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United States v. Sanchez

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 23, 2015



GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.


On August 11, 2014, Defendant Decky Sanchez ("Sanchez" or "Defendant") was arrested following the seizure of methamphetamine from a Ford Focus in which he was riding as a passenger. Sanchez is charged in a one-count information with importation of methamphetamine. (ECF No. 1.) On January 10, 2015, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence challenging his post-arrest statement based on a violation of Rule 5(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. (ECF No. 49.) On March 19, 2015, Defendant supplemented his motion and argued that the post-arrest statement was the fruit of an arrest made without probable cause. (ECF No. 65.) An evidentiary hearing on the motion was conducted on April 10, 2015. ( See ECF No. 68.) Based on the papers filed, the testimony of the witnesses called, and the exhibits admitted, the Court DENIES the motion to suppress statements.


A. Primary Inspection

On August 11, 2014, at approximately 12:06 a.m., Erica Aguilar ("Aguilar") and Sanchez (collectively "Defendants") applied for admission into the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry ("POE") in a 2000 Ford Focus bearing California license plates. Aguilar was the driver and Sanchez was the front seat passenger. (Decl. of Decky Sanchez ("Sanchez Decl."), ECF No. 65 ¶¶ 1-2.) The primary inspection officer referred the Ford Focus to a secondary inspection lot. (Id. ¶ 4.)

B. Secondary Inspection

At approximately 12:35 a.m. the Ford Focus was driven through the Z-portal X-ray machine ("Z-Portal") where anomalies were noted inside the rear quarter panels of the vehicle. Thereafter, at 12:45 a.m., California Border Patrol ("CBP") Canine Enforcement Officer Dominique Garcia and her Human/Narcotic Detection Dog "Ghandi" screened the vehicle and the canine alerted to a trained narcotic odor emanating from the quarter panels of the vehicle.

In his declaration, Sanchez states that after the car came out of Z-Portal, four unknown officers surrounded the Focus, ordered Sanchez and Aguilar to get out of the car, and placed Sanchez in handcuffs. (Sanchez Decl. ¶ 6.) He also claims that he was told by an unknown officer that he was under arrest. (Id. )

CBP Officer Edwin Diaz testified that he was assigned to the secondary area at the time that the Focus was referred to secondary. Officer Diaz testified that at approximately 12:30 a.m. he handcuffed Sanchez and escorted him to the Security Office for a pat down search. Officer Diaz did not recall saying anything to Sanchez but did not tell Defendant he was under arrest. After escorting Sanchez to the security office and patting him down, Officer Diaz testified that he removed Sanchez's handcuffs and instructed him to take a seat in the security office.

CBP Officer Steven Bui testified he was assigned to conduct the secondary inspection of the vehicle. During his inspection, Officer Bui removed the interior quarter panel and a piece of foam insulation from the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Bui saw a package and probed it. The substance inside the package field tested positive for methamphetamine. Officer Bui testified that he then proceeded to the Security office where he placed Sanchez under arrest at approximately 1:40 a.m.

C. Processing

Upon arrest, CBP officers began the Defendants' standard processing. Standard CBP processing includes seizing the narcotics, vehicle, personal effects, and other evidence, preparing incident reports, and fingerprinting. ( See ECF No. 59 at 4.) In all, eight packages-three from the passenger side quarter panel and five from the driver's side quarter panel-were removed from the vehicle. The packages had a total weight of 8.65 kilograms (21.60 pounds) of methamphetamine.

At 1:46 a.m., CBP Officer Bui notified Homeland Security Investigation ("HSI") agents of the seizure in order for HSI agents to take custody of Defendants and conduct the investigation. (Decl. of Special Agent Patrick MacKenzie ("Mackenzie Decl."), ECF No. 59-1 ¶ 3). At the time, three (3) special agents were on duty-Special Agents ("SA") Shawn Doyle, Diana Hakala, and Patrick MacKenzie. (Id. ) At 3:00 a.m., SA MacKenzie and SA Doyle proceeded to the San Ysidro POE from the Tecate POE where they had been processing an earlier seizure. (Mackenzie Decl. ¶ 4.) The agents arrived at the San Ysidro POE at approximately 3:45 a.m. (Id. )

Upon their arrival, CBP officers were still in the process of completing the seizure. (Id. ) SA MacKenzie reviewed the items recovered from the incident, including cell phones and extensive pocket trash, and determined what items to seize as evidence and what items would be seized as personal effects. (Id. )

D. Defendants' Post-Arrest Statements

1. Erica Aguilar

At 5:30 a.m., following completion of the initial processing, SA MacKenzie and SA Hakala interviewed Aguilar, the driver. (Mackenzie Decl. ¶ 5.) Aguilar was advised of her Miranda rights, waived her rights, and made statements without an attorney being present. ( See id., Ex. 1.) Aguilar stated, among other things, that Sanchez knew about the narcotics and was paid $1, 300. ( See ECF No. 59 at 5.) She had introduced Sanchez to drug smuggling. (Id. ) Sanchez told her to tell the CBP officers that they had been to ...

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