United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HERRERA SENOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Raymond
Maestas’ Motion to Suppress Tangible Evidence and
Statements (ECF No. 20). The Court held a hearing on the
motion on August 20, 2019. Having considered the motion,
briefs, evidence, arguments, and being otherwise fully
advised, the Court concludes that the motion should be
Court makes the following findings of fact, as supported by
the record, in accordance with Rule 12(d) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure.
7:00 p.m. on the evening of February 14, 2017, Albuquerque
Police Department Officer Christopher Luthi was in a
Dion’s Restaurant near Gibson and University Boulevards
in Albuquerque when a loud car crash drew his attention.
See Motion Hearing Transcript 13:16-17;
14:12-25-15:1-7 (“Mot. Hr’g. Tr.”). He
arrived on the scene and saw that a red pickup truck had
rear-ended a silver one and that both trucks were blocking
the roadways. Id. 16:7-8; 16:17. Defendant was the
driver of the red truck, which sustained heavy front-end
damage and had an airbag deployed. Id. 17:7-9;
23:23-25. Officer Luthi went to obtain a driver’s
license, registration, and insurance from both Defendant and
the driver of the silver truck. Id. 17:21-22.
Defendant was able to produce a Social Security card, but was
otherwise unable to produce a driver’s license or proof
of vehicle registration. Id. 18:8-11. Using
Defendant’s Social Security card, full name, and date
of birth, Officer Luthi ran that information through a
computer program that linked to Defendant’s
driver’s license history. Id. 26:10-13. That
query revealed that Defendant’s driver’s license
was suspended. Id. 18:17-21.
minutes, two other APD officers, Stella Candelaria and Coty
Maxwell, arrived on the scene in a police car. Id.
20:12-13. Officer Candelaria had recently returned to working
for APD from another law enforcement agency, so Officer
Maxwell’s role was to provide Officer Candelaria
refresher training. Id. 117:10-19. But for all
purposes Officer Candelaria was the primary investigating
officer that night. Id. 118:14. Officer Luthi
briefed Officer Candelaria about the information concerning
Defendant, and told her that Defendant kept trying to inch
towards his vehicle as Officer Luthi spoke to him.
Id. 20:18-21; 52:15-18. Both Officer Candelaria and
Officer Luthi noticed a bag of brown colored liquid in the
vehicle Defendant was driving, and the officers discussed
between themselves whether it was urine or possibly liquid
heroin. Id. 21:1-12. Additionally, a back-up
University of New Mexico police officer who had earlier
arrived on the scene told Officer Candelaria that he had
frisked Defendant and that drugs may be involved because
Defendant had a large amount of cash in his pocket.
from Officer Candelaria’s lapel camera shows the
vehicles on the public roadways and impeding traffic.
See DVD: Lapel Camera Video of Officer Stella
Candelaria, Govt.’s Ex. 1 (“Candelaria Lapel
Camera”). Defendant is seen standing on the scene,
unhandcuffed and not close to his truck. Officer Candelaria
asked Defendant whether his driver’s license was valid,
and Defendant answered that it was suspended. See
Mot. Hr’g Tr. 53:1-7. The officer asked Defendant if he
was on probation, and he answered that he was on parole for
drug trafficking, which Officer Candelaria later confirmed
using a computer system. Id. 68:20-23; 69:1-2.
Officer Candelaria told Defendant the truck would be towed
because its airbags were deployed, and asked Defendant if any
drugs or weapons were in the vehicle. See Transcript
of Lapel Camera Video of Officer Stella Candelaria,
Govt.’s Ex. 1A, 6:2-8 (“Candelaria Lapel Camera
Tr.”). She told Defendant to not go inside his vehicle
until she searched it to confirm that no weapons or drugs
were within. Id. 6:10-12.
officer asked Defendant for the vehicle’s registration
and insurance paperwork. See Mot. Hr’g. Tr.
50:18-24. Defendant responded that the insurance paperwork
was in the glove compartment. Id. 53:12. Before
going to the vehicle’s glove box to look for the
insurance paperwork, Officer Candelaria briefed Officer
Maxwell, telling him that she would likely cite Defendant for
lack of insurance and for having a suspended driver’s
license and that she would tow the truck Defendant drove.
Officer Candelaria searched the glove compartment, she was
unable to find insurance paperwork, so she moved to the rear
portion of truck, opened the door, and looked if the
paperwork was stored in a pocket behind the passenger seat.
Id. 55:5-14. Lapel footage shows her shining her
flashlight in the rear portion of the cabin. See
Candelaria Lapel Camera. She shined her flashlight onto a
backpack on the rear floorboard and briefly nudged the
backpack away as she continued looking for Defendant’s
proof of insurance. Id. Officer Candelaria observed
that the backpack’s zipper was widened about six to
eight inches, but otherwise there was nothing about the
backpack that made her “look twice.” Mot.
Hr’g. Tr. 55:15-17; 56:2-10; 108:25-109:1-10.
Candelaria called in the wrecker to tow the pickup truck
because the airbags rendered it inoperable and because
Defendant’s license was suspended. Id. 57:3-8.
