United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO
GUIROLA, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is the  First Motion to Suppress filed by the
defendant, Pedro Barrios, Jr. Barrios objects to the search
of his tractor-trailer by Mississippi Department of
Transportation Officers and seeks to suppress their discovery
of thirty kilograms of cocaine found with the cargo. The
Court conducted a hearing on May 17, 2018 and the parties
were granted additional time to submit legal authority
supporting their positions. After due consideration of the
submissions, the evidence at hearing and the relevant law, it
is the Court's opinion that there was no Fourth Amendment
violation in this case. Accordingly, the Motion to Suppress
will be denied.
significant facts of this case begin when MDOT Officer
Dubuisson pulled Barrios, who was driving a tractor-trailer
registered to Lioness, Inc., over to the side of eastbound
I-10, just past the weigh station at the
Mississippi-Louisiana border. Dubuisson testified that he
intended to conduct a “level two” safety
inspection of the truck, which is a description of a portion
of a thirty-seven step inspection procedure set out in the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Dubuisson asked for
Barrios' driver's license, log book, truck
registration and other documents, which Barrios produced. In
order to ensure that he could safely conduct the rest of the
inspection, Dubuisson requested assistance from another MDOT
officer. When the second officer arrived, the officers broke
the seal to the trailer so that they could compare the cargo
to the bill of lading. They observed three bundles, each
approximately one square foot in size, placed among the cargo
pallets. Suspecting contraband, the officers contacted
Homeland Security. Homeland Security and the Hancock County
Sheriff's Office Canine Division arrived at the scene,
and the canine alerted to the bundles. The bundles were found
to contain bricks of cocaine weighing thirty kilograms in
total. Barrios was arrested and charged with conspiracy to
possess and possession with intent to distribute a controlled
contends that Officer Dubuisson had neither probable cause
nor consent to break the seals of the trailer and conduct a
search of the area within, and therefore the search violated
the Fourth Amendment. The government argued first that
Dubuisson was a “special agent” of the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration authorized to conduct
inspections of tractor-trailers. See 49 C.F.R.
§ 396.9(a). But because the term “special
agent” is defined and it does not include MDOT
officers, see 49 C.F.R. ch. III, subch. B, app. B,
the government abandoned that argument and now contends that
Dubuisson properly inspected the tractor-trailer for safety
under the authority of Miss. Code § 63-5-49.
temporary stop is a “seizure” for purposes of the
Fourth Amendment. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 809 (1996). Therefore, the stop must be
“reasonable” under the circumstances. However,
the commercial trucking industry is a pervasively regulated
industry; law enforcement may conduct stops and searches of
commercial trucking vehicles in order to enforce a regulatory
scheme without believing a crime has occurred under the
regulatory exception to the warrant requirement. United
States v. Fort, 248 F.3d 457, 478, 480 (5th Cir. 2001).
Such a stop is reasonable and therefore valid if “1)
there is a substantial government interest that informs the
regulatory scheme pursuant to which the inspection is made;
2) the inspection is necessary to further the regulatory
scheme; and 3) the statutory or regulatory scheme provides a
constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant.”
Fort, 248 F.3d at 480 (citing New York v.
Burger, 482 U.S. 691, 702-03 (1987)).
statutes allow MDOT officers and certain other law
enforcement officials to require a tractor-trailer driver to
“stop and submit to a weighing of the vehicle.”
Miss. Code § 63-5-49(1). The stopped vehicle may be
inspected “to determine whether or not such vehicle is
engaged in the illegal transportation of any
contraband.” Miss. Code § 63-5-49(3). MDOT
officers also have authority to inspect tractor-trailers
“for safe operation and safe use of equipment.”
Miss. Code § 77-7-16(2). Additionally, Mississippi has
adopted and enforces the rules, regulations, requirements,
and classifications of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Miss. Code § 77-7-16(1); see also Miss. Admin.
Code 37-1-8:04001 (defining authority for MDOT to enforce
State and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations).
Fifth Circuit has examined Mississippi's statutory and
regulatory scheme and concluded that it satisfies the first
and third Burger prongs for the regulatory exception
to apply. The court held that “it is clear that
commercial trucking is a pervasively regulated
industry;” “Mississippi has a substantial
interest that informs the regulatory scheme;” and
“the provisions of the Mississippi Code regulating
commercial trucking place adequate limits on the discretion
of inspecting officers, and thus, provide a constitutionally
adequate substitute for a warrant.” United States
v. Castelo, 415 F.3d 407, 410-11 (5th Cir. 2005).
only remaining question concerns the second Burger
prong - whether Officer Dubuisson's stop of Barrios'
tractor-trailer was necessary to further the regulatory
scheme. Officer Dubuisson testified that the purpose of the
stop was to inspect the vehicle for safety and to insure that
the trailer cargo was consistent with the bill of lading.
Random stops of commercial vehicles are necessary to ensure
commercial drivers comply with Mississippi law because
“drivers can avoid both fixed and temporary
checkpoints” simply by refusing to stop at those
checkpoints. Fort, 248 F.3d at 481 (citing
United States v. V-1 Oil Co., 94 F.3d 1420, 1426
(10th Cir. 1996)). Therefore, this stop and search was
permissible under the regulatory exception, and no
constitutional violation occurred because of the
officers' inspection of the tractor-trailer. Suppression
of the evidence found during the inspection is not warranted.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the 
First Motion to Suppress filed by the defendant, Pedro
Barrios, Jr., is DENIED.