United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Zachary T. Lee, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon,
Virginia, for United States; Stephen R. Wills, Roanoke,
Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
drug trafficking case, the defendant has filed motions to
suppress statements made by him to law enforcement officers,
as well as evidence seized without a warrant but allegedly
with his consent. In addition, the defendant seeks to
disqualify the prosecutor. Following an evidentiary hearing,
and based upon my factual findings and the applicable law, I
will deny the motions.
Motions to Suppress.
defendant, Sanson P. Rodriguez, is charged by Indictment with
conspiring to distribute or possess with the intent to
distribute methamphetamine and knowingly using a
communication device to cause the facilitation of a felony
controlled substance offense, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846, 841(b)(1)(A), and 843(d). He is also
charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
Rodriguez has filed three separate motions to suppress,
involving his contacts with law enforcement officers on three
different dates. The first occasion was on August 2, 2016, at
which time he consented to a search of his home. The second
was on December 21, 2016, when he was interrogated and
consented to a search of his cell phone. The final occasion
was on June 20, 2017, when Rodriguez was questioned at length
while being driven to Virginia by a federal agent after his
arrest in North Carolina on the present charges. The
government contends that on all of these occasions Rodriguez
voluntarily waived his constitutional rights.
challenges the effectiveness of his waivers, based upon his
lack of English and the effects of his methamphetamine drug
case, law enforcement officers contend that they administered
Miranda warnings to Rodriguez, although it is
claimed on his behalf that he could not understand or
appreciate their meanings. As the Fourth Circuit has stated
in regard to similar claims:
Miranda held that once given the now familiar
warnings of his rights under the fifth and sixth amendments,
a suspect could waive effectuation of these rights, provided
the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently.
The Supreme Court has reiterated that while requiring
Miranda warnings does not, of course, dispense with
the voluntariness inquiry, cases in which a defendant can
make a colorable argument that a self-incriminating statement
was compelled despite the fact that the law enforcement
authorities adhered to the dictates of Miranda are
As we have previously observed, our inquiry into whether an
individual waived effectuation of the rights conveyed in the
Miranda warnings has two distinct dimensions. First,
the relinquishment of the right must have been voluntary in
the sense that it was the product of free and deliberate
choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or deception.
Second, in addition to being voluntary, the waiver must have
been made with a full awareness of both the nature of the
right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to
abandon it. We determine whether a Miranda waiver is
voluntary, knowing, and intelligent by examining the totality
of the circumstances. Only if the totality of the
circumstances surrounding the interrogation reveal both an
uncoerced choice and the requisite level of comprehension may
a court properly conclude that the Miranda rights
have been waived.
The voluntariness of a waiver depends on the absence of
police overreaching, not on free choice in any broader sense
of the word. A defendant's incriminating statement is
deemed involuntary only if induced by such duress or coercion
that the suspect's will has been overborne and his
capacity for self-determination critically impaired. To
determine whether a defendant's will has been overborne
or his capacity for self determination critically impaired,
courts must consider the totality of the circumstances,
including the characteristics of the defendant, the setting
of the interview, and the details of the interrogation. As
relevant to this case, we have held that consumption of pain
killers and narcotics are alone insufficient to render a
waiver involuntary. Rather, the focus of the voluntariness
determination remains whether one's will has been
overborne. A deficient mental condition (whether the result
of a pre-existing mental illness or, for example, pain
killing narcotics administered after emergency treatment) is
not, without more, enough to render a waiver involuntary.
Similarly, other circuits have held that intoxication does
not automatically render a confession involuntary; rather,
the test is whether this mental impairment caused the
defendant's will to be overborne. The Government has the
burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that
the defendant's waiver of his Miranda rights was
knowing and voluntary.
United States v. Walker, 607 Fed.Appx. 247, 255-56
(4th Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (internal quotation marks,
citations, and alterations omitted).
respect to the searches of Rodriguez' property, it is
established that a search conducted pursuant to a voluntary
consent is an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant
requirement. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S.
218, 219 (1973). There is “no talismanic definition of
voluntariness” in determining the validity of the
consent. Id. at 224 (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). The voluntariness of a consent to a
warrantless search is a factual matter, based upon the
totality of the circumstances, including the characteristics
of the accused, as well as the conditions under which the
consent to search was given. United States v.
Lattimore, 87 F.3d 647, 650 (4th Cir. 1996) (en banc).
it may be relevant on the question of voluntariness, the
consent need not be knowing and intelligent, that is, the
subject need not be advised of his right to refuse consent or
be told of the consequences of such consent. See United
States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194, 206-07 (2002). The fact
that the defendant was not given Miranda warnings
prior to consenting to a search does not require a finding
that the consent was involuntary. United States v.
Patane, 542 U.S. 630, 634 (2004). A defendant in custody
may give a voluntary consent to search. United States v.
Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 424 (1976).
Findings of Fact.
following are my findings of fact as to the motions to
suppress. In determining the credibility of the witnesses at
the evidentiary hearing, I have taken into account the
rationality and internal consistency of the testimony, the
extent of detail and coherent nature of the testimony, the
manner of testifying by the witnesses, and the ...