Law enforcement officers learned that Bettis was trafficking heroin in Minneapolis. Bettis had two prior convictions for trafficking heroin from Chicago. When law enforcement learned that Bettis was in Chicago and likely driving a Toyota rented by his wife, they set up surveillance on his return route.
A Minnesota state trooper pulled the rented Toyota over for speeding. The officer recognized Bettis as the driver but the ID he produced had the name “Vernon Silas.” The passenger had identification identifying her as Dalia Taha. Neither were authorized to drive the rental car. The trooper also smelled the strong odor of marijuana coming from the car. He separated the two and received different stories: Bettis claiming they smoked marijuana in the car and Taha indicating they had not. They also told different stories regarding where they had been and the purpose of the travel. A second Trooper arrived with a K9 and walked the dog around the car and it alerted on the driver’s side of the vehicle and then the console where only marijuana remnants were found. No heroin was found in the car during that search.
Based everything they knew and because drug dealers sometimes use marijuana to mask the odor of other drugs, the officers suspected additional drugs were hidden in the Toyota. They seized the vehicle and towed it to a police garage for a more thorough search and Bettis and Taha were dropped off at a nearby gas station. Bettis’ wife called in an effort to retrieve the rental car but was denied. The next day they again performed a K9 sniff. Based on a positive K9 alert, they obtained a warrant and further searched the car. This time they found 200 grams of heroin hidden in a headrest.
Bettis did not challenge the traffic stop, the initial dog sniff, or the roadside search. He argued only that seizing and towing the Toyota after only finding marijuana debris violated his Fourth Amendment rights. His argument was that because officers came up empty handed on the shoulder of the highway, they did not have “probable cause to believe that any additional drugs would be found in the vehicle.”
The court held that Bettis had standing to make a Fourth Amendment challenge, but disagreed that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The court noted that probable cause did not dissipate simply because it took a long time to complete a reasonable and thorough search of the car. The court stated:
“As the encounter with Bettis unfolded, officers developed additional evidence indicating deception and criminal conduct. Bettis gave the officer a false name and photo ID. Although he admitted Daniels was the only authorized driver, he referred to his wife as “a friend of mine.” He initially lied about smoking marijuana. And Bettis and his passenger gave inconsistent stories about where they smoked and what they had done in Chicago. The canine alert, the modus operandi resembling Bettis’s past crimes, and the knowledge that marijuana is used to mask other illegal drugs all indicated that Bettis was hiding more drugs.”
These facts taken together made it reasonable to believe there were still drugs in the car after the first roadside search and therefore the probable cause still existed to warrant the seizure of the car and subsequent discovery of the heroin.
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