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United States v. Sanchez-Velasco

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

August 1, 2018



          C. J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge


         I. Introduction ...................................................................................... 1

         II. Findings of Fact ................................................................................ 2

         III. Discussion ........................................................................................ 4

         A. Whether Defendant Was in Custody ...................................................... 5

         B. Whether Miranda Was Required for Administrative Questioning .................. 13

         C. Whether the Inevitable Discovery Exception Applies ................................ 15

         IV. Conclusion ..................................................................................... 17


         This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to suppress statements allegedly elicited in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 10). The Government timely resisted the motion. (Doc. 12). A grand jury charged defendant with two counts of immigration-related offenses. Defendant seeks to suppress evidence stemming from contact with immigration officers on April 27, 2018, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Defendant contends that officers restricted his freedom to a degree that defendant was placed in custody and the Court should suppress statements defendant made because the officers did not provide him with a Miranda warning. Defendant also moves to suppress statements he later made while being booked into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

         The Honorable Linda R. Reade, United States District Court Judge, referred the motion to me for a Report and Recommendation. On July 23, 2018, I held an evidentiary hearing on the motion. For the following reasons, I respectfully recommend that the Court deny defendant's motion.


         Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officer Bryce Callison testified that on April 27, 2018, defendant went to the Linn County Treasurer's Office to register his vehicle. The office is located in a public building and this particular part of the building is a wide open area with a lot of clerk windows, a seating area, and many members of the public present. Defendant ultimately approached one of the windows and spoke with a clerk, Brynn Love.

         Defendant spoke primarily Spanish and the clerk spoke little Spanish, making communication difficult. The clerk asked defendant for his “identificación, ” and defendant presented a Guatemalan identification card. Defendant also presented her with documentation showing proof of car insurance. The clerk could not locate defendant's name in the Iowa Department of Transportation (“IDOT”) database, so the clerk requested defendant's social security number. Defendant replied that he did not have it with him and that he had not memorized it. Instead, the clerk looked up the vehicle identification number of defendant's vehicle, which showed defendant's wife as the primary owner and defendant as the secondary owner. The clerk found a social security number used by defendant on the vehicle purchase records contained in the IDOT database. Defendant's name as reflected in the IDOT database, however, did not match defendant's name as reflected on his insurance documentation. When asked about this discrepancy, defendant replied that the name in the database was defendant's true name. The clerk reported this inconsistency to her supervisor, who noticed that defendant's proof of insurance documentation, Guatemalan identification card, and application for title each listed a different address for defendant.

         The supervisor directed the clerk to contact an IDOT investigator to resolve the inconsistency. The clerk called IDOT Investigator Jason Nesbaum and provided him with the information. While Investigator Nesbaum was conducting his investigation, but before he informed the clerk of the results of the investigation, defendant stated that he would leave and have his documentation fixed to reflect the correct information. The clerk requested that defendant wait because she was seeking approval to use the identification defendant provided, and that she would have an answer soon as to whether the identification was acceptable. The clerk had apparently learned that defendant also had a California state identification card, but when the clerk requested the card, defendant stated that he did not have it with him. Defendant then started to leave, but the clerk asked him to wait and assured defendant that it would not take much longer to obtain an answer as to whether the identification was acceptable. Defendant remained and initiated a conversation with the clerk about Mexican food, which included him telling her where he worked.

         Meanwhile, Investigator Nesbaum input defendant's social security number into the IDOT database. Investigator Nesbaum then called the clerk and informed her that the social security number on file for defendant did not match defendant's name and that Investigator Nesbaum had alerted immigration authorities about defendant. He also stated that he intended to come to the Treasurer's Office to talk with defendant. Investigator Nesbaum asked the clerk to “stall” defendant until he arrived. Investigator Nesbaum also alerted the Cedar Rapids Police Department because Investigator Nesbaum was concerned that he may not arrive in time.

         The clerk continued to encourage defendant to wait for the investigator. Two immigration Deportation Officers, Billy Walker and Bryce Callison, arrived at approximately 9:00 AM. They approached the clerk and defendant and asked to speak with defendant. The immigration officers wore plain clothes, carried concealed weapons, and did not have visible badges or other indicia of authority. The immigration officers retrieved defendant's documents from the clerk[1] and asked if there was a place they could talk with defendant. The clerk's supervisor identified a nearby conference room and led the way. Office Walker requested that defendant accompany them to the conference room. Officer Walker indicated that he gestured to the conference room, said “please, ” and that he used a normal tone of voice. Defendant consented to accompany the immigration officers. Neither officer touched defendant. Nor did they identify themselves as immigration or law enforcement officers.

         Once in the conference room, the door was shut. Upon questioning, defendant confirmed that the Guatemalan identification card belonged to him, that he was from Guatemala, and that he was in the United States without permission. At this point, at approximately 9:15 AM, the immigration officers placed defendant under arrest for immigration violations. Cedar Rapids police officers arrived at the Linn County building after Officer Walker placed defendant under arrest. The ICE officers then transported defendant to the local ICE office where he was processed. Officer Callison, a deportation officer and not a criminal investigator, asked defendant questions as part of an immigration administrative processing, which included questions soliciting biographical information from defendant.


         Defendant raises three issues in his motion to suppress. The first is whether defendant was in custody for the purposes of Miranda at the time he was questioned by ICE officers at the Treasurer's Office. (Doc. 10-1, at 4). The second is whether the questioning conducted by ICE officers amounted to an interrogation for the purposes of Miranda. (See id.). Defendant contends that, if the Court answers both of these questions in the affirmative, then because defendant was never informed of his rights as required under Miranda, the Court should suppress the statements defendant made at the Treasurer's Office. (Id., at 8). At the hearing, defendant further argued that the Court should also suppress any statements he made once he was in ICE custody.[2] The government argues that defendant was not in custody when he made the statements at the Treasurer's Office, and that Miranda warnings were not required before asking defendant routine booking questions at the ICE office. In the alternative, the government argues that it would have inevitably discovered the evidence against defendant even if there was a violation of defendant's constitutional rights. I will address each of these issues in turn.

         A. Whether Defendant Was in Custody at the Treasurer's Office

         I begin with the question of whether defendant was in custody at the time he was questioned by ICE officers at the Treasurer's Office. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, inter alia, that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. Amend. V. The protections provided to citizens by this amendment apply just as much to aliens present in the United States illegally as they do to United States citizens. Martinez Carcamo v. Holder, 713 F.3d 916, 921 (8th Cir. 2013). See also Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 374 (2010) (“It is [the Court's] responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant-whether a citizen or not-is left to the mercies of incompetent counsel.”) (citation and internal quotations omitted). When subject to a custodial interrogation, a suspect is entitled to be informed of his or her rights prior to answering any ...

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