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United States v. Vicente

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MICHAEL VICENTE, Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS

         Through his motion to suppress (ECF No. 17), Defendant seeks to exclude from evidence statements he made during and following his arrest on September 7, 2016. Defendant contends he made the statements without the benefit of a Miranda warning.[1]The Government maintains that because the statements were not the result of a custodial interrogation, the statements are not excludable.

         After consideration of the record evidence and the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court deny the motion.

         Proposed Findings of Fact

         The parties agree that for purposes of the motion, the facts are as set forth in the report attached to the Government's response. (ECF No. 20-1.) I recommend, therefore, the Court find the facts included in the report, which facts are summarized below.

         On September 7, 2016, at approximately 7 a.m., law enforcement officers knocked on the door of Defendant's residence in Thomaston, Connecticut. A woman answered the door. When the officers asked if Defendant was home, the woman directed the officers to a first floor bedroom where Defendant was sleeping. One of the officers, agent Nappi, recognized Defendant from a photograph he reviewed earlier. Agent Nappi then handcuffed Defendant with the Defendant's hands in front of Defendant.

         While in the bedroom, Defendant told the officers his name was “Michael, ” that he had been stabbed in the abdomen on the previous day, but had left the hospital against medical advice, and that he was addicted to heroin. When the officers noticed a cellular telephone on the bed next to Defendant, Defendant said the phone belonged to him.[2]

         Two officers subsequently placed Defendant in a law enforcement vehicle to transport him to the local police station. On route to the police station, one of the officers read Defendant his Miranda rights. Defendant stated he understood his rights, and agreed to speak with the law enforcement officers. After arrival at the police station, Defendant was placed in an interview room, where Defendant made other statements, including that “Warren” was probably responsible for Defendant's arrest, that he would “take care” of “Warren, ” that he only came to Maine to “get high, ” that he was not a large-scale drug distributor, and that he only sold oxycodone, which he obtained through a legitimate prescription.

         Discussion

         Defendant contends the statements he made at his home should be excluded from evidence at trial because he made the statements without the benefit of a Miranda warning. He also argues that under the circumstances, the subsequent Miranda warning was ineffective as to the interrogation that followed the warning. Defendant, therefore, seeks to exclude all statements he made to law enforcement on September 7.

         A. Custodial Interrogation

         In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966), the United States Supreme Court stated, “the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination.” “The custodial interrogation inquiry necessarily demands determination of its two subsidiary components: 1) custody and 2) interrogation.” United States v. Ventura, 85 F.3d 708, 710 (1st Cir. 1996).

         “Determinations about Miranda custody begin by examining all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation and asking whether a reasonable person would have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave.” United States v. Ellison, 632 F.3d 727, 729 (1st Cir. 2010) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Here, given that law enforcement placed Defendant in handcuffs at the beginning of their encounter with Defendant, the Government concedes that Defendant was in custody when he spoke with law enforcement. The issue is whether Defendant was subject to an interrogation while in custody.

         “Interrogation refers to both express questioning and its ‘functional equivalent, ' which includes any ‘words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the subject.'” United States v. Ventura, 85 F.3d at 711 (quoting Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980)). “[T]he inquiry is objective: how would the officer's statements and conduct be perceived by a reasonable person in the same circumstances?” Id.

         Questions asked to elicit background information, such as name, address, and similar information (sometimes referred to as “routine booking questions”) are generally not considered to be part of a criminal interrogation because the questions rarely generate an incriminating response. United States v. Sanchez, 817 F.3d 38, 45 (1st Cir. 2016). However, background and biographical inquiries can constitute an interrogation “where the law enforcement officer, in the guise of asking for background information, seeks to elicit information that may incriminate.” Id. (quoting United States v. Doe, 878 F.2d 1546, 1551 (1st Cir. 1989)). The determination ‚Äúturns on an objective test that asks whether the questions and circumstances were such that the officer should have reasonably expected ...


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