January 24, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
l:15-cr-00081-TWP-DKL-l - Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge.
BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.
Covarrubias was convicted by a jury of possessing with intent
to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and
conspiring to commit this crime. On appeal he challenges the
denial of his motion to suppress drugs found in a car being
delivered to him from across the country. We affirm the
judgment because the district court correctly decided that
Covarrubias lacked standing to contest the admission of the
drugs into evidence.
Mexico State Police patrolman stopped a car hauler on a New
Mexico highway because a digit on the car hauler's
license plate was unreadable. During the stop the officer
noticed that a Saturn Vue, secured on a trailer attached to
the car hauler's truck, lacked a license plate and asked
to see the car's paperwork. (The Saturn, which is the
subject at the center of this suit, was being delivered to
Covarrubias.) The bill of lading (the contract for this
car's shipment) showed that the car was being shipped
from an individual in California to someone named Juan Pablo
in Indianapolis; the document listed the same phone number
for both parties. The document also gave the car hauler the
authority to drive the vehicle "on and off the [car
hauler's trailer], or to and from the [trailer] at the
pickup or delivery site." Further, the officer saw a
stack of air fresheners in the car's air conditioning
vents and after checking the car's vehicle identification
number, determined that the car was not owned by the shipper
officer became suspicious that this car might be trafficking
drugs and received permission from the car hauler, who had a
car key, to search the locked vehicle. The officer found 46
pounds of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment below the
console between the driver's and front passenger's
seats. A conversation ensued, and the car hauler agreed to
participate in a controlled delivery of the car that agents
of the Department of Homeland Security and Indiana State
Police officers would supervise.
car hauler delivered the car to the Indianapolis delivery
address on the bill of lading and unloaded the car from the
trailer. At this point, Covarrubias entered the picture. He
arrived at the shipping address, paid the car hauler for the
delivery, and drove the car away. Shortly thereafter, police
declined an interpreter, waived his Miranda rights
in writing, and proceeded to make several admissions. He
acknowledged that he paid the car hauler for delivering the
car and represented himself as "Juan Pablo" to the
car hauler. And he admitted knowing that the car contained
methamphet-amine and that he was being paid $2, 000 to pick
up the car and deliver it to an associate.
government charged Covarrubias with possessing with intent to
distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and conspiring
to commit this crime. See 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), 846. Covarrubias moved to suppress the drugs,
contending that the search violated his reasonable
expectation of privacy in the car. He argued that the terms
of the bill of lading deprived the car hauler of authority to
consent to the officer's search and therefore the drugs
found during the search should not be admitted into evidence.
The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing and then
denied Covarrubias's motion to suppress. The court
concluded that he lacked standing to argue that this evidence
should be suppressed because he did not have either a
subjective or objective expectation of privacy in the
vehicle. He had "no apparent ownership or possessory
right in the vehicle, as either the shipper or receiver"
and "no expectation of privacy in the Saturn Vue after
it was turned over to the shipping company, " which had
a key to the car and permission to drive the car on and off
the trailer. In concluding that Covarrubias had no
expectation of privacy in the car, Judge Pratt relied on this
court's holding in United States v. Crowder, 588
F.3d 929 (7th Cir. 2009)-a case involving "nearly
identical" facts, according to the judge-that parties
have no reasonable expectation of privacy for a car given to
a shipping company. Crowder, 588 F.3d at 934-35.
Even if Covarrubias had standing to object to the search, the
court went on to say, it was reasonable for the officer to
believe that the car hauler had apparent authority to consent
to a search because he had keys to the vehicle and
authorization (as reflected in the bill of lading) to drive
the car on and off the trailer.
found Covarrubias guilty of the two charges, and he was
sentenced to 225 months' imprisonment and five years'
appeal Covarrubias challenges the district court's
standing analysis and maintains that he had a legitimate
expectation of privacy in the car. He contends that the
drugs' concealment below the car's center console
gave him a subjective expectation of privacy. And he asserts
that the bill of lading's restriction on the car
hauler's authority, limited to taking the car on and off
the trailer, gave him an objective expectation of privacy. He
tries to distinguish his case from Crowder, which,
he says, presents materially different facts. In
Crowder, unlike his case, he asserts, the doors on
the car being shipped were unlocked and the bill of lading
did not limit the car hauler's authority to taking the
car on and off the trailer.
district court properly concluded that Covarrubias did not
have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the car because
he did not own the car, had never been inside it, and did not
control the car's contents. See Rakas v.
Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 134, 143 & n.12 (1978).
Moreover, this case, as the district court observed, mirrors
Crowder in legally relevant ways: the car hauler
received keys to a car being shipped cross-country and
permission to drive the car on and off the trailer.
Crowder, 588 F.3d at 934-35. Even though the
car's doors were locked, Covarrubias lacked a reasonable
expectation of privacy because the car hauler controlled and
had access to the car. Further, Covarrubias is incorrect that
different terms in the bill of lading distinguish
Crowder. In both cases the car haulers' control
over the cars, stemming from the bills of lading, empowered
them "to act in direct contravention" of the
defendants' "privacy interests." Id.
at 935 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
also asserts that he did not knowingly waive his
Miranda rights because he did not understand the
contents of the Miranda waiver document, which was
written in English. Based on this contention, he urges the
suppression of his statements to law enforcement that he
acted as a middleman for the drugs and that he had identified
himself as Juan Pablo. The district court found that these