United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ENTRY AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT MOTION TO SUPPRESS.
M. ROSE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is a motion to suppress filed by Defendant
Uriel Betancourt. ECF 23. The motion requests an order
suppressing evidence seized from a red Chevy pickup truck and
statements made subsequent to his arrest. Betancort contends
that the search of the truck's transmission was
unconstitutional and that the fruits of that search,
including narcotics seized and statements made, should be
7, 2018, Sgt. Coverstone of the Ohio State Patrol was working
on I-70 in Preble County. (Transcript of 4/11/19 hearing,
R.30 at PageID 123). Coverstone noticed a red truck that was
What caught my attention about the vehicle was that it
appeared to be going slower than other traffic in the area,
as there was cars in the left lane passing it. As the vehicle
got closer to me, I was able to see a male driver sitting
very upright, rigid in his seat with both hands on the
steering wheel at approximately the 10 and 2 o'clock
position staring straight ahead with the lack of any common
movement. ... He was very stiff, as far as no -- he
wasn't, you know, one arm on the wheel looking around,
drinking, doing anything. He was intently focused and staring
straight ahead driving when he drove by me.
124-25. Coverstone “checked its speed with the laser
[and registered] 68 miles an hour, which was two miles an
hour [within] the speed limit.” PageID 125-26.
no reason to follow the red truck, but constitutionally
requiring none, Coverstone followed the truck and ran its
license plate number, incorrectly leaving off the subscript
ending letter used on some State of Illinois issued plates,
and due to his own error, determined that the license plate
was not issued to a red truck. Coverstone admits that based
on these reasons, he determined to pull the truck over, but
before doing so, noticed that the car was following the truck
ahead of it too closely. The Court has reviewed the dashcam
tape of the incident and has determined that the red truck
was indeed failing to maintain a safe distance from the truck
ahead of it.
approached the stopped truck and engaged in conversation with
the lone male driver, later identified as Defendant Uriel
Betancourt. (Id. at PageID 131- 132). Coverstone
explained how the registration on the plate should have been
on a Chevy van and asked for Betancourt's driver's
license and registration. (Id.). While Betancourt
was looking for the requested items, Coverstone asked
questions regarding Betancourt's ownership of the vehicle
and travel. (Id.). Betancourt provided a Texas
driver's license and indicated that he was coming from
Dallas and going to Columbus, which prompted questions
regarding the vehicle's Illinois license plate.
(Id. at PageID 131-133). Betancourt was able to
provide an insurance card in the name of Gonzalo Betancourt,
which listed Uriel Betancourt as additional driver.
(Id. at PageID 134). After a couple minutes of
looking and Betancourt being unable to locate registration
paperwork, Coverstone observed what appeared to be
registration paperwork and asked to look at that it.
(Id.). However, the registration that Coverstone had
noticed was an expired one for an individual from Las Vegas,
then halted Betancourt's search for his registration and
ordered him to his cruiser. (Id., Transcript of
4/11/19 hearing R.31 at PageID 157-158). Coverstone made this
decision because he was unable to verify ownership of the
vehicle and the tag had not come back, and he believed it was
safer to review the paperwork from the patrol car in order to
prevent any pursuit should the vehicle information come back
stolen. (R. 31 at PageID 158). Nevertheless, the Court notes
that Coverstone theoretically had the ability to check the
VIN through other avenues. (R.31 at PageID 205). At
approximately 10:38 am, Coverstone contacted Trooper Wheeland
to request a K-9. (Id. at PageID 135).
perceived Betancourt as nervous (Id. at PageID 134),
Betancourt's hands as shaking excessively (Id.
at PageID 131), and his speech as changing patterns upon
being questioned about the family he was travelling to see
(Id. at PageID 135). Before Coverstone had
Betancourt enter the cruiser, Coverstone conducted a pat-down
for weapons. (Id. at PageID 136). During the
pat-down, Coverstone claims to have noted that
Betancourt's heart was beating very quickly, which
prompted Coverstone to inquire if Betancourt was feeling
alright or taking medications. (Id. at PageID 136,
in the cruiser, Coverstone discussed with Betancourt that the
license plate was coming back to another vehicle and showed
Betancourt the computer screen. (R. 30 at PageID 137-138).
After nine minutes, at approximately 10:47 a.m., Coverstone
confirmed with dispatch that Betancourt's license was
valid and that he had no criminal history. (R. 30 at PageID
minute earlier, at 10:46 a.m., Wheeland had arrived and
Coverstone signaled to have Wheeland's K-9 walk the
truck. (R. 30 at PageID 140). Wheeland walked his narcotics
detection K-9, around the vehicle with the command to find.
(R. 30 at PageID 82-83). The dog alerted at the lower door
seam. (R. 30 at PageID 85). That alert occurred at 10:48 am,
approximately 12 minutes after the traffic stop occurred. (R.
30 at PageID 141). At that time, Coverstone had not yet
resolved the registration issue and thus had not gotten to
the point of writing a ticket for the traffic violation. (R.
30 at PageID 140-142). Additionally, Coverstone had not run
the VIN of the vehicle to determine if he could resolve the
registration. (R. 31 at PageID 160).
of his investigation, Coverstone contacted the El Paso
Intelligence Center and obtained information about border
crossings. (R. 30 at PageID 142). Consequently, Coverstone
learned that Betancourt and his vehicle had crossed the
border two days prior at the Presidio checkpoint. (R. 31 at
PageID 162). Coverstone verified that the Presidio checkpoint
was approximately 8 1/2 hours away from Dallas, from where
Betancourt indicated he had travelled. (Id.).
securing his dog, Wheeland pulled Betancourt's vehicle
further off the side of the highway for officer safety before
he followed up on this dog's alert with a search of the
of the vehicle. (R. 30 at PageID 85-90). When Wheeland's
check found nothing, Coverstone decided that he wanted the
vehicle to be taken to a private garage called
“Fudge's” for a more in-depth search. (R. 30
at PageID 88). Knowing of the recent border crossing and the
K-9 alert, ...