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United States v. Espinoza

October 15, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARIO RAYMOND ESPINOZA, DEFENDANT.



ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Mario Raymond Espinoza's ("Defendant") motion to suppress all evidence obtained during a seizure and search in alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment. The United States of America (the "Government"), opposes the motion. On September 22, 2009, the Court held a hearing regarding Defendant's motion to suppress evidence. On September 29, 2009, the Government filed supplemental declarations in support of its opposition. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his home.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On September 8, 2008, Elk Grove Police Department officers responded to an assault with weapons call at 7207 Seasons Drive in Elk Grove. Gov't Opp. Brief, Doc. # 21 ("Gov't Opp.") at 2. Defendant's neighbor reported that Defendant had been drinking and shooting his gun out the window of his residence. Id. The neighbor also reported that Defendant lived alone and possibly had multiple weapons inside his residence. Id. The neighbor reported that the gun sounded like a .22 caliber or a high-powered pellet gun. Id. When the officers arrived at Defendant's residence, they observed that the front window was shattered. Id. The officers made several attempts to call Defendant on the phone. Id. After making contact, Defendant did not agree to exit his home, but nonetheless appeared on the front lawn. Def's Mot., Doc. # 20, at 2. He stumbled and appeared disoriented. Id.

Defendant was ordered to lie on the ground. Id. After he did so, Defendant was handcuffed, escorted to a patrol car, asked what he had done and if he had any weapons. Id. at 3. Defendant allegedly replied that he had done nothing, and that he did not have any weapons. Gov't Opp. at 3. Defendant was then locked in the back seat of a police car. Def's Mot. at 3. The officers proceeded to enter and search Defendant's home.

Id. The officers did not find any other people, but did discover a .357 magnum revolver on a television tray in the living room, a .44 caliber revolver between the mattress and the box spring in the master bedroom, and a .38 caliber revolver between the mattress and the wall in the master bedroom. Id. The officers did not obtain a warrant or Defendant's consent to search the home prior to entering. Id.

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. CONST. amend. IV. When a search or seizure is conducted without a warrant, the government must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it did not violate the Fourth Amendment. See United States v. Valencia, 24 F.3d 1106, 1108 (9th Cir. 1994). Evidence resulting from an unconstitutional search or seizure cannot be admitted as proof against the victim of the search, and therefore must be suppressed. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 485 (1963).

B. Government's Request For An Evidentiary Hearing

At the September 22, 2009 hearing regarding Defendant's motion to suppress, the Government requested that this Court conduct an evidentiary hearing on the matter prior to issuing an order. After considering the Government's request, this Court finds that an evidentiary hearing would not add anything to the information already before the Court. First, Defendant, the moving party, did not request a hearing and accepts the facts as set forth in the police reports. As such, there are no factual disputes based on the written reports. Second, the Government did not have witnesses available at the September 22, 2009 hearing. Although this appears to be a result of an apparent misunderstanding, if it believed there was a factual dispute the Government could have come prepared with witnesses to the scheduled hearing. Finally, the Government was permitted to submit supplemental declarations in support of its opposition and no new facts have been alleged in such declarations, except for the declaration of Officer Audrey Haug.

Officer Haug contends that prior to the search, Defendant was asked if anyone else was inside the residence and that Defendant did not answer and was uncooperative. However, no such fact is found in the police report despite the fact that police officers are trained to put all material, significant facts in their reports. Including this fact in a declaration over a year after the incident rather than in the police reports makes the fact less believable or credible. As such, this Court finds it can still decide the motion without the need for live testimony in that such testimony would not add anything to the information already before the Court. Accordingly, this Court denies the Government's request for an evidentiary hearing.

C. Warrantless Arrest of Defendant

Defendant argues the Court should suppress the firearms found in the house because police arrested Defendant without a warrant. Defendant argues that the police may not arrest a person in his home without a warrant unless exigent circumstances exist. Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 100 (1990). Absent exigent circumstances, the Court must suppress evidence obtained as a result of a warrantless arrest in a home. Id., at 100-101.

Here, however, Defendant was not arrested in his home. Defendant walked out of his house voluntarily and was subsequently ordered to lie on the ground, handcuffed, and arrested. Thus, the proper determination is whether police had probable cause to arrest once Defendant came outside. To determine whether probable cause exists to support a warrantless arrest, the Court examines whether the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe a ...


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