United States District Court, D. New Mexico
Bowles Letitia Simms Attorney for Mr. Quezada-Lara
ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Attorney for the United
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VAZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on defendant Juan Carlos
Quezada-Lara's Motion to Suppress Evidence [Doc. 22]. The
government opposes the motion. The Court conducted a hearing
on the motion on March 30, 2018. Based upon the pleadings of
the parties, the evidence presented during the hearing, and
applicable law, Mr. Quezada-Lara's motion is hereby
19, 2017, a vehicle driven by Mr. Quezada-Lara struck an FBI
Task Force Officer while officers were attempting to
apprehend him. Mr. Quezada-Lara then fled the scene. Later
that day, Mr. Quezada-Lara's girlfriend reported that his
vehicle had been stolen. The vehicle was eventually found
on information provided by the girlfriend, agents went to Mr.
Quezada-Lara's residence in Albuquerque later that night.
While there, they saw his girlfriend leave the residence.
Agents made contact with her, and she told them that Mr.
Quezada-Lara lived at the residence and she stayed there off
and on. She gave agents her key to the residence and
permission to search the premises for Mr. Quezada-Lara.
surrounded the residence and made contact with Mr.
Quezada-Lara's grandfather, Martin Lara, who lives at the
residence. Mr. Lara gave the agents both verbal and written
permission to search the house. During the search of Mr.
Quezada-Lara's bedroom, agents located two loaded
firearms. Additional rounds of ammunition were found in a
11, 2017, Mr. Quezada-Lara was indicted on one count of
Assaulting, Resisting, and Impeding a Federal Officer in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111, and one count of
Prohibited Person in Possession of Firearm and Ammunition in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(3) and (5).
Motion to Suppress, Mr. Quezada-Lara contends that his
grandfather suffers from dementia, does not speak English
very well, and did not have either actual or apparent
authority to consent to the search. The government asserts
that Mr. Lara had either actual or apparent authority to
consent to the search, and that his consent was voluntarily
Fourth Amendment generally prohibits the government from
making a warrantless entry into a person's residence to
search for specific objects. Illinois v. Rodriguez,
497 U.S. 177, 181 (1990). The general rule has exceptions,
one of which is “situations in which voluntary consent
has been obtained, either from the individual whose property
is searched or from a third party who possesses common
authority over the premises. United States v.
Kimoana, 383 F.3d 1215, 1221 (10th Cir. 2004) (citing
Rodriguez, supra). “Before a district
court may admit evidence resulting from a consent search, it
must determine from the totality of the circumstances that
(1) the [individual's] consent was voluntary and (2) the
search did not exceed the scope of the consent.”
United States v. Sims, 428 F.3d 945, 952 (10th Cir.
2005) (citations omitted).
government, as the party asserting the officers had obtained
consent to search from an individual having actual or
apparent authority over the premises, bears the burden of
proof. United States v. Cos, 498 F.3d 1115, 1124
(10th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
search of Mr. Quezada-Lara's house occurred late on the
night of June 19 and in the early morning hours of June 20,
2017, while law enforcement was looking for Mr. Quezada-Lara
in connection with an assault on an officer earlier that day.
[TR at pp. 4-5]. A few hours after the assault, Mr.
Quezada-Lara's girlfriend had reported his car stolen to
the Albuquerque Police Department, and provided law
enforcement with his home address. Id. at 5. The car
was registered to that address. Id.
Testimony of FBI Agents Acee and Stemo
Special Agent Bryan Acee testified that around midnight, law
enforcement established surveillance on the house, which was
located at 10801 Cartagena Avenue in the South Valley area of
Albuquerque. Id. at 6. Shortly after surveillance
began, law enforcement observed a light blue SUV departing
the property. Agent Agee recognized it because he believed it
had picked up Mr. Quezada-Lara earlier in the day after he
fled from agents. Id. Suspecting that Mr.
Quezada-Lara might be in the car, the agent activated his
lights and pulled the car over. Id. at 7. However,
the only person in the car was Mr. Quezada-Lara's
girlfriend, Jessica Artega. Id. at 7, 112. Agent
Acee explained to her that law enforcement was looking for
Mr. Quezada-Lara. Ms. Artega told him that she stayed at Mr.
Quezada-Lara's house off and on, that she had brought
food to the house for Mr. Quezada-Lara's grandfather that
evening,  and that she was “50 percent sure
[Mr. Quezada-Lara] himself was in the house.”
Id. at 7-8. Additionally, she said that Mr.
Quezada-Lara had a .45 pistol. Id. at 57. Ms. Artega
told the agent that she had a key to the house, and she
agreed to go back there with him. Id. She also told him
that the grandfather was hard of hearing. Id. at 9.
Artega accompanied Agent Acee back to the house, but remained
in his car with FBI Agent Nancy Stemo while agents approached
the house. Id. at 57, 68. Agent Acee testified that
although Ms. Artega had given him a key, he was reluctant to
use it, and elected to knock and announce his presence first.
He knew from his conversation with Ms. Artega that the
grandfather was in the house, there was a good chance that
Mr. Quezada-Lara was there, and the second suspect agents
were looking for might also be there. Id. at 7-8.
