The opinion of the court was delivered by: KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
SYNOPSIS and FINDINGS OF FACT
This case comes before the Court on Robert Valdez Leal's
(hereinafter "Defendant") Motion for Discovery and to Suppress
Evidence (Doc. No. 19). Upon consideration of Defendant's motion,
the Response by the United States of America (Doc. No. 22), and a
hearing on Defendant's motion (Doc. Nos. 31 & 32), the Court
makes the following Findings of Fact:
1. On February 2, 2004, the Defendant was driving his Chevrolet
Blazer in Somerset County, Pennsylvania east on Interstate 76
toward Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2. On the same date, State Police Officer Michael J. Volk
(hereinafter "Officer Volk") was performing a routine patrol
along Interstate 76 in an unmarked police vehicle. Officer Volk
observed that the Defendant's Chevrolet Blazer was in violation
of 75 Pa.C.S. § 4524 of the Vehicle Code.*fn1 At
approximately 1:30 p.m., Officer Volk stopped the Defendant for
the window tint violation. At the time of the stop, Officer Volk had no
reason to suspect that the Defendant was engaged in any other
3. Officer Volk observed that the driver's side window did not
roll down, and the Defendant had to open the driver's side door
to communicate with Officer Volk.
4. Upon Officer Volk's request for the Defendant's driver's
license and vehicle registration information, the Defendant
produced the following documents: (1) a driver's license; (2) a
document from State Farm Life Insurance Company, one side of
which states that the name of the insured is Victor Bennet, and
on the reverse side of the document is a receipt of payment dated
May 9, 2003 for $205.68 for a multicar insurance policy; (3) an
insurance cancellation notice with the Defendant's name and a
description of the 1992 Chevrolet Blazer which the Defendant was
operating at the time of the traffic stop; (4) three Texas
insurance liability cards for the 1992 Chevrolet Blazer; and (5)
a State Farm Insurance Company's receipt of payment for $205.00
dated December 1, 2003 for a multicar insurance policy.
5. A second state police officer arrived at the scene during
the traffic stop of the Defendant. Using the computer inside of
the second officer's police vehicle, Officer Volk performed the
following routine checks: (1) whether the registration of the
Defendant's vehicle was valid; (2) whether there were any
outstanding warrants on the vehicle; and (3) whether the
Defendant had a criminal history. Officer Volk also performed
checks using his department issued cellular telephone.*fn2
He contacted the El Paso Intelligence Center (hereinafter "EPIC")
to determine whether the vehicle operated by the Defendant had been involved
with drug activity or border crossings. Officer Volk also checked
whether the Defendant had been involved in criminal conduct or
drug activity, border crossings, international flights, or other
6. Officer Volk learned that the vehicle was registered to
Maria Leal, who resided at the same Brownsville, Texas address
that the Defendant provided. Officer Volk also learned that the
Defendant had a felony conviction in the year 2000 in Texas for
illegal expenditures and investing drug money. Furthermore, the
vehicle operated by the Defendant had crossed the border from the
United States into Mexico on January 27, 2004, approximately six
days prior to the instant traffic stop. Officer Volk testified
that the duration of the computer and telephone check lasted
about ten minutes. During this time, Officer Volk proceeded to
prepare a written warning for the window tint violation. 7. After Officer Volk received the above listed information, he
returned to the Chevrolet Blazer to speak with the Defendant.
Officer Volk asked the Defendant questions regarding the
expiration of Defendant's automobile insurance, and whether any
other person had recently driven the Chevrolet Blazer.
Consequently, the Defendant explained that he did not know why
his insurance was expired, and that no other person had driven
the Chevrolet Blazer for at least six months.
8. Officer Volk also asked the Defendant whether he had been in
trouble with the law before, or if he had ever been arrested and
fingerprinted. The Defendant responded that he had never been in
trouble with the law, and he had never been fingerprinted.
9. Next, Officer Volk questioned the Defendant regarding his
last trip outside of the United States. The Defendant stated that
he had not been outside of the United States for at least two
10. Officer Volk then asked the Defendant about his destination
and travel plans on February 2, 2004. The Defendant answered that
he was traveling to Columbus, Ohio. However, noting that the
Defendant was traveling eastbound on the Pennsylvania turnpike,
Officer Volk indicated to the Defendant that he had missed
Columbus, Ohio which was located several hundred miles to the
west of the location of the traffic stop.
11. The Defendant explained to Officer Volk that he was driving
to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit cousins who resided there.
The Defendant identified for Officer Volk specific street names
and locations that he would be traveling to in Philadelphia.
After his visit to Philadelphia, the Defendant stated that he
intended to travel to Columbus, Ohio to pick up his ill uncle and
take him to Brownsville, Texas for the winter to alleviate a
medical condition. 12. During his conversation with the Defendant about his travel
plans, Officer Volk testified that they were standing outside of
the Chevrolet Blazer; however the door to the vehicle remained
open. Officer Volk noticed a strong scent of air fresheners
emanating from the Blazer, and he observed two cellular
telephones on the seat of the Blazer.
13. Throughout their conversation, Officer Volk observed that
the Defendant's demeanor remained calm. Officer Volk asked the
Defendant to step to the rear of the vehicle while they continued
their conversation. In response to Officer Volk's request, the
Defendant removed the keys from the ignition, locked the doors to
the Blazer, and placed the keys in his pocket.
14. Officer Volk explained to the Defendant that the tint of
the windows violated Pennsylvania law. The Defendant stated that
once he arrived in Philadelphia, his uncle would help him remove
the window tint.
15. Officer Volk testified that the Defendant explained he was
driving to Philadelphia on that day, and then he would return to
Columbus the next morning to pick up his uncle prior to returning
to Texas. The Defendant stated that after he returned to
Brownsville, Texas, he would straighten out the problem with the
16. Officer Volk asked the Defendant what his employment was in
Brownsville, Texas. The Defendant stated that he was a carpenter
with his cousin; however, Officer Volk observed that the
Defendant's hands appeared uncut and manicured.
17. When their conversation concluded, Officer Volk returned
the Defendant's documents to him, and he issued the Defendant a
warning for the window tint violation. Then, Officer Volk told
the Defendant that he was free to leave. 18. As the Defendant turned and walked toward the front of the
Blazer, Officer Volk asked the Defendant if he would mind
answering one additional question. The Defendant responded that
he would answer the question.
19. Officer Volk asked the Defendant for permission to look
inside the Chevrolet Blazer. However, the Defendant responded
that he did not want Officer Volk to look in the vehicle. The
Defendant then appeared to become agitated, stating that the only
reason Officer Volk wanted to search the vehicle is because the
Defendant is a Hispanic American. Furthermore, the Defendant
claimed that he had consulted with an attorney prior to his trip
to Pennsylvania, and the attorney advised him not to permit a
search of his vehicle.
20. As the Defendant proceeded to admonish Officer Volk for
alleged racial profiling, the Defendant grew more agitated. At
that point, Officer Volk told the Defendant that he was going to
detain him pending further investigation. Furthermore, Officer
Volk stated that he was going to request that a drug detection
canine be deployed to the scene.
21. Officer Volk explained to the Defendant that he believed
that there was criminal activity afoot, and he was going to
further his ...