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United States v. Velderraint

May 5, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LORENA PEREZ VELDERRAINT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William Q. Hayes United States District Judge

ORDER

The matter before the Court is Defendant's motion to suppress evidence (#11-3) and motion to suppress statements. (Doc. # 11-4).

BACKGROUND FACTS

On December 28, 2009, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Defendant approached the United States Border Patrol Checkpoint on Highway 111 near Niland, California driving alone in a vehicle. Border Patrol Agent Barajas was conducting primary inspection. Agent Barajas referred the Defendant to the secondary inspection area.

United States Border Patrol Agent David Alonso first encountered the Defendant in the secondary inspection area sitting on a bench located near her vehicle. Defendant was not handcuffed. Agent Alonso was in uniform and armed. There were approximately three border patrol agents in the secondary area. No guns were drawn by any border patrol agent at any point in this case. Agent Alonso asked the Defendant for her identification and questioned Defendant regarding the ownership of the vehicle. Agent Alonso asked the Defendant for permission for himself and his canine partner to search her vehicle. Defendant gave her consent. At the evidentiary hearing, the Agent Alonso did not recall the exact words he used to request consent or the exact words the Defendant used to give her consent.

After the canine search, Agent Alonso asked the Defendant for consent to search her vehicle with the X-ray machine. Defendant gave her consent.

A large quantity of methamphetamine was found in the vehicle. Defendant was placed under arrest. The agents removed the drugs from a compartment in the vehicle and weighed the drugs prior to referring the case to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

At approximately 1:00 a.m., on December 29, 2009, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Barbara Hopkins, the duty agent in Yuma, Arizona, received a phone call from border patrol agents at the Highway 111 checkpoint informing her that the agents had intercepted a large quantity of methamphetamine. Agent Hopkins testified at the hearing that it is standard procedure for a DEA Agent to take over a case at the Highway 111 checkpoint when a large quantity of drugs is found, and that the closest DEA Agent is three hours away from the checkpoint in Yuma, Arizona. Agent Hopkins agreed to take over the case and left for the checkpoint within forty-five minutes of the call.

At approximately 3:45 a.m. on December 29, 2009, Agent Hopkins and Agent Philip Jones arrived at the Hwy 111 checkpoint. Approximately fifteen minutes after arriving, Agent Hopkins read Defendant her Miranda rights witnessed by Agent Jones. Defendant waived her rights and agreed to answer questions. Agent Hopkins questioned the Defendant regarding her possession of the vehicle. Defendant denied knowledge of the drugs during the interview. The interview of the Defendant was completed in approximately 30 minutes. During the interview, the Defendant was not handcuffed, no firearms were drawn, and no agent yelled at the Defendant. At some point during the interview, Agent Hopkins told the Defendant that she did not believe the Defendant's statement denying knowledge of the drugs in the vehicle.

During the interview, the Agent Hopkins asked the Defendant if she would give permission to search her cellular phone. Defendant responded that the cellular phone was already in the Agent's hands. Agent Hopkins then stated that she was asking for permission to look at the phone and the Defendant indicated yes. Pursuant to Defendant's consent, Agent Hopkins searched Defendant's cellular phone. Agent Hopkins testified at the hearing that it was her common practice in all cases to search the suspect's cellular phone and that she would have obtained a warrant if consent was not given. Agent Hopkins also testified that she later obtained a search warrant for the Defendant's cellular phone from the Magistrate Judge.

After the interview, Agent Hopkins called the Imperial County Jail from the checkpoint and was informed that they were not accepting federal female inmates at that time. Agent Hopkins and Agent Jones transported the Defendant to the DEA Office in Imperial County arriving around 5 or 6 a.m. The agents called the Metropolitan Corrections Center (MCC) in San Diego from the DEA Office and obtained the earliest booking time. The agents took the Defendant to the MCC in San Diego for booking at 1:00 p.m.

On December 29, 2009, a complaint was filed charging Defendant with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

On December 30, 2009, Defendant made her initial appearance in the District Court for the Southern District of California before the United States Magistrate Judge.

On February 24, 2010, the federal grand jury in the Southern District of California returned an Indictment charging the Defendant with possession of a controlled substance with intent to ...


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