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United States v. Haulcy

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ZACHARY HAULCY Defendant.

          ORDER

          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Zachary Haulcy's Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized as Fruit of Unlawful Seizure and Detention. [Doc. 36] The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties, the record in this case, the evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing held on December 20, 2016, and the pertinent law. The Court, being otherwise fully advised, denies the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine contrary to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(C). [Doc. 14] The present Motion pertains to the circumstances that led police to discover those substances in Defendant's vehicle. As grounds for suppressing the narcotics evidence, Defendant argues: (1) that the traffic stop that led police to discover the narcotics was not supported by reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation; and (2) that the deputy unlawfully detained Defendant after issuing a traffic citation. [Doc. 36 p. 3, 5]

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         The Court held an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's Motion to Suppress. Two witnesses testified at this hearing: Deputy Patrick Rael for the Government; and Defendant, on his own behalf.

         The Court finds that:

1. Deputy Patrick Rael is employed by the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, and he is also a task force officer with Homeland Security. He works on the highway specializing in criminal interdiction, and his duties include conducting traffic stops for traffic violations.
2. Over the course of Deputy Rael's fourteen-year career in law enforcement, he has conducted approximately 10, 000-15, 000 traffic investigations, and he has been involved in thousands of narcotics cases.
3. On January 15, 2016, Deputy Rael was on patrol on west I-40 between mile markers 149 and 131.
4. Deputy Real noticed a small passenger car-a maroon Saturn-following a tractor-trailer at a distance of less than three car lengths. The Saturn passed the tractor trailer and pulled in front of it, again, leaving less than three car lengths between the two vehicles.
5. A tractor trailer's mirrors do not reflect a vehicle that is within three car lengths of the tractor trailer. Thus, a car that is travelling within three car lengths behind a tractor trailer is invisible to the tractor trailer's driver.
6. A car travelling within three car lengths in front of a tractor trailer does not permit the driver of the tractor trailer to stop on time to avoid a collision in the event that the car must make an evasive move in traffic.
7. It is unreasonable and unsafe to travel within three car lengths of a tractor trailer at highway speed.
8. Deputy Rael, having observed the Saturn's unsafe driving proximity to the tractor trailer, initiated a traffic stop of the Saturn.
9. Defendant was the driver, and sole occupant, of the Saturn.
10. In response to Deputy Rael's request for documentation, Defendant provided the deputy with his driver's license and a ...

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