United States v. Leon 8thCIR 24May2019

A trucker is illegally parked on the entrance ramp to a highway in Arkansas.  Thinking the trucker has a problem, Arkansas State Police officer Corporal Craig stops and does a welfare check. The driver (Leon) told the officer he was not having an emergency and pulled over to call his dispatch. At that time however, Leon was not on the phone. Corporal Craig then asked for the log books and noticed a couple of significant abnormalities. First, Leon had been off duty for two weeks, which is unusually long for a truck driver who owns his own truck. Second, Leon waited two days after picking up his load before beginning his route. Corporal Craig then asked if there were drugs in the truck. Leon denied that there were drugs in the truck but appeared very nervous. Corporal Craig then asked for permission to search the truck and Leon consented. The truck was more that Corporal Craig could search himself so he called for a K9 backup. A K9 alert leads to the discovery of significant quantities of Meth and Leon is arrested for possession with intent to distribute. At trial, Leon sought to have the evidence excluded based on an unlawful extension of a traffic stop. He also argued he was not in possession of the Meth.

The court held that extension of the stop was “de minimus” in light of the consent that was given and that the defendant constructively possessed the meth in the trailer.

WARNING: The facts in this case arose before the Supreme Court overruled the “de minimus” rule in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015).  Accordingly, the court applied pre-existing law to reach a determination that the search was lawful.  The result would almost certainly NOT be the same under the Rodriguez rule.

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