entailed patrolling
Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque.
Deputy Armijo was travelling westbound near Mile Post 140
where there is a slight grade uphill.
Deputy noticed two vehicles travelling in the right lane: a
Chevy Tahoe (driven by Defendant) and a commercial motor
right lane is considered the slow lane; the inside or left
lane is considered the fast lane.
Detective Armijo was travelling ahead of
both vehicles, thus his observations ...