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United States v. Tanguay

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 8, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
ERIC TANGUAY, Defendant, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE [Hon. Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr., U.S. District Judge]

          Stanley W. Norkunas on brief for appellant.

          Seth R. Aframe, Assistant United States Attorney, and Scott W. Murray, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

         Eric Tanguay was seated in his car with a friend in a parking lot when a local police officer approached and asked him several questions. His answers led to a search, followed by the seizure of evidence of potential drug trafficking. On this appeal following his conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a), Tanguay contends that the district court erred in failing to suppress that evidence. For the following reasons, we find the search and seizure to have been lawful, so we affirm.

         I.

         We recite the facts "as the trial court found them, consistent with record support." United States v. Ruidíaz, 529 F.3d 25, 27 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Lee, 317 F.3d 26, 30 (1st Cir. 2003)).

         Shortly after midnight on March 31, 2016, police officer Adam Rayho drove by a local strip mall in Nashua, New Hampshire while on patrol. In the parking lot he saw an SUV parked apart from any other vehicle and approximately 100 to 150 feet from a Taco Bell restaurant, which had not yet closed. The only other business in the vicinity that remained open was a 24-hour gym.

         Approximately twenty minutes later, after responding to an unrelated call, Rayho drove by the lot a second time. The lone SUV was still parked in the same spot. He decided to investigate. He entered the lot and pulled his marked cruiser seven to ten feet behind the parked SUV without obstructing its path of egress. Rayho illuminated the SUV with his floodlights and activated the rear-facing -- but not the front-facing -- blue, flashing emergency lights atop his cruiser. The record does not indicate whether the rear-facing flashing lights were visible to the occupants of the parked SUV.

         With his weapon holstered, Rayho approached the driver-side of the SUV with a flashlight in hand. He further illuminated the interior of the SUV with his flashlight and asked the driver, Eric Tanguay, and the passenger, Jacqueline, for their names, which they provided. Recognizing Tanguay's name as a reported user and dealer of illegal drugs, Rayho asked them what they were doing in the parking lot so late. They replied that they "were eating food from Taco Bell." Rayho could see that was indeed the case and joked with them that he also enjoyed Taco Bell.

         Rayho asked the couple for their licenses. Both replied that they were not carrying identification. When Rayho then asked who owned the SUV, Tanguay stated that he did not own it. Rayho finally asked Tanguay "if it would be all right if [he] returned to [his] cruiser to conduct a [records] query on him," to which Tanguay said it would be. At some point during this initial encounter -- yet exactly when is unclear from the record -- a second police officer arrived and parked his cruiser behind Rayho's vehicle.

         From that point on, things went downhill quickly for Tanguay. While sitting in his cruiser running the records check, Rayho noticed Jacqueline crouch down and reach for something under the front passenger seat. Rayho immediately returned to the SUV and again asked Tanguay for identification. This time, Tanguay said his license was in a backpack in the trunk of the vehicle, and he requested permission to obtain it. Rayho agreed that Tanguay could show him where in the trunk he could find the license but stated that, for safety purposes, he would be the one to retrieve it.

         When Tanguay opened his door to go to the trunk of the SUV, Rayho saw what appeared to be the butt end of a gun stashed in the driver-side door. Tanguay and Rayho walked to the rear of the SUV and opened the trunk. Rayho then retrieved Tanguay's license from a wallet stowed in a small pocket of the backpack. Rayho noticed that the wallet contained a large sum ...


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