United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on defendant Keith Obie
Gates's ("Gates") motion to suppress evidence
of a firearm found on his person during a search incident to
arrest and to suppress statements made during this arrest.
ECF No. 34. The government responded to this motion on
November 12, 2019 and included with its response a video
showing the entry into Gates's home, the arrest of Gates,
and the search incident to the arrest from the arresting
officer's body camera. For the reasons explained below,
the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part
the evening on May 21, 2019, Roanoke City 911 operators
received reports from two callers describing a disturbance at
810 Mountain Avenue. ECF No. 35-1. The first caller reported
a loud disturbance between a male and a female; the second
caller said that "the male is beating the female
up," and that she could hear the sound of the male
punching the female. Id. Officer Preston Hill, who
was assigned to patrol this part of Roanoke, was sent to
address the disturbance. ECF No. 35-3, at 5:50. Officer Hill
had checked active warrants earlier in his shift and was
aware of a non-permitted (i.e. requiring arrest) bench
warrant outstanding for Gates. See ECF No. 35-2.
Officer Hill arrived at 810 Mountain Avenue, he spoke briefly
with the second caller who was waiting for him on the front
porch of the residence. ECF No. 35-3, at 8:55. She told
Officer Hill she could hear from outside that
"[h]e's [Gates] has been beating her."
Id. When asked who was inside the residence, she
told Officer Hill specifically that it was "Keith
Gates." Id. Officer Hill was able to hear
raised voices from outside the residence and testified that
he recognized from prior visits the voice of Gates.
point, Officer Hill entered the residence and found Gates in
a dispute with a woman. ECF No. 35-3, at 9:55. After asking
what was happening, Officer Hill placed Gates in handcuffs
and began a search of his person, during which he discovered
a pistol in his pocket. Id. at 11:40. He then asked
Gates if he was "allowed to have a gun on [him]."
Id. at 13:09. Gates responded that the gun had been
in the shorts he was wearing when he put them on to go
outside, and that the gun did not belong to him. Id.
Officer Hill asked Gates if he had ever been charged with a
felony. Id. at 13:55. Gates told Officer Hill he had
been convicted of a felony. Id. at 14:07. Officer
Hill and Gates discussed whether Gates was permitted to be in
the same house with a firearm for several minutes.
Id. at 13:55-15:00. As Officer Hill was taking Gates
to his car, he mentioned needng to check back at the station
whether Gates had any prior felony convictions, to which
Gates responded, "I just told you I've got a felony
conviction." Id. at 18:08-18:26. This led to
further discussion of Gates's past felony conviction,
including whether Gates was charged as an adult or a juvenile
and what implications this would have regarding Gates's
possession of the pistol. Id. After this discussion,
Officer Hill took Gates to the police station.
argues that evidence of the firearm found on his person ought
to be suppressed because the entrance into his home, and the
search that revealed the firearm, was unconstitutional. He
also argues that his statements to Officer Hill about the
firearm and his past conviction must be suppressed. Gates
contends that Officer Hill's entrance into his home was
warrantless, and thus presumptively unconstitutional. He
argues that neither of the possibly applicable exceptions to
the warrant requirement, exigent circumstances or execution
of an arrest warrant, can redeem Officer Hill's entrance
into his home. Finally, he argues that, even if Officer
Hill's warrantless entry was justified, the questioning
that occurred before Gates was read his Miranda
rights violated the Fifth Amendment, and thus his answers
must be suppressed.
court finds that exigent circumstances did permit a
warrantless entry into 810 Mountain Avenue, for the reasons
below. The court agrees with Gates, however, that Officer
Hill's questioning violated Gates' Fifth Amendment
rights against self-incrimination. The answers to these
questions thus must be suppressed.
Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Cont.
amend. IV. This means that, "[a]bsent exigent
circumstances, [the] threshold [of an individual's house]
may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant."
Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590 (1980).
"The most basic principle of Fourth Amendment
jurisprudence . . . is that warrantless searches and seizures
inside a home are presumptively unconstitutional."
United States v. Yengel, 711 F.3d 392, 396 (4th Cir.
2013). "Nevertheless, because the ultimate touchstone of
the Fourth Amendment is 'reasonableness,' the warrant
requirement is subject to certain exceptions."
Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006).
"One such exception is when exigent circumstances
justify the warrantless entry of a home."
Yengel, 711 F.3d at 396.
exigent circumstances, according to Supreme Court precedent,
include entering a home to fight a fire, prevent the
destruction of evidence, or continue in "hot
pursuit" of a fleeing subject. Brigham City,
547 U.S. at 403. This list is not exhaustive, however, and
generally speaking, situations that are "enveloped by a
sufficient level of urgency," may constitute an exigency
and justify a warrantless entry. Yengel, 711 F.3d at
397. The Supreme Court described the justification for a
warrantless entry as "[t]he need to protect or preserve
life or avoid serious injury," Brigham City,
547 U.S. at 403, the test for which is whether the
circumstances known to [an officer] at the time of entry
justified an objectively reasonable belief that an emergency
requiring immediate entry to render assistance or prevent
harm existed." Hunsberger v. Wood, 570 F.3d
546, 555 (4th Cir. 2009).
Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that "no
person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself." U.S. Const, amend. V. This
privilege against compulsory self-incrimination is
safeguarded by procedural rules dictating the terms of
custodial interrogations. Miranda v. Arizona, 384
U.S. 436, 444 (1966). These rules require law enforcement
officers to warn a suspect of his rights and to obtain a
waiver of those rights before conducting custodial
interrogation, with limited exceptions. United States v.
Mashburn, 406 F.3d 303, 306 (4th Cir. 2005).
suspect is "in custody" for Miranda
purposes if "there [was] a formal arrest or restraint on
freedom of movement of the degree associated with formal
arrest." Stansbury v. California,511 U.S. 318,
322 (1994). The term "interrogation" includes not
only "express questioning," but also "any
words or actions on the part of the police . . . that the
police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an
incriminating response from the suspect." Rhode
Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301 (1980). In deciding
whether statements constitute "interrogation,"
courts focus on the perceptions of the suspect, rather than
the intent of the police. Id. The government bears
the burden of ...