United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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.
were held on August 15 and August 31, 2017.
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
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
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.
time Det. Bourcier left the location and began to draft an
affidavit in support of a search of the hotel room.
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.” 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.
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. 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).
Was Esparza under arrest when confronted in the hotel parking
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