D.Minn.: DHS could stop airplane on ground for pilot certificate inspection; after PC found, airplane subject to automobile exception because of mobility

Federal officers can seek a pilot certificate inspection (PCI) of any airplane. 14 C.F.R. 61.51(i). “Although it seems obvious that the agents were interested in Defendants’ plane for drugs—and therefore that the PCI was merely a pretext to dig around—officers need no reason at all to conduct a regulatory stop. Id. Such an encounter does not implicate the Fourth Amendment. Massi, 761 F.3d at 521. ‘Therefore, we consider the issue of suppression to turn solely on what occurred after the [PCI].’ Id.” After the stop of the plane on the tarmac, officers tried to look at the passengers, but the curtains were drawn. They could smell marijuana coming from the plane. The detention of the airplane and occupants was reasonable and with reasonable suspicion, although some factors the government relied on were innocuous. There had been past cash seizures from airplanes of the owner. There was a dog sniff, and probable cause developed. Gant’s search incident does not apply, but the automobile exception does [without explicitly saying so because the plane was inherently mobile]. United States v. Koutsos, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192397 (S.D. Minn. Nov. 21, 2017).

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