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United States v. Sadlowski

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 8, 2017




         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Defendant Adam Sadlowski's Motion to Suppress Evidence (Motion) filed on August 18, 2016. [Doc. 38] The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties, the evidence developed at a hearing, and the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. The Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Defendant Adam Sadlowski (Defendant) is charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition contrary to 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). [Doc. 12]

         On February 21, 2016, Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) detective Koppman obtained a search warrant for Defendant's house and car (Search Warrant #1). [Doc. 43, pg. 3; Doc. 38-1] The affidavit for Search Warrant #1 was based substantially on the statements of a confidential informant and a confidential source (collectively, informants). [Doc. 38-1] The warrant was executed the next day (February 22). [Doc. 43, pg. 3] At some point during the search, the BCSO detectives notified Albuquerque Police Department (APD) of Defendant's presence in the house and APD officers subsequently arrived at the house. [Doc. 43, pg. 3] APD was investigating the death of S.S., who had been seen with Defendant shortly before her disappearance. [Doc. 43, pg. 3] ¶ 15:03 hours, an APD officer interviewed Defendant. [Doc. 43, pg. 4 (stating that Defendant was handcuffed); Doc. 38-3, pg. 2-3] ¶ 19:32 hours, based in part on Defendant's statements and an APD officer's observations while in the house, the APD obtained a search warrant (Search Warrant #2) for Defendant's house. [Doc. 38-2, pg. 1, 5] Multiple firearms and ammunition were recovered from Defendant's house. [Doc. 43, pg. 4; Doc. 38-1, pg. 7]

         Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence. [Doc. 38] The Government filed a Response. [Doc. 43] With permission from the Court [Text-only order, [62]], Defendant filed a Reply and Supplemental Brief, to which he attached new exhibits. [Doc. 63] The Government notified the Court that it would not file a sur-reply. [Email, 11/14/16] The Court held a hearing on Defendant's Motion on November 29, 2016. At the hearing, the Court granted Defendant's request to submit additional briefing by both parties on the issue of the metropolitan court's jurisdiction to issue search warrants. [Tr. 11/29/2016, 107:17-109:23] The Court has considered each of these submissions in evaluating Defendant's Motion.

         II. Discussion

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that several arguments raised in Defendant's pleadings were resolved at the November 29, 2016 hearing. For instance, in the Motion, Defendant seeks to suppress evidence gained from an interview with the APD officer. The Government maintained in its pleadings that this argument is moot because it does not intend to “present any of [D]efendant's statements made during Det. Manary's interview about the death of S.S.” [Doc. 43, pg. 18] At the November 29, 2016 hearing on the Motion, the Government reiterated that it did not intend to introduce any statements related to APD's investigation. [Tr. 11/29/16, 100:22-101:5] Defendant agreed that the stipulation rendered his arguments moot. [Tr. 11/29/16, 101:15-18] Hence, the Court need not address Defendant's arguments as to suppression of those statements.

         In addition, although Defendant argues that the officers failed to knock and announce their presence before entering his home, he acknowledges that such failure does not require suppression of evidence found in the house. [Doc 38, pg. 14] Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586, 599 (2006). The Court, therefore, need not address this issue further.

         Finally, although Defendant argued in his Motion that Search Warrant #1 was invalid because the supporting affidavit was unsigned, the Government stated in its Response that a signed copy of the affidavit was provided to the Defendant. [Doc. 43, pg. 9] It also provided a signed copy of the affidavit as an exhibit. [Doc. 43-1] Defendant made no further mention of this factual dispute in subsequent pleadings, nor at the November 29, 2016 hearing. The Court considers this argument abandoned.

         The two main remaining issues raised in the Motion are whether 1) Search Warrant #1 was properly issued by a metropolitan court judge, and 2) Search Warrant #1 was supported by probable cause.

         Metropolitan Court Judge Had Authority to Issue Search Warrant #1

         Defendant maintains that Search Warrant #1 is invalid ab initio because 1) metropolitan court judges do not have jurisdiction to issue search warrants related to felonies, and 2) the warrant was not issued in compliance with Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Court will address these arguments in turn.

