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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Leonel Ventura boarded a commercial bus in Laredo, Mexico, that was headed to San Antonio. The bus stopped at the border checkpoint in the early morning hours, at the same time a shift change in border patrol agents was underway. Normally one border agent would check passengers and the other would inspect the baggage compartment for drugs and concealed persons, but because of the shift change, Agent Ian Clevenger was the only one available to inspect the bus. Clevenger passed through the passenger compartment asking about citizenship and necessary documents. Ventura told Clevenger that he was going to San Antonio just for the night, and so he had no luggage. Clevenger then went and had a trained dog sniff the undercarriage baggage compartment for drugs and concealed persons. The dog immediately alerted on two bags. At this point, less than four minutes had elapsed since Clevenger first boarded the bus. Clevenger asked the passengers to come and claim their luggage. One of the bags the dog alerted to went unclaimed, so Clevenger declared it abandoned and opened it, revealing three bundles of marijuana. The bag’s claim ticket indicated it had been loaded in Laredo, where Ventura was one of only two people who boarded. Ventura consented to being searched. Clevenger found a claim ticket for the bag in Ventura’s shoe. Ventura was arrested for drug possession. The district court granted Ventura’s motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana, ruling that it was the fruit of an illegally extended seizure. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court explains that border searches have been found constitutionally permissible so long as they are brief in duration. If the initial lawful stop yields a reasonable suspicion warranting further investigation, the stop may be lengthened, provided that the stop is not extended for an unreasonable amount of time. The question in this case is whether Clevenger unlawfully extended the immigration checkpoint stop beyond its permissible duration. “The legal question presented is whether an agent’s satisfaction with the status of the visible passengers of a bus concludes the permissible scope of a checkpoint stop; or, in other words, whether the sweep for persons hidden in the exterior luggage compartment of a commercial bus is within the programmatic purpose of a Border Patrol checkpoint and concomitant immigration inspection.” The court notes that the district court seemed to accept Ventura’s argument that the passenger interviews and the baggage inspection must occur simultaneous or not at all. The court also notes that United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), stated in the border-stop context that the inspection of a vehicle is limited to what can be seen without a search. Additionally, in United States v. Portillo-Aguirre, 311 F.3d 647 (5th Cir. 2002), this court has held that passengers on commercial buses receive the same degree of constitutional protection and are subject to the same legitimate intrusions on their Fourth Amendment interests as those riding in private vehicles. The court points out, however, that the “sheer mechanics of immigration inspections of commercial buses and private vehicles are different.” Also, the Martinez-Fuerte limitation of suspicionless checkpoint inspections to visible spaces was premised on the privacy expectations of private motorists in their vehicles. Clevenger explained that because of the limitation, he and other agents do not search baggage compartments of private vehicles unless there is a reasonable suspicion. Here, Ventura did not have an expectation of privacy in the exterior luggage compartment of a commercial bus. “We perceive no constitutional violation in the routine brief inspections of a bus’s restrooms and undercarriage luggage bins for concealed aliens, so long as such sweeps do not unduly prolong the checkpoint stop. To hold otherwise would encourage illegal aliens and alien smugglers to conceal themselves and others in luggage, luggage compartments, engine compartments, and other unsafe places in commercial buses in an effort to circumvent the checkpoint inspection.” The court finds that nothing in what Clevenger did shifted the primary purpose of the stop from enforcing the immigration laws to enforcing drug interdiction laws until the drug-sniffing dog alerted on the bags. The court next holds that Clevenger did not unreasonably extend the stop by conducting both the passenger interviews and the sweep of the baggage compartment by himself. Aside from the fact that the stop did not take more than a few minutes within the constitutionally acceptable realm � the court says it is “loathe to dictate to the Border Patrol how to deploy its limited resources and accomplish its legitimate mission.” The fact that Ventura’s bus happened to arrive at the same time there was a shift change does not change the “programmatic, and therefore legal, nature of the stop.” OPINION:Reavley, J.; Reavley, Higginbotham and Clement, JJ.

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