Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Esparza

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

September 6, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JUAN RAUL ESPARZA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On this day came on to be heard Defendant's motion to suppress. The Defendant Juan Raul Esparza is charged with: (1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which offense involved 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, (2) aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which offense involved 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, and (3) possessing a firearm (380 Caliber semi-automatic pistol) in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

         Defendant filed a motion for a Franks hearing and motion to suppress. In that motion he complains of the following: (1) he was subject to a warrantless search which resulted in the seizure of the pistol; (2) he was arrested and subjected to questioning without any Miranda warnings being given; and (3) the detective signing the affidavit in support of the search warrant issued for the search of a hotel room made false statements in the affidavit.

         Hearings were held on August 15 and August 31, 2017.

         Background

         On April 4, 2017, San Antonio Police Detective Phillip Bourcier received information from a confidential source (“CS”) that “Raul” [later identified as co-defendant Raul Lopez] was looking for buyers to purchase kilos of cocaine. That same day it was arranged for the CS to meet Lopez and negotiate a purchase of cocaine. Lopez agreed to sell the CS four ounces of cocaine as a sample for the future purchase of 5-10 kilos. Ultimately on April 13, Lopez called the CS and told him that he had 5 kilos of cocaine available for $135, 000. Lopez and the CS agreed to meet on April 17 at a hospital parking lot in the Stone Oak area of San Antonio. Law enforcement officers conducted surveillance of the parking lot. Lopez told the CS that he had 3.5 kilos of cocaine (not 5) and would sell the 3.5 kilos for $94, 500. Lopez said he needed to go to a different part of San Antonio (Ingram Park Mall area) to get the drugs from a hotel. Lopez was followed by police officers to the Marriott Residence Inn near the mall, where Lopez was seen by police officers entering the hotel. Lopez and Esparza were thereafter seen walking out of the hotel together. Lopez was seen to be clutching his jacket as if trying to prevent something from dropping. Lopez got into a White Tahoe and Esparza entered into a Black Durango. Lopez drove to an At Home parking lot nearby, a location that was previously arranged to be the meeting spot between Lopez and the CS. Esparza drove to the same parking lot and parked in another area of the lot where he had a direct view of Lopez's vehicle.

         The CS entered Lopez's vehicle and was shown half a kilo of cocaine. The CS told Lopez that he would inform another person to bring the purchase money for the agreed 3.5 kilos. Once the CS left Lopez's vehicle, Esparza drove his vehicle back to the hotel. He happened to park next to an undercover police vehicle, and when he exited his vehicle, SAPD Sergeant Garcia, wearing a tactical vest with POLICE emblazoned on the jacket, ordered Esparza at gunpoint to raise his hands and get to the ground. The Sergeant asked whether Esparza was armed. Esparza admitted to having a pistol in his pocket. After securing the weapon and handcuffing Esparza, the Sergeant asked Esparza what hotel room he was in. Esparza replied 400. It is uncontested that Esparza had not been read any Miranda warnings to this point. Esparza was then placed into the back of a patrol vehicle.

         Once Esparza was placed into a patrol vehicle, officers approached Lopez at the At Home parking lot and detained him. Lopez was asked if he had anything illegal in his vehicle. Lopez replied it was “under the seat.” Half a kilo of cocaine was then seized.

         At this time Det. Bourcier left the location and began to draft an affidavit in support of a search of the hotel room.

         Back at the hotel parking lot, once Esparza was in the patrol vehicle, Sgt. Garcia went inside the hotel lobby and asked the registration desk employees what room the man detained outside was staying in. The hotel employees informed Sgt. Garcia that Esparza had been in room 400. Det. Garcia also testified that he was told by hotel employees that there may be another person in the room. A maintenance employee escorted Sgt. Garcia and two other officers to room 400. Sgt. Garcia testified that “we knocked on the door; we could hear somebody moving around in there.”[1] Sgt. Garcia further testified that since he did not know what the person believed to be inside was doing, and because he failed to answer the door knock, exigent circumstances required entry into the room. The maintenance employee was directed to use his hotel pass to open the door and entry was made. Sgt. Garcia testified that another person was immediately seen reaching for a bag. That person (later identified as co-defendant Victor Manuel Gonzalez-Ibarra) was searched and a gun was found on his person. Police officers made a visual inspection of a closet, the bedroom, and bathroom to ensure that no one else was present in the room. Law enforcement officers contend that no search was made of the room and they awaited notification from Det. Bourcier that a warrant had been signed. According to the officers, once they were informed that a warrant had been signed, they conducted a search and discovered three kilos of cocaine in a duffel bag.

         The affidavit in support of the search warrant for the hotel room was subscribed and sworn to before the Bexar County Magistrate on April 17, 2017 at 4:20 p.m. The judge signed the warrant also at 4:20 p.m.[2] Law enforcement officers, however, entered room 400 at approximately 2:22 p.m. The parties disagree what time a “search” of the room was conducted and a black bag opened to reveal three kilograms of cocaine. Defendant contends that this occurred immediately upon entry into the room or at least by 3:45 p.m. (a time indicated in a DEA Form).[3]

         Analysis

         A. Was Esparza under arrest when confronted in the hotel parking lot?

         The Government contends that Esparza was not subject to a custodial interrogation, and thus no Miranda warnings were required when he was asked whether he had a weapon and was asked what hotel room he was in.

A suspect is “in custody” for Miranda purposes when placed under formal arrest or when a reasonable person in the suspect's position would have understood the situation to constitute a restraint on freedom of movement of the degree which the law associates with formal arrest. Two discrete inquiries are essential to the determination: first, what were the circumstances surrounding the interrogation; and second, given those circumstances, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. The requisite restraint on freedom is greater than that required in the Fourth Amendment seizure context. The critical difference between the two concepts is that custody arises only if the restraint on freedom is a certain degree-the degree associated with formal arrest.
Whether a suspect is “in custody” is an objective inquiry that depends on the “totality of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.