This decision was made roughly eight minutes into the
investigation. Id. 158:7-11. Albuquerque Police
Department policy mandates that a vehicle will be towed under
two circumstances. First, when “[t]he driver has been
incapacitated, hospitalized, arrested, or when the vehicle
cannot be released to a responsible party.” Albuquerque
Police Department Procedural Orders, Towing and Wrecker
Services, § 2-48-2(B)(1), ECF No. 56-1
(“SOP” or “SOPs”). Second, a vehicle
must be towed when the vehicle is “involved in an
accident to the extent that it is inoperable … and
documented attempts to contact the owner have failed.”
Id. § 2-48-2(B)(2). Aside from these two
circumstances, the same policy gives officers discretion to
summarily impound a vehicle when, among other things, the
driver’s license is suspended, or the driver fails to
produce proof that the vehicle is insured. See id.
§ 2-48-2(C)(1)(a), (c). When it becomes necessary to tow
a vehicle, offices must inventory the entire vehicle,
including “all sealed and locked containers within,
” see id. § 2-48-2(D)(3)(a), and police
must conduct the inventory “at or near the time the
vehicle was lawfully placed within police custody.”
Albuquerque Police Department Procedural Orders, Addition to
the Manual, § 2-17-14(D), ECF No. 37-2.
agreed to wait inside the officers’ patrol car to keep
out of the winter cold, and Defendant permitted officers to
handcuff him while he waited in the car. See Mot.
Hr’g. Tr. 60:17-25 – 61:1-7. Defendant asked
Officer Maxwell to retrieve his cigarettes and cell phone
from within the truck. Id. 125:15-18. As Officer
Maxwell went to get those items from the vehicle, Officer
Candelaria filled-out APD’s Tow-In Report, the form on
which officers are required to list inventoried property.
See SOP § 2-48-2(D)(3). Defendant sat in the
backseat directly behind Officer Candelaria as she filled out
the report. See Mot. Hr’g. Tr. 63:22-25.
Although Officer Candelaria testified that she was familiar
with the purpose of APD’s inventory policy –
namely, to protect the suspect’s property, to protect
officers and the public, and to safeguard APD from lawsuits
– she did not complete the inventory report because she
believed there was “nothing of value … so [she]
did not write anything on that space.” Id.
58:22-25 – 59:16; 63:9-21; Govt.’s Ex. 7. Nor did
officers list small black speakers in the truck that
presumably were of value. Id. 145:1-11.
as Officer Maxwell went to the truck to get Defendant’s
cigarettes and cell phone, he began inventory searching the
vehicle. See Mot. Hr’g. Tr. 126:21-25. He
spent about two-and-a-half minutes inventorying the truck.
Id. 147:22-24. Seeing the partially opened backpack
on the truck’s floorboard, Officer Maxwell shined his
flashlight within the zipper’s opening and saw a gun
within. Id. 129:10-12; 129:19-25 – 130:1-3.
Maxwell came back to the police vehicle that Officer
Candelaria and Defendant were in, and whispered to Officer
Candelaria that he found a gun in the backpack in the truck.
Id. 65:13; 65:22-25 – 66:1-6. Officer
Candelaria then went to the truck and shined her flashlight
within the backpack’s opening, revealing the gun.
Id. 66:16-17. She widened the backpack’s
zipper further, revealing a brown tar substance inside.
Id. 68:11-13. Once she observed the gun and
substance, she stopped inventory searching the truck and
seized the backpack. Id. 70:11-13. Once again, both
Officer Candelaria and Officer Maxwell failed to make a
written inventory of the backpack, gun, and drugs.
Id. 70:11-14; 110:21-25.
Candelaria then called Defendant’s parole officer and
explain what she found. Id. 69:2-5. The parole
officer revoked Defendant’s parole and authorized
Officer Candelaria to arrest Defendant for parole violation,
which Officer Candelaria immediately did. Id.
69:3-5; Def.’s Ex. A at 2. The officer then asked
Defendant what he knew about the backpack and if it belonged
to him. See Mot. Hr’g. Tr. 70:20-21. He
responded that it possibly belonged to a friend. Id.
course of the investigation, Officer Candelaria also learned
from running the truck’s license plate that it belonged
to Jessica Martinez. Id. 64:7-15. Defendant
acknowledged to the officer that Ms. Martinez was his
girlfriend and Defendant told her that he had been driving
Ms. Martinez’s car for about three weeks. Id.
64:18-25 – 65:1-3; Def.’s Ex. A at 2. Defendant
would not, however, provide Ms. Martinez’s phone
number. See Def.’s Ex. A at 2.
post-accident report, Officer Candelaria wrote that she
“searched the vehicle pursuant to being towed located
the  backpack” and “seized the [backpack] and
its contents and … tagged [it] into evidence.”
Def.’s Ex. A at 2. Officer Maxwell wrote in a
supplemental report that “while completing an inventory
search pursuant to tow a black 9mm Ruger LC9 was
located.” Govt.’s Ex. 8 at 3. According to
Defendant’s motion and the Government’s response
brief, about one week after the car crash, while in custody
at the jailhouse, Defendant waived his
Mirandarights and gave a recorded statement