         Defendant argues that Search Warrant #1 is invalid because metropolitan court judges do not have the authority to issue a “felony warrant.” [Doc. 63, pg. 16] Cf. State v. Railey, 1975-NMCA-019, ¶ 10, 87 N.M. 275, 532 P.2d 204 (stating that where no statute or constitution “authorizes the Zuni Tribal Court to issue a search warrant, the evidence seized pursuant to such a warrant is inadmissible at trial in a New Mexico court.”). In support, he attached a portion of the municipal court manual, which states that “[m]unicipal judges have authority to issue search warrants to law enforcement officers to search premises located within the municipality, but only related to offenses within the court's jurisdiction.” [Doc. 63-7] This statement relies on Municipal Court Rule 8-201(A) which states that “[a] warrant may be issued by the [municipal] court to search for and seize any . . . property which has been obtained or is possessed in a manner which constitutes a violation of a municipal ordinance.” (Emphasis added.) In supplemental briefing permitted by the Court, Defendant argues that the metropolitan courts cannot issue search warrants because there is no statutory grant of authority to do so. [Doc. 67, pg. 6]

         The Court is not persuaded for the following reasons. First, Defendant's reliance on municipal court rules is unavailing because the signing judge here was a metropolitan court judge, not a municipal court judge. Compare NMSA 1978, § 35-14-1 (1993) (creating municipal courts) with NMSA 1978, § 34-8A-1 (2010) (creating metropolitan courts). Second, Defendant's argument equates jurisdiction to prosecute a crime with authority to issue a search warrant. These are not equivalent concepts. See Bevington v. United States, 35 F.2d 584, 584 (8th Cir. 1929) (“[T]he procuring of a search warrant ... is not, in any sense, the commencement of a prosecution. Such proceedings are merely inquisitorial in their nature, and may or may not result in a criminal prosecution, and are at best merely ancillary to a prosecution, if one takes place.”); United States v. McVicker, No. 3:11-CR-00101-SI, 2012 WL 860412, at *2 (D. Or. Mar. 13, 2012) (rejecting an argument that “unless and until [the Government] can establish jurisdiction to prosecute [the defendant] for any crime he may have committed, ” the issuing court did not have authority to issue a search warrant, and stating “[o]n the contrary, the relevant question for the issuance of a warrant is the location of the evidence to be searched, not where the underlying crime may have occurred or which court may have jurisdiction over any resulting prosecution”); State v. Heylmun, 708 P.2d 778, 781 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1985) (“Since the issuance of a search warrant does not commence a prosecution, the prosecutorial jurisdiction of state courts is not applicable to the issues involved here.”).

         Third, although Defendant is correct that NMSA 1978, § 34-8A-3 does not specifically state that metropolitan court judges may issue search warrants, this fact is not dispositive because not all of the statutes creating lower courts specifically mention the power to issue search warrants. Indeed, even the constitutional provision governing district courts, which undisputedly have the authority to issue search warrants, does not specifically mention this authority. N.M. Const. art. VI, § 13; see State v. Boyse, 2013-NMSC-024, ¶¶ 18-19, 303 P.3d 830 (discussing the New Mexico rules of procedure governing issuance of search warrants). Moreover, authority to issue misdemeanor search warrants is also not found explicitly in Section 34-8A-3, yet Defendant appears to acknowledge that metropolitan courts have the power to issue such search warrants.

         Fourth, the metropolitan courts have authority to issue search warrants related to felony offenses by operation of Supreme Court rule. Supreme Court rules have the force of law when they are “promulgated in accordance with the statutory mandate to carry out and effectuate the purpose of the applicable statute.” In re Christobal V., 2002-NMCA-077, ¶ 15, 132 N.M. 474, 50 P.3d 569; see NMSA 1978, § 38-1-1(A) (1966) (“The [S]upreme [C]ourt of New Mexico shall, by rules promulgated by it from time to time, regulate pleading, practice and procedure in judicial proceedings in all courts of New Mexico for the purpose of simplifying and promoting the speedy determination of litigation upon its merits. Such rules shall not abridge, enlarge or modify the substantive rights of any litigant.”). Here, Rule 7-208(A)(1) NMRA provides that metropolitan courts may issue search warrants “to search for and seize any . . . property which has been obtained or is possessed in a manner which constitutes a criminal offense.” (Emphasis added.) This language is identical to that found in the rule governing issuance of search warrants by district courts. See Rule 5-211(A)(1) NMRA. In contrast, the rule governing municipal courts explicitly limits those courts' authority to issue search warrants by limiting search warrants to ...

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