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United States v. Mejorado

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 7, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIO BENICIO MEJORADO (1), DIANA AZUCENA GARCIA (2), Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

The matters before the Court are: 1) Defendants' combined motion for an order suppressing evidence and directing the Government to return Defendants' mobile phones (ECF No. 50); and 2) Defendant Mejorado's motion for an order suppressing post-arrest statements (ECF No. 51).

BACKGROUND FACTS

On March 15, 2014, agents arrested Defendant Mario Benicio Mejorado and Defendant Diana Azucena Garcia at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, after methamphetamine was found hidden in the spare tire of Defendant Mejorado's vehicle. At the time of the arrest, the agent seized Defendants' cell phones.

Defendant Mejorado was brought to an interrogation room for questioning. The interview was videotaped. The agents informed Defendant Mejorado of his Miranda rights and asked him: "Do you understand?" Defendant responded: "I do. I just have a question, um, can I know what's going on?" The agent informed Defendant that he was under arrest for transporting narcotics into the United States. The agent stated: "So, do you understand your rights?" Defendant stated: "I understand my rights, but I just want to let you know that I am not aware of...what is even going on or taking place." (ECF No. 62-1 at 9-10). The agent informed Defendant that he was under arrest "because you have a controlled substance in your vehicle." Id. at 10. Defendant continued to ask the agent questions and to respond to questions asked by the agent relating to his arrest. ("But how can I be under arrest for something I haven't even committed." Id.; "So basically, no matter what I say. I'm still going to be arrested?" Id.; "They could have found it right here, but that is not my stuff." Id. at 11; "I've never been found guilty of doing anything." Id. at 12; "I didn't even get a chance to explain myself." Id. at 13; "Where did they find the drugs?" Id. at 14). After more conversation between the Defendant Mejorado and the agent, the following exchange took place:

Id. at 16. Defendant continued to ask the agent questions and to respond to questions asked by the agent relating to his arrest. (For example: "Please. If you were in my shoes. You'd know how it feels like okay, when someone's telling you that you're bringing drugs over." Id. at 17; "So how the hell is it that all of a sudden they found something when they could have easily done that before." Id. at 18.) Defendant continued to ask the agent questions and to respond to questions asked by the agent relating to his arrest. Approximately fifteen minutes after the Miranda warnings and Defendant's statement that he understood his rights, Defendant stated: "Hold on. I want a lawyer" and the questioning ceased. Id. at 23.

Defendants were charged with importation of methamphetamine in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง952 and 960. 1) Defendants' combined motion for an order suppressing evidence and directing the Government to return Defendants' mobile phones (ECF No. 50);

The Government states in a Supplemental Document "it does not intend to introduce this evidence at trial [and] believes that this renders the [motion] moot." (ECF No. 63). Defendants agree. Defendants' combined motion for an order suppressing evidence is denied as moot and motion to direct the Government to return Defendants' mobile phones is granted. 2) Defendant Mejorado's motion for an order suppressing post-arrest statements (ECF No. 51).

Defendant contends that the Government cannot use any portion of his post-arrest statement at trial on the grounds that the Government cannot establish a valid waiver of his Miranda rights. Defendant contends that the video and the transcript establish that he never intended to waive his Miranda rights.[1]

The Government contends that Defendant Mejorado implicitly waived his Miranda rights when he gave an uncoerced statement to agents after indicating that he understood his rights. The Government asserts that it does not need to show an express Miranda waiver. The Government contends that waiver was implied when Defendant stated that he understood his rights and made statements that were not coerced. Applicable Law

"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." United States v. Garibay, 143 F.3d 534, 536 (9th Cir. 998)(internal quotation omitted). "Only if the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation reveal both an uncoerced choice and the requisite level of comprehension may a court properly conclude that the Miranda rights have been waived." Moran v. Burdine, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986)(internal quotation omitted).

There is a presumption against waiver which the Government bears the burden of overcoming by a preponderance of evidence. Garibay, 143 F.3d at 536. The validity of a waiver depends upon the particular facts and circumstances of the case, including the background, experience and conduct of the defendant. See Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 482 (1981). "Several factors to consider are (i) defendant's mental capacity; (ii) whether the defendant signed a written waiver; (iii) whether the defendant was advised in his native tongue or had a translator; (iv) whether the defendant appeared to understand his rights; (v) whether the defendant's rights were individually and repeatedly explained to him; and (vi) whether the defendant had prior experience with the criminal justice system." United States v. Crews, 502 F.3d 1130, 1140 (9th Cir. 2007).

In Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010), the defendant sought federal habeas relief on the grounds his statements made during a custodial interview and relied on at trial by the prosecution, had been elicited in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Thompkins was read his Miranda warnings, read the warnings out loud, and declined to sign the waiver form. Thompkins was largely silent during the interrogation which lasted about three hours, but did give a few limited responses. About 2 hours and 45 minutes into the interrogation, Thompkins made inculpatory statements in response to questioning by an agent. Thompkins moved to suppress his statements on the grounds that he had invoked his Fifth amendment right to remain silent, that he had not waived his right to remain silent, and that his inculpatory statements were involuntary. The trial court refused to suppress the statements made by Thompkins. The United States Supreme Court addressed each of these arguments on appeal from the denial of habeas relief.

In rejecting Thompkins' argument that "he invoked his privilege to remain silent by not saying anything for a sufficient period of time, so the interrogation should have ceased before he made his ...


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