United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Israel Baca's
Motion to Suppress, filed February 15, 2019. (Doc. 35).
Defendant seeks to suppress statements made before and after
his arrest and the evidence found in a black Mercedes Benz on
April 23, 2018, in Hobbs, New Mexico. The United States
responded on March 1, 2019. (Doc. 45). The Court held an
evidentiary hearing on this Motion on March 5, 2019, and
continued the hearing on March 8, 2019. Having considered the
briefs, applicable law, evidence and arguments of counsel,
the Court denies Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc.
Standard of Review
criminal defendant files a Fourth or Fifth Amendment-based
motion to suppress, the United States bears the burden of
showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the
criminal defendant's rights were not violated. United
States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 (1974). However,
“[t]he proponent of a motion to suppress has the burden
of adducing facts at the suppression hearing indicating that
his own rights were violated by the challenged search.”
United States v. Eckhart, 569 F.3d 1263, 1274 (10th
Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Allen, 235 F.3d
482, 489 (10th Cir. 2000)); see also United States v.
Eylicio-Montoya, 18 F.3d 845, 850 (10th Cir. 1994)
(stating “Constitutional rights are personal and may
not be asserted vicariously”)). In ruling on a motion
to suppress, courts must view the facts in the light most
favorable to the United States. United States v.
Matthews, 458 Fed.Appx. 717, 722 (10th Cir. 2012)
(citing United States v. Myers, 308 F.3d 251, 255
(3d Cir. 2002)).
April 23, 2019, at approximately 10:00 a.m. Hobbs Police
Department Detective Sergeant Ahmaad White received a tip
that Defendant was in a specifically described parking lot,
with his wife, in a stolen black vehicle and in possession of
two firearms, and that Defendant's wife had a warrant out
for her arrest. Detective White followed up and went to the
location where he observed Defendant in a black Mercedes Benz
in a parking lot at 300 East White St. in Hobbs, New Mexico.
Detective White requested assistance and instructed uniformed
officers to approach Defendant and determine whether the
vehicle was stolen.
Police Department Officer Scott Russell and others responded
to the call and encountered Defendant standing near the
driver side door of a blue Jeep Renegade, parked near the
black Mercedes. The driver's door and trunk of the
Mercedes were open. Officers turned on their emergency lights
and approached Defendant. A woman sat in the passenger's
seat of the Jeep. Defendant closed the driver's door of
the Jeep and began walking back toward the Mercedes.
Russell ordered Defendant, “Come here, ” and in
response Defendant stopped and walked toward the officers.
Defendant said he was cleaning the Mercedes for his friend,
Michael Giesick, who owned the vehicle. Defendant also said
he had not been driving the Mercedes. Officer Russell asked
Defendant if he was armed. Defendant said he did not have a
firearm on his person. Officer Russell conducted an exterior
pat-down of Defendant and confirmed that Defendant was not
armed. Officers ran a records check on the Mercedes and
determined that it had not been reported stolen, though they
also found it was not registered to Michael Giesick.
confirmed that the woman in the passenger seat of the Jeep,
Defendant's spouse, Ashley Rodriguez, had a warrant out
for her arrest. As a result, officers arrested Rodriguez.
Upon removing Rodriguez from the Jeep, officers noticed an
empty gun holster on the seat where Rodriguez had been
sitting. Officers then ran the Jeep through law enforcement
databases and learned that the Jeep had been reported stolen.
As a result, they searched the Jeep.
handcuffed Defendant and transported him to the substation to
question him about the Mercedes and Jeep. Detective Jason Guy
advised Defendant of Miranda rights at the
substation. Defendant signed a written waiver of his rights
and agreed to speak with Detective Guy.
Russell remained at the parking lot and reported observing a
firearm situated between the driver's seat and center
console inside the Mercedes. As a result, he swore to a
search warrant affidavit for the search warrant. Officers
sealed the Mercedes and towed the vehicle to the Hobbs Police
Department lot. A subsequent search of the Mercedes revealed
a .45 HiPoint firearm and ammunition.