Based on these factors, and his concern for the safety of the
officers and agents, he believed that it would be better to
surround the location and call the person out. Id.
at 8. The agents knocked on the front door and the windows
and called out to the occupants of the house, but received no
response. Id. at 7-8. Officers from the Albuquerque
Police Department arrived and turned on their lights and
spotlights. Id. at 8. Law enforcement also used a
public address system, but to no avail. Id.
agents went to the back of the house and started knocking on
the back door. Id. at 9. They saw the bedroom blinds
in a window move, and Mr. Lara looked out. Id. Agent
Acee testified that “it was pretty apparent to me that
we'd woken him up, ” and he looked
“startled.” Id. He stated that when Mr.
Lara first opened the window blinds, agents had their weapons
drawn, but once they saw him, they lowered their weapons and
Agent Acee used a flashlight instead of his weapon light.
Id. at 11-12. Speaking English, agents identified
themselves and asked him to come to the back door.
Id. at 10. However, Agent Acee became concerned that
the individual might speak only Spanish, so he summoned Agent
Stemo, who speaks Spanish fluently, to talk to him.
Id. He said that although Mr. Lara initially seemed
to be startled, he was cooperative and friendly. Id.
Based on his observations, Mr. Lara appeared to understand
what Agent Stemo was telling him. Id. at 11. Agent
Stemo told Mr. Lara that they were with the FBI, and
then-realizing that he might not know what “FBI”
is-that they were the police. Id. at 85. She asked
him if he could come to the back door and talk to them, and
he nodded his head and then disappeared. Id.at 1l,
the house key Ms. Artega had provided to Agent Acee, other
agents unlocked and opened the back door. Id. at 40.
Agent Stemo moved from the window to the back door and called
for Mr. Lara to come out. Id. at 40. All of the
agents stayed outside. Id. at 40-41. Agent Stemo
periodically peeked around the doorway to see if he was
there, and eventually, he appeared in the hallway.
Id. at 71. Agent Stemo reassured him they were the
police, and continued to ask him to “come to us.”
Lara came out of the house and sat in a chair on the porch.
Id. at 11. Agent Stemo gave Mr. Lara a brief summary
of why police were there, telling him “his grandson had
been involved in an incident earlier . . . and we were
looking for him and we thought he might be inside the
house.” Id. at 72. Through Agent Stemo, Agent
Acee asked Mr. Lara if his grandson was in the house.
Id. at 14. Mr. Lara said he had been there earlier
in the day for a little while, and he mentioned his grandson
had taken a shower. Id. at 14, 19. However, he did
not know whether he was there now. Id. at 19. He
gave agents verbal permission to clear the house and verify
whether Mr. Quezada-Lara or the other defendant were there.
Id. at 12, 72-73. At Agent Acee's request, Agent
Stemo asked Mr. Lara who else was in the house. Id.
at 44. Mr. Lara told the agents his daughter and a grandson
lived there, but he didn't know who was home.
Id. at 44-45. Agent Stemo then asked him if agents
could go through the house and clear it and check it.
Id. at 45-46. Mr. Lara said “yes” in
Spanish. Id. at 46. Agent Acee then told the agents
“that we had consent and to do a clear.”
the initial safety clear, Agent Acee saw drug
paraphernalia-specifically small plastic bags containing
residue of what he believed was methamphetamine-on the
dresser in the bedroom that Mr. Lara later identified as Mr.
Quezada-Lara's. Id. at 15.
Stemo testified that while she was talking to Mr. Lara on the
back porch, he seemed to understand what she was telling him.
Id. at 74. She believed he understood what she was
telling him because he was responding to her questions with
answers that were plausible and did not need her to explain
anything. Id. He was responsive, his answers made
sense to her, and they indicated to her that he understood
what was being asked. Id. Mr. Lara did not seem
scared, and was actually joking with her. Id. at 73.
Agent Stemo testified:
At one point, I asked him how old he was, because he reminded
me of my dad, actually. And he said 50, which I thought was
not correct. I thought he was a little bit older. And then he
smiled and he looked at me, and he grabbed my hand and
started patting it. And based on my experience with my
family, we tend to lie about our age and say that we're
younger, as a joke.
Id. at 73-74.
the safety clear search, Mr. Lara, Agent Stemo and Agent Acee
went into the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table.
Id. at 12, 75. Mr. Lara did not appear to
be uncomfortable, and he carried on a conversation with Agent
Stemo. Id. at 12-13. Mr. Lara told them he lived
there with his daughter and his grandson. Id. at 76.
Agent Stemo explained that agents were there because they
believed his grandson had been involved in an accident where
he ran over one of their task force officers. Id. at
78. She told him agents were looking for drugs or firearms,
and he responded that he didn't have any guns and his
daughter didn't like them. Id. at 78-79.
Agent Acee was in the kitchen with them, Mr. Lara spoke some
English, but otherwise, he spoke only Spanish. Id.
at 13. Agent Acee testified that Mr. Lara never gave him any
indication that he was unwilling to cooperate; to the
contrary, he was “hospitable.” Id. Mr.
Lara offered Agent Acee something to eat. Id. at 13,
21. Agent Acee accompanied Mr. Lara to his bedroom to find
something for him; Agent Acee couldn't remember if it was