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United States v. Ray

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 30, 2018

TERRY DALE RAY, Defendant.



         Defendant Ray, who stands charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 842(i)(1), felon in possession of explosives, and 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), felon in possession of a firearm, filed a Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 22), addressing oral statements and any fruits thereof with regard to certain interrogations by law enforcement personnel. He filed a second Motion to Suppress (Doc. No. 29), alleging that the affidavit in support of a search warrant for the home he occupied contained material false statements in violation of Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56 (1978). The United States responded to the motions and the Court conducted a hearing on March 21, 2018, and requested that the parties each file proposed findings and conclusions. Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court finds as follows.

         At approximately 11:57 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, 2017, Deputy Dylan King of the Custer County Sheriff's Department initiated a traffic stop of a Chevrolet pickup truck near State Highway 183 and County Road 970, after observing that the tag lamp on the truck was inoperable. While approaching the vehicle he noticed it carried an expired and improperly displayed tag. When Deputy King approached Mr. Ray, the driver and only occupant of the truck, Mr. Ray stated he did not have a driver's license, only a state identification card. Deputy King asked Defendant to sit in the front of his patrol car while he ran a license check. There is no dispute that the traffic stop and Mr. Ray's arrest for driving under suspension were proper, as Mr. Ray admittedly lacked a driver's license and informed Deputy King of an arrest two weeks prior for the same offense.[1] Once he obtained confirmation that Mr. Ray's driving privileges were suspended and because he had recently been arrested for the same offense, Deputy King asked Defendant to step out of and to the front of the patrol vehicle for purposes of an arrest. Pursuant to the lawful arrest, Deputy King searched Defendant and discovered a knife in his pocket and a packet of Marlboro cigarettes that contained a baggie; the baggie appeared to contain methamphetamine. Deputy King inquired whether there was anything else in the pickup truck; Defendant stated there was a pipe inside.

         Defendant became distressed during the arrest and made statements that concerned Deputy King as posing a potential suicide risk. Deputy King returned Defendant, now wearing handcuffs, to the front of the patrol vehicle and called for assistance from Deputy Quinton Short. While awaiting Deputy Short's arrival, Deputy King began an inventory search of Defendant's truck, which was to be towed and impounded because of Defendant's detention. An inventory search is consistent with the policy of the Custer County Sheriff's Department, to ensure that personal belongings of the arrestee are properly accounted for as well as to preserve evidence.

         There is no dispute that, when Deputy Short arrived, he made inquiry of Defendant Ray regarding his mental health and where the pipe was located in the vehicle, as well as other questions, without the benefit of being informed of his right to remain silent and the consequences of failing to do so, warnings generally required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). During the course of these dialogues, Defendant advised the deputies as to the location of the methamphetamine pipe and further advised that there was a blasting cap, a primary explosive device generally used to detonate a larger device, in the vehicle. Defendant contends statements he made following his arrest on April 1, 2017, were in response to interrogation by Deputies King and Short in violation of his rights under the Fifth Amendment, because he was not first advised of his rights.

         The Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination clause states: “No person shall be ... compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. amend. V. Statements made by a defendant during a law enforcement officer's custodial interrogation are generally inadmissible against that defendant if he had not received the warnings that Miranda requires. See Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 444 (2000). Miranda applies custodial interrogations. That is, “Miranda rights need only be given to a suspect at the moment that suspect is ‘in custody' and the questioning meets the legal definition of ‘interrogation.'” United States v. Chee, 514 F.3d 1106, 1112 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Perdue, 8 F.3d 1455, 1463 (10th Cir. 1993)). Any questioning by law enforcement officers “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response” constitutes an interrogation. Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980). As noted above, there is no dispute that Defendant was in custody once handcuffed and returned to the patrol vehicle. Thus, the Court's Miranda inquiry is limited in time to the period after Defendant was returned to the patrol vehicle wearing handcuffs, when Deputy Short asked him certain questions. Defendant contends the questions constituted custodial interrogation, and the Court agrees. The Court concurs with the Government that Deputy King did not violate Defendant's rights by inquiring whether he had on his person anything that could injure Deputy King while he searched Defendant incident to arrest. However, the questions posed by Deputy Short extended beyond the scope of permissible inquiry, and the public safety exception set forth in New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984), does not extend to circumstances where, as here, there is no general danger to the public.

