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United States v. Alvarez-Gomez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 20, 2019




         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Suppress Statements filed by Defendant Gustavo Alvarez-Gomez (Doc. 39). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.


         On February 25, 2019, police in Fairview Heights, Illinois, arrested Alvarez-Gomez for suspicion of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm (Id.). Once in custody, police attempted to question Alvarez-Gomez through the use of an interpreter, but he requested his attorney, and all questioning ceased (Id.).

         Alvarez-Gomez was charged in the Circuit Court for St. Clair County, Illinois, with misdemeanor unlawful use of a weapon and felony reckless discharge of a firearm (Id.). Bond was posted on February 28, 2019, and Alvarez-Gomez was released from state custody pending his next court date (Doc. 43, Ex. 1). On March 1, 2019, he was arraigned on the charges with the assistance of appointed-counsel (Doc. 39).

         On April 11, 2019, agents for Homeland Security Investigations brought Alvarez- Gomez in for questioning, and he allegedly confessed to holding and firing the gun (Id.). On April 16, 2019, Alvarez-Gomez was charged in this federal district court by way of indictment with one count of alien in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5) (Doc. 1).

         On June 13, 2019, Alvarez-Gomez filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to the Homeland Security Investigations agents (Doc. 39). He argues the statements were taken in violation of his constitutional rights, because he was questioned about the incident on February 25, 2019, without his counsel present, and the agents did not scrupulously honor his right to remain silent (Id.).


         The Fifth Amendment provides that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. amend V. “[T]his prohibition not only permits a person to refuse to testify against himself at a criminal trial in which he is a defendant, but also privileges him not to answer official questions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings.” Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 426 (1984) (quotations omitted). In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court placed procedural safeguards on the Fifth Amendment by holding that a person subject to custodial interrogation must be apprised of the following: the right to remain silent; that anything said can be used against him or her in a court of law; the right to an attorney; and that if he or she cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed prior to questioning. 384 U.S. 436, 445 (1966).

         Once an accused invokes the right to remain silent, it must be “scrupulously honored.” Id. at 479. However, “Miranda cannot be read to create a per se proscription against any further questioning by any police officer, on any topic, once the suspect has expressed a wish to remain silent.” United States v. Schwensow, 151 F.3d 650, 658 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 104 (1975)). To determine whether a suspect's rights were “scrupulously honored, ” the Supreme Court has established a multi-factor inquiry that considers the amount of time that lapsed between interrogations; the scope of the second interrogation; whether new Miranda warnings were given; and the degree to which police officers pursued further interrogation once the suspect had invoked his right to remain silent. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96 at 104-05. Similarly, once a suspect invokes his right to counsel, police may not question the suspect again unless counsel is present. Howes v. Fields, 565 U.S. 499, 510 (2012) (citing Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010)). However, “this rule does not apply when there is a sufficient break in custody between the suspect's invocation of the right to counsel and the initiation of subsequent questioning.” Id.

         An individual may waive his or her Miranda rights so long as the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986). The Supreme Court has set forth a two-pronged test for determining whether a waiver is valid:

First, the relinquishment of the right must have been voluntary in the sense that it was the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or deception. Second, 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. 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.

Id. The government bears the burden of establishing a valid waiver of Miranda rights, Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 168 (1986), and “courts must indulge every reasonable presumption against the loss of constitutional rights” Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 343 (1970).

         Here, Alvarez-Gomez argues the Homeland Security agents did not scrupulously honor his right to remain silent or his right to counsel. Alvarez-Gomez was initially interviewed by Fairview Heights Police on February 25, 2019, but all questioning stopped after he exercised his right to an attorney. On April 11, 2019, after a 45-day break in custody, agents for Homeland Security Investigations brought him in for questioning. The Supreme Court has held that a 14-day break in custody is an adequate period for purposes of reinitiating questioning after a suspect has invoked his Miranda rights; 14 days “provides plenty of time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody.” Shatzer, 559 U.S. at 110. Although the second interrogation covered some of the same issues as the first, “the ...

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