Drugs On Ice

United States v. Mendoza, 817 F.3d 695 (10th Cir. 2016): Court affirms the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress drugs found in two ice chests in the rental car he was driving. Mr. Mendoza was lawfully detained to the time he consented to the search. He was pulled over for speeding. He drove a half mile before he stopped, further than typical. The trooper observed food and trash, suggesting Mr. Mendoza had tried to avoid stopping. He appeared nervous and visibly shaking. When asked for the rental agreement, Mr. Mendoza provided insurance documents. Mr. Mendoza said he was going from Tucson to Memphis to visit family for two weeks, but the rental agreement was for five days, so his travel plans made no sense. He said he was a construction worker, but his hands were clean and well-manicured. The trooper issued a warning, and then asked Mr. Mendoza if he could ask a question. Detaining Mr. Mendoza to ask for an explanation was reasonable. A conversation ensued, in which Mr. Mendoza increased suspicion by forgetting about his two weeks with family and claiming he would return to Tucson in time. Mr. Mendoza’s consent to search was valid. In the search, two ice chests containing seafood were found. One showed signs of tampering. The trooper took apart the ice chest and found drugs. Prying open the already separated inner and out lining of the ice chest and dumping the seafood on the ground was not beyond the scope of Mr. Mendoza’s consent to a general search without limitations. He had been told he could stop the search by honking the horn, but he did not. Once the officers found drugs in the first ice chest, dismantling the second one was reasonable.