         The Tenth Circuit discussed the public safety exception upon which Plaintiff relies in United States v. DeJear, 552 F.3d 1196 (10th Cir. 2009:

For an officer to have a reasonable belief that he is in danger, at minimum, he must have a reason to believe (1) that the defendant might have (or recently have had) a weapon, and (2) that someone other than police might gain access to that weapon and inflict harm with it.

522 F.3d at 1201-02 (quoting United States v. Williams, 483 F.3d 425, 428 (6th Cir. 2007). In this case, Deputy King stopped Defendant Ray on a country road, and before Ray indicated the presence of a blasting cap in response to inquiries by Deputy Short, there was no discernible or anticipated danger to the officers or the public. Ray had been searched incident to arrest and handcuffed; there was no basis for believing anyone might be in harm's way based on Deputy King's finding of methamphetamine and a knife. As a result, the Court finds that statements made by Defendant in response to inquiry by Deputy Short are inadmissible, because Defendant was not advised of his rights as required by Miranda.

         Despite the inadmissibility of Defendant's statements made after his arrest on April 1, 2017, the physical evidence obtained from the truck, including the blasting cap, is not subject to exclusion. The Court's reasoning is twofold. First, the constitutional rule announced in Miranda is violated by admission at trial of statements made by a Defendant; “[t]he Self-Incrimination Clause . . . is not implicated by evidence of the physical fruit of a voluntary statement.” United States v. Patane, 542 U.S. 630, 636 (2004). Furthermore, because the vehicle was subject to inventory search, such search inevitably would have revealed the presence of the blasting cap.

[T]he Miranda rule “does not require that the statements [taken without complying with the rule] and their fruits be discarded as inherently tainted, ” Elstad, 470 U.S. at 307, 105 S.Ct. 1285. Such a blanket suppression rule could not be justified by reference to the “Fifth Amendment goal of assuring trustworthy evidence” or by any deterrence rationale, Id., at 308, 105 S.Ct. 1285; see Tucker, supra, at 446-449, 94 S.Ct. 2357; Harris, supra, at 225-226, and n. 2, 91 S.Ct. 643, and would therefore fail our close-fit requirement.

Patane, 542 U.S. at 639-40. It is not the absence of warnings that violates a defendant's constitutional rights; it is admission of such statements at trial that violates the rights protected by the Self-Incrimination Clause. Id. at 641. Finally, there is no evidence that the statement of Defendant regarding the blasting cap in his vehicle given to Deputy Short on April 1, 2017 was coerced. “Incriminating statements obtained by government acts, threats, or promises that permit the defendant's will to be overborne are coerced confessions.” United States v. Short, 947 F.2d 1445, 1449 (10th Cir. 1991).

         Defendant contends that Deputy Short knew or should have known about his mental health issues, however, the evidence elicited at the hearing does not support this contention. Although it is true that Defendant has received mental health treatment in the past, and is currently receiving treatment, there is no evidence that Deputy Short was aware of specific information or that he exploited such in an effort to coerce Defendant to make a statement.[2]See United States v. Guerro, 983 F.2d 1001, 1003 (10th Cir. 1993) (“While the defendant's mental condition is an important consideration, to find a statement involuntary, the police must somehow overreach by exploiting a weakness or condition known to exist.”). Having watched the video from the events surrounding Defendant's arrest and considered Deputy Short's testimony, the Court finds no basis for concluding that Defendant's indication that the truck contained a blasting cap was involuntary. Thus, he is not entitled to suppression thereof.

