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United States v. Galvan-Mena

December 29, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


A. Introduction

Defendant Mena was indicted on January 25, 2008 for possession with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Doc. 1). On November 17, 2008, Mena moved to suppress statements and evidence (Doc. 18). Mena claims that he did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to the search of his vehicle, as Spanish is his first language and officers spoke to him only in English. Thus, he asks the Court to suppress any physical evidence obtained in the course of that search. Additionally, Mena claims that he never knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights, despite the existence of a signed waiver, because the form was presented entirely in English. As a result, he seeks suppression of any statements he made while in custody.

After giving the Government time to respond (Doc. 22), the Court held a hearing on the motion to suppress on December 19, 2008. The Government presented testimony from four police officers who participated in Mena's arrest and/or interviews while in custody. Mena did not present any testimony or evidence.

Having fully considered the parties' arguments and the officers' testimony, the Court hereby DENIES Mena's motion to suppress (Doc. 18).

B. Factual Background

On the morning of December 14, 2007, Mena was driving a delivery truck hauling toilets and related items. At 5:30 a.m., Effingham County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Rich stopped Mena's truck for improper lane usage. Deputy Rich questioned Mena and examined his bills of lading and logbook.*fn1 These documents (Exhs. 1, 2A, & 2B) contain English instructions and include responsive entries, signed by Mena.

Deputy Rich asked Mena a number of general questions in English. Mena responded in English, stating that this was his first time driving for his employer. Deputy Rich noted that Mena appeared nervous, as he could not sit still and his hands shook while passing documents. Deputy Rich inquired as to whether there was anything illegal in the truck. According to Deputy Rich's testimony, the Defendant refused to answer.*fn2

At that point, Deputy Rich sought consent to search the truck and trailer, and Mena replied, "O.K." Mena then helped unlock the back of the truck as Deputy Deters arrived upon the scene. Deputy Deters searched the inside of the trailer while Deputy Rich walked a drug dog around the truck. The dog made an unusual reaction toward the rear of the vehicle. The reaction was unusual in the sense that Deputy Rich had never witnessed such a response from the dog, but he believed that the dog was alerting to the presence of narcotics.

In the course of his search, Deputy Deters ultimately located packages that appeared to be narcotics. A field test of the substance tested positive for cocaine. The truck was towed for a more thorough search, and ultimately, approximately 70 kilograms of cocaine were recovered.

Mena was arrested and taken to the Effingham County Jail, where Deputy Deters read Mena his Miranda rights at approximately 10:12 a.m. Deputy Deters used the Effingham County Sheriff's Office's standard form explaining these rights (Exh. 3; Doc. 22-2). As he read each line, Deputy Deters obtained a verbal acknowledgment that Mena understood them and asked Mena to initial each line. Deputy Deters then asked Mena to read the section entitled "Acknowledgment and Waiver of Rights" at the bottom of the form. Mena did so and signed the form, which was entirely in English. Officer Steven Langhorst was also present and signed the form indicating that he witnessed the procedure.

Officers Hosp and Regal of the Fairview Heights Resident Office DEA then interviewed Mena in English. Mena responded only in English and made incriminating statements. When that interview concluded, Deputies Deters, Rich, and another officer transported Mena to the Fairview Heights, Illinois DEA office. During that trip, Mena engaged in small talk with the officers and made some additional incriminating statements in response to the officers' questions. Again, the entire conversation was in English. Deputy Deters kept handwritten notes of this conversation.

In his motion, Mena states that he was born in Mexico. He claims that Spanish is his first language, and he does not speak English very well. Additionally, Mena claims that he has diabetes and was not ...

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