United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the government's motion for
a ruling of admissibility on the offered testimony of DEA
Special Agent Joseph Montoya, as well as Defendant Manuel
Pavon-Rodriguez's motion to exclude or limit the
testimony of Agent Montoya. After reviewing the facts, the
legal standards, and the submissions of the parties, the
Court will permit Agent Montoya to testify as an expert only
about certain topics, enumerated below.
23, 2017, Border Patrol agents arrested Defendants John Leroy
Milne and Manuel Pavon-Rodriguez. Mr. Milne had been driving
a Ford Explorer (Explorer) containing several burlap
backpacks filled with about 111.8 kilograms of marijuana. Mr.
Pavon-Rodriguez, an undocumented alien, was hiding in the
government has charged Mr. Milne and Mr. Pavon-Rodriguez with
conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession with intent
to distribute marijuana. (Doc. 13 at 1-2.) As part of its
case, the government plans to call DEA Special Agent Joseph
Montoya. (Doc. 46 at 1.) The government contends that Agent
Montoya's testimony is relevant and admissible under
Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which allows opinion testimony
by witnesses qualified as experts. (Id.)
following are Agent Montoya's relevant credentials,
according to the government:
Agent Montoya has been a DEA Special Agent since 1999, during
which time he has specialized in investigations involving
drug trafficking. Agent Montoya has received specialized
training on the subject of drug trafficking from the DEA, and
he has personally [been] involved [in] over 500
investigations involving the possession, manufacture,
distribution, and importation of controlled substances . . .
. Agent Montoya has also been involved in more than 2000
undercover operations as a transporter/courier, facilitator,
seller, or purchaser of controlled substances.
. . .
Agent Montoya has approximately 15 years of field experience
conducting physical surveillance, interviewing witnesses,
including confidential sources and cooperating defendants,
writing affidavits for and executing search warrants, working
with undercover agents and informants, analyzing phone and
financial records, and conducting wiretap investigations.
. . .
Through informant interviews of individuals involved in drug
trafficking, through undercover operations, and through
participation in drug trafficking investigations, Agent
Montoya has learned about the manner in which individuals and
organizations package, conceal, transport, and distribute
controlled substances in New Mexico and throughout the United
States, and the transportation of controlled substances.
Agent Montoya also has become familiar with the appearance
and street names of various drugs, including marijuana. He
also knows the street value of marijuana and the difference
between distributable quantities of marijuana and personal
use quantities of marijuana.
(Id. at 1-2.) On the basis of this background, the
United States plans to have Agent Montoya testify about his
training and experience investigating drug trafficking cases,
as well as:
(1) the common ways in which drug distributors import
narcotics from Mexico into the United States, and then
transport and distribute the narcotics in New Mexico, and
elsewhere; (2) the meaning of the word “bales, ”
in reference to marijuana . . . (3) different roles within
drug organizations, specifically focusing on couriers and
backpackers; (4) that backpacks are “tools of the
trade” for drug traffickers . . . (5) the common ways
in which drug trafficking organizations export drugs from 
Mexico into the United States . . . (6) the monetary
wholesale and street value of the marijuana seized in this
case; and (7) that the amount and value of the marijuana
seized in this case is consistent with the intent to
distribute marijuana rather than personal use. Agent Montoya
also will testify concerning the significance of various
routes taken by the drug traffickers.
(Doc. 60 at 9.)
Pavon-Rodriguez objects to the proposed testimony by Agent
Montoya and asks the Court limit or exclude Agent
Rule of Evidence 702 allows a witness who qualifies as an
expert by virtue of his “knowledge, skill, experience,
training, or education” to testify in the form of an
opinion if (1) the witness's specialized knowledge will
help the trier of fact understand the evidence or determine a
fact in issue, (2) the testimony is based on sufficient facts
or data, (3) the testimony is based on reliable principles