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United States v. Garcia-Alvarez

United States District Court, S.D. California

February 24, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RIGOBERTO GARCIA-ALVAREZ, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE OBTAINED FROM CELL PHONES

JEFFREY T. MILLER, District Judge.

This order addresses Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence obtained by searching his cell phones pursuant to a warrant. (Doc. No. 34.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND[1]

Defendant was arrested shortly after midnight on February 12, 2014, at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after agents found a large quantity of methamphetamine hidden in his car. At the time of the arrest, agents seized three cell phones that he had with him. During a post-arrest interview, he said that two of the phones were his, but that he had found the third phone at a casino.[2] He was subsequently charged under 21 U.S.C. ยงยง 952 and 960 with importation of methamphetamine.

On May 9, 2014, the government applied for and obtained a warrant to extract and analyze the data from the cell phones. It was to be executed by May 23, 2014.

The supporting affidavit set forth the circumstances of Defendant's arrest, explained that narcotics smugglers commonly use cell phones to communicate instructions on how to cross the border and where and when to deliver the controlled substances, and asserted that information in the phones was likely to identify Defendant's criminal associates and communications relevant to his crime.

As to the methods that would be used, the affidavit stated:

13. Following the issuance of this warrant I will collect the subject cellular telephones, and subject them to analysis. All forensic analysis of the data contained within the telephone and its memory cards will employ search protocols directed exclusively to the identification and extraction of data within the scope of this warrant.
14. Based on the foregoing, identifying and extracting data subject to seizure pursuant to this warrant may require a range of data analysis techniques, including manual review, and, consequently, may take weeks or months. The personnel conducting the identification and extraction of data will complete the analysis within ninety (90) days, absent further application to this court.

(Doc. No. 34, Exh. A at 10-11.)[3]

The warrant also described the objects of the search:

1. Communications, records, or data including but not limited to emails, text messages, photographs, audio files, videos, or location data:
a. tending to indicate efforts to deliver controlled substances from Mexico to the United States;
b. tending to identify other facilities, storage devices, or services-such as email addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers-that may contain electronic evidence tending to indicate efforts to delivery [sic] controlled substances from Mexico to the United States;
c. tending to identify co-conspirators, criminal associates, or others involved in smuggling controlled substances ...

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