         Furthermore, even without the authority of Patane or even if his statement to Deputy Short about the blasting cap in the truck was involuntary, it would not be appropriate to suppress the blasting cap and other items obtained from Defendant's truck. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Although generally a warrant supported by probable cause is necessary before police may effect a search or seizure, “[a]n inventory search is a well-defined exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.” United States v. Haro-Salcedo, 107 F.3d 769, 772 (10th Cir. 1997). An inventory search is “an administrative procedure designed to produce an inventory” of the personal belongings of an arrestee to protect items from theft and to protect police against claims that items were lost or stolen while in their custody. Id. Such a search is also designed to protect police from potential danger. Id. “The inevitable discovery doctrine provides an exception to the exclusionary rule, and permits evidence to be admitted if an independent, lawful police investigation inevitably would have discovered it.” United States v. Cunningham, 413 F.3d 1199, 1203 (10th Cir. 2005)(citations and quotations omitted). Defendant asserts in his Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law that the blasting caps would not have inevitably been found in the inventory search, and therefore suppression is appropriate. (Doc. No. 49, p. 14). Although the two Deputies originally could not identify the blasting cap as such, the law in the Tenth Circuit is that “the Government can rely on a hypothetical, proper inventory search to prove seized evidence would have been inevitably discovered.” United States v. Killblane, 662 Fed.Appx. 615, 619 (10th Cir. Oct. 13, 2016). Here a proper inventory search would have revealed the presence of the blasting caps, and accordingly, Defendant is not entitled to suppression of the blasting cap from the vehicle.

         Defendant additionally argues that the statements he made to certain agents of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) were involuntary and are therefore inadmissible. As part of the hearing on the Motions to Suppress, the parties presented evidence regarding the voluntariness of Defendant's statements, as required under Jackson v. Denno. Under Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), when a defendant timely objects to the admission of an incriminating statement, he must receive a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine “both the underlying factual issues and the voluntariness of his confession.” Id. at 380; see also 18 U.S.C. § 3501 (“Before such confession is received in evidence, the trial judge shall, out of the presence of the jury, determine any issues as to voluntariness.”). The burden is on the government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the statements were voluntary. United States v. Pettigrew, 468 F.3d 626, 633 (10th Cir.2006).

         The issue of “voluntariness” is determined by “the totality of all the surrounding circumstances-both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation.” Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226 (1973). The Court must consider the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a confession is voluntary, including certain non-exclusive factors: “(1) the age, intelligence, and education of the defendant; (2) the length of detention; (3) the length and nature of the questioning; (4) whether the defendant was advised of his constitutional rights; and (5) whether the defendant was subject to physical punishment.” United States v. Lopez, 437 F.3d 1059, 1063 (10th Cir. 2006). The Court must also consider “the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation” and no single factor should be treated as conclusive. Id. (quoting United States v. Toles, 297 F.3d 959, 965 (10th Cir. 2002)). “The essence of voluntariness is whether the government obtained the statements by physical or psychological coercion such that the defendant's will was overborne.” United States v. Carrizales-Toledo, 454 F.3d 1142, 1153 (10th Cir.2006) (quoting United States v. Rith, 164 F.3d 1323, 1333 (10th Cir. 1999)).

         Defendant contends an analysis of these factors will establish that statements made by Defendant on April 1, 2017, at the time of his arrest, as well as those statements given to ATF agents on April 3 and 7, 2017, were not voluntary. Defendant relies largely on his mental health history. The Court has reviewed the records provided by Defendant as well as the video evidence from the statements Defendant provided on the above-identified dates and the testimony of Agent Taylor.[3] The Court finds that there was no police coercion at any time during the April 3 or 7, 2017 interviews with Defendant. Additionally, there is no evidence that either Agent Taylor or Agent Brown had a basis for knowing that Defendant had any mental health history. The video recording of the April 3, 2017 interview of Defendant shows that he participated freely in the conversation after the agents advised him of his ...

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