United States District Court, D. New Mexico
P. MARTINEZ United States Attorney
BOWLES Attorney for Defendant
A. HURTADO Assistant United States Attorney
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VAZQUEZ United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on the United States'
Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Memorandum
Opinion and Order, [Doc. 37], granting Defendant Steven
Morales' Motion to Suppress Evidence, [Doc. 23]. The
United States moved for reconsideration of this Court's
Order on August 8, 2016, [Doc. 39], and Mr. Morales opposed
the United States' motion on August 18, 2016. [Doc. 47],
The Court, having considered the briefs, evidence, relevant
law, arguments, and being otherwise fully informed, GRANTS
the United States' Motion for Reconsideration and now
DENIES Mr. Morales' Motion to Suppress
light of the Court's revised interpretation of the
applicable law, the facts as presented by the United States,
both in its filings and at the evidentiary hearing on April
27, 2016, are restated as follows.
January 26 and 28, 2015, because Mr, Morales was wanted on an
outstanding state arrest warrant, the U.S. Marshals Services
obtained orders from the Sixth Judicial District Court for
the State of New Mexico for disclosure of telecommunications
records associated with Mr. Morales, including GPS
information. [Doc. 39 at 1].
January 28, 2015, the GPS information indicated that Mr.
Morales' cell phone was in the vicinity of a Smith's
grocery store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Id.
Members of a fugitive task force, including deputy U.S.
Marshals, went to the Smith's parking lot to find and
arrest Mr. Morales. Id.
April 27, 2016, at an evidentiary hearing before this Court,
Deputy U.S. Marshal Ben Segotta testified that upon arriving
at the Smith's parking lot, he saw two people-a man and a
woman-sitting in a Mazda sedan with a "Jack Key
Motors" license plate frame. [Doc. 38 at 14]. The
license plate frame indicated to Deputy Segotta that the car
had been purchased from Jack Key Motors in Las Cruces, New
Mexico. The car's origin was consistent with the
information Deputy Segotta had received about Mr.
Morales-that he was from southern New Mexico and had traveled
to Albuquerque from Las Cruces. Id. at 15. Deputy
Segotta saw a woman in the front passenger seat pass a
cellphone to a third person in the back seat who reached up
and grabbed it. Id. at 15-16. Deputy Segotta
testified that although he could not see the person in the
back seat, he saw a tattooed ami reach up and grab the cell
phone, consistent with his knowledge that Mr. Morales had a
"tattoo sleeve" on his arm. Id. at 16-18.
Deputy Segotta testified that the person in the back seat
"was somebody who had to have been kind of curled up and
attempting to, to me, to hide." Id. at 47.
the two front-seat occupants exited the car and entered the
store, Deputy Segotta was able to see the driver, a man, more
clearly. The task force had been informed that Mr.
Morales' father, Arturo Morales, was involved in helping
his son evade law enforcement. Upon comparing Arturo
Morales' driver's license photo with his observations
of the driver, Deputy Segotta "was confident that the
photograph matched the driver of the vehicle."
Id. at 21 and 43.
point, having identified Mr. Morales' father and observed
someone with a tattooed arm hiding in the back seat of the
car, someone in the task force issued an order to execute the
arrest warrant. Id. at 63. At least seven task force
officers moved towards the car. Deputy Chris Roberson
testified that as he approached the car, he looked through
the front windshield and "it looked like the subject
that was-very similar descriptors, if not the subject."
Id. Mr. Morales was arrested and during the search
pursuant to his arrest, the officers recovered a single round
of .45 caliber handgun ammunition. [Doc. 39 at 3].
28, 2015 the United States filed a one-count indictment
charging that Mr. Morales-having been convicted of several
felony crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than one
year-unlawfully possessed a .45 caliber cartridge in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2).
[Doc. 2 at 1]. On February 7, 2016, Mr. Morales filed a
motion to suppress evidence obtained during his January 28,
2015, arrest on unrelated state charges. [Doc. 23]. The
United States fileda response [Doc. 24] and, following Mr.
Morales' reply [Doc. 26], an amended response [Doc. 30].
On April 27, 2016, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on
the motion to suppress. At the conclusion of the hearing,
having clarified that Mr. Morales does not dispute that the
arrest warrant gave the officers probable cause to arrest
him, the Court asked the parties to submit their closing
arguments in writing and to include the applicable standard
of law. See Docs. 31; 38. In their supplemental
briefings, [Docs. 32, 33], the parties agreed that in light
of the valid arrest warrant for Mr. Morales, the only issue
in dispute was whether the task force's identification of
Mr. Morales violated the Fourth Amendment. [Docs. 32 at 1; 33
at 2]. Mr. Morales' Motion therefore challenges only the
basis the arresting officers had in identifying him as the
individual specified in the arrest warrant.
12, 2016, this Court issued an order granting Mr.
Morales' Motion to Suppress. [Doc. 37]. Following the
entry of this Order, the United States moved this Court to
reconsider its ruling on August 8, 2016. [Doc. 39]. Mr.