United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.
Jesus Ayala is charged with transportation of an illegal
alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) and
(a)(1)(B)(ii) and aiding and abetting an alien to elude the
examination and inspection of immigration officers of the
United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(2).
Defendant moved, under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, to
suppress all evidence obtained during a traffic stop for
driving too close to another vehicle in violation of A.R.S.
§ 28-730. (Doc. 25.) After an evidentiary hearing on
July 28, 2016, and after viewing a video of the traffic stop,
the Court concludes that the officer who initiated the stop
did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that Defendant
was driving too close to another vehicle. The motion is
The Traffic Stop
February 12, 2016, while monitoring traffic from the I-10
median, Officer G.A. of the Arizona Department of Public
Safety observed Defendant's vehicle pass and began to
pursue it. Officer G.A. traveled at speeds up to 99 miles per
hour (mph) to catch Defendant.
his pursuit, Officer G.A. observed Defendant's vehicle
approach a white sedan, change lanes, and then pass the
sedan. Officer G.A. estimated that Defendant was
approximately three car lengths, or thirty-six to forty feet,
behind the sedan before passing it at approximately 75 mph.
Officer G.A. believed Defendant was following too close in
violation of A.R.S. § 28-730. Before deciding whether to
stop Defendant, however, Officer G.A. wanted to view him in
his vehicle, so he pulled alongside to view the
occupants. After viewing the occupants, Officer G.A.
pulled Defendant over.
Officer G.A. approached Defendant's vehicle on the
passenger side, he noticed the passenger was disheveled,
which made him suspicious that Defendant was transporting an
illegal alien. Officer G.A. ordered Defendant to exit the
vehicle and began questioning him about his passenger, while
simultaneously writing him a warning for following too close.
Defendant admitted that the passenger was an illegal alien
and that he was transporting him to Phoenix for $200.
Defendant was eventually arrested and read his
Officer G.A.'s Testimony
G.A. testified he could not recall what first drew his
attention to Defendant's vehicle:
THE COURT: So when the defendant's vehicle drove by
something triggered in your mind I should follow that vehicle
because something is going on here.
THE WITNESS: Yes.
THE COURT: But you can't tell me what you thought was
THE WITNESS: I can't recall specifically what drew my
attention to that vehicle.
THE COURT: When you left the median you were specifically
targeting the defendant's vehicle to follow.
THE WITNESS: Yes.
(Hr'g Tr. at 33-34.) Officer G.A. observed the alleged
driving violation as he caught up to Defendant's vehicle:
Q. Okay. If you could continue. What did you see?
A. The vehicle was ahead of me and I was catching it. As I
caught up to it, it appeared to be approximately three car
lengths behind the vehicle in front. That was the violation
(Id. at 14-15.) Officer G.A.'s vehicle visually
recorded the traffic stop beginning at thirty seconds before
he activated his emergency lights.
THE COURT: Okay. So at what point did you determine that he
was following too closely to the vehicle in front of him?
THE WITNESS: There was the video evidence that he was
following too close. Again, I -- at the time I don't
remember specifically if there was a violation before, so
when I refer back to my memory I'm comfortable in looking