Topic: Consent to search not invalidated by the language barrier.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss after he pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin. The court held that the record supported the district court’s conclusion that the defendant voluntarily consented to the search of his suitcase. Examining the totality of the circumstances, the district court did not clearly err in finding that a reasonable officer would have believed the defendant understood that the officer requested to search his suitcase. Although the officer’s Spanish may have been imperfect, the context of the interaction and defendant’s response means it was not clearly erroneous to find that a reasonable officer would believe the defendant understood the officer’s request. Furthermore, the relative ease with which the officer and defendant communicated using the translation application further supports the district court’s finding that it was reasonable for the officer to believe the defendant consented. Finally, the court held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that the video indicates that the officer clarified any confusion that may have existed as to the meaning of his request. In this context, a reasonable officer would expect a person to understand the question “¿permitame?”, or “May I?”, as requesting consent to search the suitcase.
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