US v. Soto-Zuniga, No. 14-50529 (9-16-16)(Gould w/Kozinski & Gould). In an important decision, and defense win, the 9th vacated a conviction and remanded to (1) grant a discovery request challenging the constitutionality of a checkpoint; and (2) disclosure of a Gov't investigation into a smuggler's use of juveniles.
The defendant was stopped at the San Clementine immigration checkpoint. The officer supposedly suspected the defendant, a LPR, was smoking marijuana, and a subsequent search found meth in a backpack. The defendant challenged the constitutionality of the checkpoint search, asking for statistics of drug arrests versus immigration. The court denied the request under Armstrong. The court also denied disclosure to the defense of a Gov't investigation into a smuggling operation using juveniles. The defendant had argued that he had picked up juveniles who left the backpack in the vehicle.
The 9th found the defendant had made sufficient showing under Armstrong of a need for statistics to challenge the constitutionality of the checkpoint stop. The defendant was also entitled to the investigation to support his theory that someone else was responsible, even if the discovery was replete with hearsay.
Congrats to Deputy Federal Defender Paul Barr with the Federal Defenders of San Diego for a significant victory.
The decision is here: