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UNITED STATES v. VASILIAVITCHIOUS

February 13, 1996

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RITCHARDAS VASILIAVITCHIOUS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZAGEL

 Ritchardas Vasiliavitchious is charged with conspiracy to export stolen cars from the United States and to possess stolen cars that had crossed state lines, aiding and abetting, exportation of stolen cars and possession of stolen cars. He says his arrest and his statements to the police are violative of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. None of the facts, save defendant's comprehension of and facility in English, are now in dispute.

 Facts

 The government of Latvia notified United States Custom officials that two 40 foot shipping containers, exported from the United States, had contained four stolen automobiles. The commercial shipping company told Customs officials that it leased the containers to a company called Europe Import Co. in Rolling Meadows, Illinois where the shipment originated. It said the containers were loaded at the Shurguard Storage facility in Rolling Meadows.

 Customs then learned that Europe Import Co. had leased unit #19-26 at the Shurguard Storage facility and that a person using the name John Johnson had paid all back rent for the unit. John Johnson was later identified as Martinas Chpokas, now charged as a co-conspirator. Chpokas drove a red/maroon Chevrolet Caprice and was accompanied by two individuals when he paid the rent for the units.

 Soon after, law enforcement officers observed Vasiliavitchious drive the same red/maroon car, escort two late model luxury Mercedes Benz automobiles to the Shurguard Storage facility, unlock storage unit #19-26, put the Mercedes Benz cars inside and then lock the storage unit.

 On November 19, 1994 law enforcement officers observed Chpokas, Vasiliavitchious, and a third person, Igor Fomin, meet near storage unit #19-26 at the Shurguard facility. Vasiliavitchious talked with Chpokas and handed him what appeared to be keys and cash and then left.

 About an hour and a half later, a 40 foot shipping container arrived at the storage facility. Still later that evening, Chpokas loaded one of the cars from the storage unit into the container. Chpokas and Fomin were then arrested at the facility.

 That same night law enforcement officers went to Vasiliavitchious' home to arrest him without a warrant. The officers knocked on Vasiliavitchious' apartment door and identified themselves as police officers. Vasiliavitchious opened the door and stood in the open doorway of the apartment. The officers falsely told him that a man had broken into his car and directed him to come down to the parking lot to see if any item was missing from his car. This tactic was deliberate and designed to allow officers to make the arrest well away from Vasiliavitchious' home. Vasiliavitchious believed the lie and followed the officers to the parking lot where he was arrested.

 On August 4, 1995 Vasiliavitchious was charged again in the same matter and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Later that day, Special Agent Brandon Davies arrested Vasiliavitchious, who was walking his dog, outside his home. Davies immediately advised him of his Miranda rights in English. Davies transported Vasiliavitchious first to the Des Plaines Police Department to be fingerprinted and photographed and then to the U.S. Marshals Service for processing and arraignment. He was finally transported to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). Davies and Vasiliavitchious engaged in conversation during each transport.

 Vasiliavitchious says his arrest on November 19, 1994 violated his Fourth Amendment rights and his post-arrest statements should be suppressed as fruits of an illegal arrest and as products of a Miranda violation. Vasiliavitchious says his August 4 statements were violative of his Sixth Amendment rights because he was interrogated after formal charges had been filed and an attorney appeared in court on his behalf.

 Fourth Amendment

 In this case there was probable cause to arrest. Probable cause exists if under the totality of circumstances it was reasonable for the officer to believe that a particular individual had committed a crime. U.S. v. Evans, 27 F.3d 1219, 1228 (7th Cir. 1994). Law enforcement officials had information that stolen vehicles were being exported from the United States, originating from a storage facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Vasiliavitchious was observed escorting two vehicles into the storage unit and later giving what appeared to be money and keys to a co-conspirator. Based on these observations, it was reasonable for the officers to believe that Vasiliavitchious was involved in exporting stolen vehicles.

 Until 1980 the arrest warrant was the forgotten child of criminal procedure as practiced by police in the enforcement of law. I suspect the majority of warrants were issued for fugitives, for persons who had failed to appear in court and for those against whom indictments and information had been filed. This was so because a warrant was generally not required to make an arrest based on probable cause. United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 46 L. Ed. 2d 598, 96 S. Ct. 820 (1976). What mattered was whether there was probable cause, it did not matter if there was a warrant. Arrest warrants, in sum, were a part of the ...


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