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United States v. Arreguin

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

November 22, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Omar ARREGUIN, Defendant-Appellant.

Submitted July 23, 2013 [*].

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Nicholas F. Reyes, Fresno, CA, for Defendant-Appellant.

Daniel Ackerman, Assistant United States Attorney, Antoine F. Raphael, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Riverside Branch Office, André Birotte, Jr., United States Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Virginia A. Phillips, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 5:08-cr-00161-VAP-1.

Before: ALFRED T. GOODWIN, DOROTHY W. NELSON, and N. RANDY SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

GOODWIN, Circuit Judge:

After the district court denied Omar Arreguin's motion to suppress the fruits of a home search, he entered a conditional guilty plea to charges under 21 U.S.C. ยง 841, and reserved his right to appeal the district court's ruling. We heard his appeal and affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. United States v. Arreguin, 453 Fed.Appx. 678 (9th Cir.2011). On remand, the district court once again denied the suppression motion, and Arreguin again appeals. We reverse, remand, and instruct the district court to grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. DEA AGENTS CONDUCT A " KNOCK AND TALK" INVESTIGATION

On August 16, 2008, nine law enforcement officers, including DEA Agents John Rubio and Paul McQuay, conducted a " knock and talk" investigation [1] at a Riverside, California home (the " Residence" ). Present inside the home were its three primary residents, Arreguin, his wife Maria Ledesma-Olivares, and their baby. One houseguest, Elias Valencia, Jr., was also on the premises.

B. THE RESIDENCE

1. Floor plan of the Residence

The Residence's front porch and entry door are located approximately 20-25 feet from the nearest sidewalk. Just behind the front door is a foyer that extends seven or eight feet into the Residence. Just beyond the foyer there are a living room and a family room. Beyond the foyer and further into the Residence is a master bedroom.

Inside the master bedroom, there are two additional doors. Passing through the first of the doors leads, unremarkably, into the attached master bathroom. But passing through the second door leads, somewhat surprisingly, into the Residence's garage.

2. Agents' knowledge of the Residence's floor plan

Nothing in the record suggests that the DEA Agents had any preexisting knowledge of the Residence's somewhat unique floor plan when they began their " knock and talk" investigation. To the contrary, the record reveals that the Agents did not know much at all about the premises.

In his initial live testimony, for example, Rubio stated that he and his fellow Agents did not even " know exactly who resided" at the Residence, and that they planned to

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find out during the course of the " knock and talk." He later acknowledged once again that when he approached the house, he did not know who was inside. Although the Residence was searched by local law enforcement " several months prior," neither Rubio nor McQuay made any mention of the DEA's involvement in that prior search. For his part, McQuay affirmatively acknowledged that he did not participate in the prior search.

C. ENCOUNTER AND OBSERVATIONS AT THE RESIDENCE'S FRONT DOOR

At approximately 11:00 a.m. on August 16, 2008, Agents Rubio, McQuay, Chad Corbin, and two other officers approached the Residence from the street. Rubio was one of the first two or three agents to approach the front porch area, alongside Group Supervisor Daniel Neill. After Rubio knocked on the entry door between three and seven times, a sleepy-looking Valencia opened the door, and the two began talking.

With the door open, both Rubio and McQuay (who was standing six feet behind Rubio) could see into and slightly beyond the entry area. From his vantage point on the porch, Rubio was able to see Ledesma-Olivares standing just beyond the foyer, holding an infant, and he was able to see Arreguin standing several feet inside the Residence, holding a shoe box. McQuay also noticed Arreguin and the shoe box, and he then observed Arreguin disappearing and reappearing from view " about four times" behind Valencia. Eventually, Arreguin briefly disappeared from McQuay's field of vision while moving to McQuay's right; when Arreguin reappeared, McQuay realized that he was no longer holding the shoebox.

Meanwhile, Rubio had a brief conversation with Valencia, while Ledesma-Olivares and Arreguin looked on. Rubio explained that " we're here from the DEA" and " we know this house. There was drug-related activity before. We would like to come in and look around. Can we come in[?]" [2] Valencia said yes and stepped back towards the rear of the foyer. Neither Arreguin nor Ledesma-Olivares voiced any objections.

D. AGENTS PROCEED INSIDE THE RESIDENCE

Very quickly thereafter, the Agents made entry into the Residence. At that time, Rubio observed Arreguin walking swiftly toward the master bedroom of the Residence, down a hallway, and out of sight. McQuay and Corbin followed Arreguin, stopped at the hallway, and called for him to return to the main entrance area. Within 30 seconds, he did so, and the Agents followed him back to the foyer.

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E. MCQUAY ENTERS THE MASTER BEDROOM AND ATTACHED MASTER BATHROOM

At that point, Rubio and Arreguin began talking in a family room, while McQuay and Corbin headed further into the Residence, ostensibly performing a " cursory safety sweep."

McQuay and Corbin moved past Valencia through the entry area of the home and proceeded to their right, because that was where McQuay had last seen Arreguin moving with the box. Within a matter of 30 seconds, McQuay proceeded further into the Residence, turned left, and found himself in the master bedroom area. The door to the attached master bathroom was open, and McQuay was able to observe the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink. He saw a blue shoebox in the cabinet, ...


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