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Name: U.S. v. Fernandez-Castillo
Case #: 01-30398
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/08/2003

When police officers stopped appellant for erratic driving, they noticed a smell of marijuana in the car and ash on appellant’s lip. They detained appellant after discovering an immigration hold. The car was searched pursuant to a search warrant, and 500 grams of methamphetamine were found. Appellant challenged the initial investigatory traffic stop of the car. The circumstances of the stop were that the vehicle had been reported as driving erratically; the officer who stopped the car knew the source of the report, which described the vehicle in detail, including the license plate; the officer discovered the car in the area where the source indicated it would be; the driver appeared to be sitting very close to the wheel; and the officer corroborated the report by watching the car move from side to side within its lane. The appellate court here held that given the totality of the circumstances, the investigatory stop was based on a reasonable suspicion and was therefore constitutional. The stop was distinguishable from those in Morales and Thomas because the tip was not anonymous and was very specific; further, the erratic driving was corroborated by observation. J. Ferguson dissented, noting that the majority holding conflicts with the decisions in Morales and Thomas.