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United States v. Torres-Nieves

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 13, 2019


          Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney, and William M. Narus and Lewis S. Burkhart, Assistant United States Attorneys, Of Attorneys for United States of America.

          John Gutbezahl, Of Attorneys for Defendant.


          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge

         Defendant Adan Torres-Nieves (“Torres”) moves to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement during the execution of a search warrant and further moves to suppress all statements he made during a custodial interrogation and all evidence recovered as a result of Defendant's statements. The government opposes both motions. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on February 11, 2019. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motions are both DENIED.


         A. Search Warrants

         The Fourth Amendment requires that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const., amend. IV. A search warrant is supported by probable cause if the issuing judge finds that, “given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him . . . there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). As the Court now tasked with reviewing the issuing judge's finding of probable cause, we must “simply ensure that the [issuing judge] had a ‘substantial basis for . . . concluding' that probable cause existed.” Id. at 238-39 (quoting Jones v. United States, 362 U.S. 257, 271 (1960)). We give great deference to an issuing judge's finding that probable cause supports a warrant. United States v. Krupa, 658 F.3d 1174, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011); United States v. Gourde, 440 F.3d 1065, 1069 (9th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (declaring that courts “are not in a position to flyspeck the affidavit through de novo review”).

         An affidavit must consist of more than conclusory statements and bare-bones assertions. United States v. Underwood, 725 F.3d 1076, 1081 (9th Cir. 2013). Instead, the affidavit “must recite underlying facts so that the issuing judge can draw his or her own reasonable inferences and conclusions; it is these facts that form the central basis of the probable cause determination.” Id. Whether or not probable cause exists “depends upon the totality of the circumstances, including reasonable inferences, and is a ‘commonsense practical question.'” United States v. Kelley, 482 F.3d 1047, 1050 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Gourde, 440 F.3d at 1069). “[P]robable cause means ‘fair probability,' not certainty or even a preponderance of the evidence.” Gourde, 440 F.3d at 1069.

         Even when a warrant is unsupported by probable cause, suppression of the fruits of an unconstitutional search is not necessary if the officers relied on the warrant in good faith. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 919-20 (1984). In Leon, the Supreme Court explained that, “where police conduct is ‘pursued in complete good faith,' the [exclusionary] rule's deterrent function ‘loses much of its force.'” United States v. Luong, 470 F.3d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Leon, 468 U.S. at 919). The exclusionary rule thus does “not bar the government's introduction of evidence obtained by officers acting in objectively reasonable reliance on a search warrant that is subsequently invalidated.” Id. The good faith inquiry is an objective one, requiring a court to ask “whether a reasonably well trained officer would have known that the search was illegal despite the magistrate's authorization.” Leon, 468 U.S. at 922 n.23.

         B. Miranda Warnings

         “For inculpatory statements made by a defendant during custodial interrogation to be admissible in evidence, the defendant's waiver of Miranda rights must be voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. A valid waiver of Miranda rights depends upon the totality of the circumstances including the background, experience, and conduct of defendant.” United States v. Garibay, 143 F.3d 534, 536 (9th Cir. 1998) (citations and quotation marks omitted). The government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a valid Miranda waiver occurred. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 168 (1986).

To satisfy this burden, the prosecution must introduce sufficient evidence to establish that under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant was aware of the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it. The government's burden to make such a showing is great, and the court will indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver of fundamental constitutional rights.

Garibay, 143 F.3d at 536-37 (citations and quotation markes omitted). “In determining whether a defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, we consider, as one factor, any language difficulties encountered by the defendant during custodial interrogation.” Id. at 537.

         In applying the totality of the circumstances test, courts consider:

(1) whether the defendant signed a written waiver; (2) whether the defendant was advised of his rights in his native tongue; (3) whether the defendant appeared to understand his rights; (4) whether a defendant had the assistance of a translator; (5) whether the defendant's rights were individually and repeatedly explained to him; and ...

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