Court held a suppression hearing on March 5 and March 8,
2019, at which Detective White, Detective Guy, Hobbs Police
Department Sergeant Travis Jackson, and Officer Russell
testified. The parties submitted video exhibits, which the
Court has reviewed, including Officer Russell's body cam
(Exhibit 1), Officer Russell's dash cam (Exhibit 2),
Detective Guy's body cam (Exhibit 3), Sergeant
Jackson's body cam (Exhibit 11), Hobbs Police Department
Officer Brandon Solomon's body cam (Exhibit 12), and
Officer FNU Torres' body cam (Exhibit 13).
facts are discussed below in relation to each issue raised.
raises multiple issues relating to his seizure, detention,
search of the Mercedes and his statements. The Court
addresses each issue in turn.
Seizure of Defendant
argues that Officer Russell and others violated his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure when
officers encountered him at the parking lot. Defendant
contends the officers did not have reasonable suspicion to
seize or detain Defendant at any point during the encounter.
United States argues the encounter was consensual at all
times until officers handcuffed Defendant. Even if the
encounter was not consensual, the United States argues that
officers had reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant based
on the tip received by Detective White and additional
information discovered during the encounter.
defendant bears the burden of establishing when he was seized
for Fourth Amendment purposes. United States v.
Hernandez, 847 F.3d 1257, 1263 (10th Cir. 2017). The
United States then bears the burden of proving the
reasonableness of the officer's suspicion supporting any
such seizure. Id.
Whether Defendant was seized within the Meaning of the
enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by
merely approaching an individual on the street or in another
public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some
questions, [or] by putting questions to him if the person is
willing to listen.” Florida v. Bostick, 501
U.S. 429, 434 (1991). In determining whether an encounter
between a police officer and a citizen is consensual,
“the crucial test is whether, taking into account all
of the circumstances surrounding the encounter, the police
conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that
he was not at liberty to ignore the police presence and go
about his business.” Id. At 437 (quotation
omitted). “[T]he test allows officers to make inquiries
so long as they don't throw their official weight around
unduly.” Hernandez, 847 F.3d at 1263-64
(quoting United States v. Tavolacci, 895 F.2d 1423,
1425 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). A non-exhaustive list of factors to
consider when determining whether a reasonable person would
feel free to terminate his encounter with police include:
the location of the encounter, particularly whether the
defendant is in an open public place where he is within the
view of persons other than law enforcement officers; whether
the officers touch or physically restrain the defendant;
whether the officers are uniformed or in plain clothes;
whether their weapons are displayed; the number, demeanor and
tone of voice of the officers; whether and for how long the
officers retain the defendant's personal effects such as
tickets or identification; and whether or not they have
specifically advised defendant at any time that he had the
right to terminate the encounter or refuse consent.
Id. at 1264 (quoting United States v.
Lopez, 443 F.3d 1280, 1284 (10th Cir. 2006).
“Although no single factor is dispositive, the strong
presence of two or three factors may be sufficient to support
the conclusion a seizure occurred.” Lopez, 443
F.3d at 1284-85 (quotation omitted).
Court concludes that the encounter between Defendant and
officers was not consensual. The encounter occurred during
the day in a public parking lot, Defendant was within the
view of persons other than law enforcement officers, and the
officers did not physically restrain Defendant. However, the
officers suddenly and rapidly arrived at the scene, their
emergency lights activated. Within minutes of Officers
Russell and Solomon, at least one more officer arrived.
Officer Russell stepped out of his vehicle and ordered,
“Come here a minute.” Defendant complied with that
order. Officer Russell then explained to Defendant why
officers were there and that they wanted to run the vehicle
identification number (VIN) on the Mercedes. Officer Russell
patted down the Defendant for weapons and found none.
Solomon, who was driving a police SUV, parked his vehicle
facing the Mercedes, thereby impeding the egress from the
area. Officer Russell parked his police cruiser closer to the
Jeep Renegade. The manner and location in which officers
parked their vehicles and blocked the exit routes for the
Jeep and the Mercedes further indicate that a reasonable
person would not consider themselves at liberty to ignore the
police presence and go about their business. The evidence
shows Defendant was seized within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment. 2. Whether Reasonable Suspicion Supported the
Seizure of Defendant “A . . . stop must be
justified at its inception and, in general, the officer's
actions during the stop must be reasonably related in scope
to the circumstances that initially justified it.”
United States v. Lopez, 849 F.3d 921, 925 (10th Cir.
2017). “Authority for the seizure . . . ends when tasks
tied to the . . . infraction are-or reasonably should have
been-completed.” Rodriguez v. United ...