United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
K. MOON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court upon Defendant Hicks's motion
to suppress. (Dkt. 23). Defendant has been indicted on one
count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. (Dkt. 13).
Defendant seeks to exclude from trial two sets of
incriminating statements he made to law enforcement following
his arrest on January 13, 2017, along with all the
evidentiary fruit of these statements. Defendant contends
that law enforcement failed to advise him of his Fifth
Amendment rights prior to questioning him, as required by
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
considered the full record, including evidence provided at a
suppression hearing, the Court concludes that the Government has
established by a preponderance of the evidence that
Miranda warnings were administered to Defendant
prior to each interview on January 13, 2017. Accordingly, the
motion to suppress will be denied, and Defendant's
post-arrest statements, and all attendant evidentiary fruit,
will be admissible at trial.
Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person . . . shall
be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against
himself.” U.S. Const., Amend. V. To safeguard this
right, the Supreme Court “adopted a series of
procedural rules that must be followed during custodial
interrogations” in Miranda v. Arizona, 384
U.S. 436 (1966). United States v. Jefferson, 562
F.Supp.2d 707, 712 (E.D. Va. 2008). “A confession made
during a custodial interrogation will be suppressed unless
police advise the defendant of his rights under
Miranda[, ] . . . and the defendant
knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waives those
rights.” United States v. Giddins, 858 F.3d
870, 879 (4th Cir. 2017).
the defendant moving to suppress evidence bears the burden of
proof. See United States v. Dickerson, 655 F.2d 559,
561 (4th Cir. 1981). “Once the defendant establishes a
basis for his motion to suppress, the burden shifts to the
government to prove the admissibility of the challenged
evidence by a preponderance of the evidence.”
United States v. Gualtero, 62 F.Supp.3d 479, 482
(E.D. Va. 2014) (citing United States v. Matlock,
415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974)). Thus, when a defendant moves
to suppress his statements on the basis that the statements
were obtained in violation of Miranda, “the
government bears the burden of establishing by a
preponderance of the evidence that the statement was not
obtained in violation of Miranda.” United
States v. Jones, No. 3:17-cr-71, 2018 WL 935396, at *19
(E.D. Va. Feb. 16, 2018) (citing Colorado v.
Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 168 (1986)).
to suppress fall into the class of issues that are decided by
the court and not the jury, ” and “[i]n the
course of deciding a motion to suppress, the district court
may make findings of fact.” United States v.
Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 541 (4th Cir. 2005). See
also Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(d) (“When factual issues
are involved in deciding a [pretrial] motion, the court must
state its essential findings on the record.”). Having
considered the full record, including evidence presented at a
suppression hearing, the Court makes the following factual
time between midnight and 2:00 AM on January 13, 2017,
sheriff's deputies in Amherst County, Virginia conducted
a traffic stop in the parking lot of the Executive Inn in
Madison Heights, Virginia. (Dkt. 23-1 at 7-8, 63). Defendant Lance
Hicks, the driver of the stopped vehicle, was placed under
arrest and handcuffed. (Id. at 63). At approximately
2:00 AM, Brandon Hurt, a narcotics investigator for the
Amherst County Sheriff's Office, received a telephone
call from Deputy Malott, one of the deputies who conducted
the traffic stop. (Id. at 7- 8). Deputy Malott
informed Hurt that officers had apprehended Hicks and one of
his associates, both of whom were investigative targets of
Hurt's. (Id. at 8). Upon arriving at the
Executive Inn, Hurt found Hicks standing in handcuffs with
two deputies in front of the stopped vehicle. (Id.).
Hurt asked Deputy Malott whether Miranda warnings
had been administered to either individual. (Id.).
Deputy Malott replied that Miranda warnings had not
been administered to either individual, and that Deputy
Malott had not conversed with either individual.
asked Hicks to step away from his associate, and Hicks
complied. (Id. at 8-9). Hurt informed Hicks that,
since Hicks “was not free to leave, ” Hurt would
advise him of his Miranda rights. (Id. at
8). Hurt then read Hicks his Miranda rights from a
card Hurt keeps in his wallet.(Id. at 9). Hurt asked
whether Hicks understood what Hurt had read to him, and Hicks
stated that he understood. (Id.). Hurt asked whether
Hicks was willing to speak with him and answer questions, and
Hicks replied that he was willing to do so. Hicks proceeded
to make certain incriminating statements. (Id. at
10-11; dkt. 76-2 at 4).
his interview with Hicks and Hicks's associate, Hurt
sought a warrant to search Room 125 of the Executive Inn,
where the two men stated they had been staying. (Dkt. 23-1 at 11,
20-21; dkt. 76-2 at 2-4). The affidavit Hurt submitted to
demonstrate probable cause for a warrant did not mention that
Hurt had administered a Miranda warning to Hicks
prior to interviewing him, although it is Hurt's common
practice to include these details in such affidavits. (Dkt.
23-1 at 20-21; dkt. 76-2 at 2-3). The state court issued a
warrant authorizing the search of Room 125. (Dkt. 23-1 at
20). In executing the warrant, officers found a black box in
Room 125. (Id. at 11-12, 64). At Hurt's request,
Hicks opened the box using a combination. (Id.). The
box contained several cell phones and a “white powder
substance” later determined to be methamphetamine.
(Id. at 11-12, 22).
the search of Room 125 at the Executive Inn, a deputy
transported Hicks to the Amherst County Sheriff's Office,
where Hicks was eventually placed in “Interview Room
3.” (Id. at 12, 51, 64-65). Interview Room 3
is equipped with an audio and visual recording device.
(Id. at 13-14, 50). The device is operated by
plugging a USB drive in, powering on the device, and pressing
“record.” (Id. at 50-51). At least one
interview conducted in Interview Room 3 in 2016 failed to
record due to a technical malfunction, but Captain John
Grieser, who oversees information technology for the Amherst
County Sheriff's Office, believed that Interview Room 3
was functional as of January 2017. (Id. at 51,
and Jason Thompson, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), joined Hicks in Interview Room 3.
(Id. at 34). Hurt plugged in a USB drive, powered
the recording device on, and pressed “record.”
(Id. at 13-14). Agent Thompson advised Hicks of his
Miranda rights by reading from a preprinted
“DEA 13A” card he keeps in his
wallet. (Id. at 42; dkt. 76-2 at 10). The
“DEA 13A” card provides the text for an oral
Miranda rights warning. (Dkt. 23-1 at 32-33; dkt.
76-2 at 10). Hicks stated that he understood what Thompson
had read to him and that he was willing to speak with Hurt
and Thompson. (Dkt. 23-1 at 36). During the course of the
ensuing interview, Hicks made certain incriminating
statements. (Id. at 15, 37-38; dkt. 76-2 at 5-6). At
no point during the interview did Hicks express a desire to
stop talking, consult a lawyer, or end the interview. (Dkt.
23-1 at 15). Agent Thompson took notes during the interview,
and these notes state that Hicks was advised of his
Miranda rights at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2017.
(Id. at 46-47).
finishing the interview, Hurt stopped the recording but
noticed that the “recording box . . . didn't
change” in the usual manner. (Id. at 15).
Within an hour, Hurt telephoned Captain Grieser and inquired
whether he had erred in operating the recording equipment.
(Id. at 25-26, 49). Based on Hurt's description
of how he had operated the recording equipment, Grieser
stated that Hurt had operated the equipment correctly.