Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. D.C. No. CR-90-0321-02-JA, D.C. No. CR-90-321-03-JAR. James A. Redden, District Judge, Presiding.
Before: Hall, O'scannlain, Leavy, Circuit Judges.
Appellants, Glenn William Townsend and Randolph Harry Bucknell, appeal their convictions, following conditional guilty pleas, for importation of hashish in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a)(2) and 960 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Appellants challenge the district court's denial of their motions to suppress evidence, obtained in a document and safety inspection by the Coast Guard, of the Lady Brigid, a vessel upon which defendants were crew members. The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a)(2) and 960. We have jurisdiction over this timely appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 1294. We affirm.
During the spring and summer of 1989, agents of the United States Customs Service ("Customs") observed the vessel, the Lady Brigid, in the Columbia River. The agents had reason to suspect that the vessel would be used to smuggle drugs. On August 3, 1989, the Lady Brigid left the Columbia River and went out to sea. On that day the Coast Guard, at the urging of Customs and accompanied by Customs Agent Hicks, hailed and boarded the vessel. The Coast Guard advised the Lady Brigid that its purpose was to perform a document and safety inspection and the search conducted was limited accordingly. During the boarding, the Coast Guard Petty Officer and Hicks reviewed ship and crew identification documents, including the passports of defendants Townsend and Bucknell. The boarding party reported that there was no cargo aboard the outbound vessel.
The Lady Brigid was next sighted in the Columbia River on August 27, 1989. On September 1, 1989, the vessel began to offload cargo. Agents searched the trucks carrying cargo from the vessel, seizing approximately 25 tons of hashish and arresting seven people. Townsend and Bucknell were not present at the offload.
Charts seized from the vessel on September 1, 1989, indicated that the vessel never touched land between August 3 and its return to the Columbia River on August 27, 1989. The theory of the government's case against appellants was that the hashish must have been loaded when the vessel was at sea and appellants must have been on the vessel when it "onloaded" the drugs and re-entered the United States.
Appellants argue that the crew identification documents observed during the boarding on August 3, 1989, linking appellants to the Lady Brigid, should be suppressed because the search violated their fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.*fn1 We disagree.
Whether the Coast Guard acted lawfully in boarding the Lady Brigid is a mixed question of law and fact reviewed de novo. United States v. Dobson, 781 F.2d 1374, 1376 (9th Cir. 1986).
This court recognizes the authority of U.S. Coast Guard and Customs personnel to board any vessels that traverse the jurisdictional waters of the United States in order to conduct safety and document inspections.*fn2 14 U.S.C. § 89(a); 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a); United States v. Troise, 796 F.2d 310, 312 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Cilley, 785 F.2d 651, 653 (9th Cir. 1985); United States v. Peterson, 812 F.2d 486, 494 (9th Cir. 1987).
Appellants contend that the August 3, 1989 document inspection violated the fourth amendment because it was merely a pretext for a boarding, primarily motivated ...