United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE DAVID BRIONES SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
day, the Court considered Defendant Javier Blanco Jr.'s
("Mr. Blanco") "Motion to Suppress
Evidence" ("Motion"), filed in the
above-captioned case on May 22, 2019. On June 3, 2019, the
United States of America ("the Government") filed
its Response. On August 7, 2019, the Court held a hearing on
Mr. Blanco's Motion at which Mr. Blanco was present and
represented by counsel. After due consideration, the Court is
of the opinion that Mr. Blanco's Motion should be denied.
is charged in a three-count indictment with intentional money
laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956
(a)(2)(B)(ii) and (2), bulk cash smuggling in violation of 31
U.S.C. § 5332(a)(1) and (b); and conspiracy to smuggle
aliens in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1324
(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), (a)(1)(A)(ii), and (a)(1)(B)(i). Indictment
1, ECF No. 15.
April 19, 2019, Mr. Blanco entered the United States from
Mexico via a pedestrian lane on the Bridge of the Americas
Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas. Mot. 1, ECF No. 21; Resp. 1,
ECF No. 24. Customs and Border Patrol Officer
("CBPO") Kevin Coker ("CBPO Coker")
asked, in English, where Mr. Blanco was headed. Hr'g Tr.
at 5, U.S. v. Javier Blanco Jr., (No.
19-CT-1501). Mr. Blanco responded, in English,
"home." Id. CBPO Coker than asked Mr.
Blanco, in Spanish, where he was coming from. Resp. 1, ECF
No. 24. Mr. Blanco responded, in Spanish, that he had gone to
Mexico to visit his mother. Id.
simultaneously, CBPO Benito Canales ("CBPO
Canales") and his trained narcotics-detecting dog were
conducting a K-9 sweep of pedestrian lanes. Id. at
2. The K-9 unit alerted to Mr. Blanco's pockets.
Id. CBPO Canales asked, in Spanish, what was in Mr.
Blanco's pockets. Id. Mr. Blanco removed several
items from his pockets including large bundles of U.S.
currency. Id. After some additional discussion, CBPO
Canales asked, in Spanish, how much money Mr. Blanco had.
Id. Mr. Blanco answered in Spanish that he had $7,
200. Id. CBPO Coker sought clarification in English,
"$7, 200?" Id. To which Mr. Blanco
answered in the affirmative. Id.
Blanco was taken to secondary inspection where CBPOs
conducted a pat down search and found additional bundles of
cash. Id. The money was counted in Mr. Blanco's
presence and totaled $15, 305. Id. Mr. Blanco was
detained and placed in custody for further investigation when
CBPO Coker continued to switch between English and Spanish.
See Hr'g Tr. at 7, 22.
Security Investigations Special Agent Juan Ortiz ("SA
Ortiz) and Task Force Officer Carlos Castro removed Mr.
Blanco from the holding cell and took him into an interview
room. Resp. 2, ECF No. 24. SA Ortiz advised Mr. Blanco that
he was investigating and would like to interview Mr. Blanco.
Id. SA Ortiz further asked Mr. Blanco whether he
would prefer to speak in English or Spanish. Id. Mr.
Blanco responded that he understood English, and that it was
fine to continue in English. Id. SA Ortiz proceeded
to ask Mr. Blanco numerous biographical questions in English,
to which Mr. Blanco responded in Spanish. Hr'g Tr. at 11;
Mot. 2, ECF No. 21; Resp. 3, ECF No. 24.
Ortiz then asked, in English, if Mr. Blanco would rather be
advised of his rights in English or Spanish and Mr. Blanco
responded that he understands both. Hr'g Tr. at 15. SA
Ortiz advised Mr. Blanco that he would proceed in English,
but if Mr. Blanco had a question, then he only need ask; or
if Mr. Blanco felt uncomfortable with the English version of
the Miranda rights, he could give them to Mr. Blanco
in Spanish. Resp. 2, ECF No. 24. Mr. Blanco nodded in the
affirmative that he understood. Id. While SA Ortiz
read the Miranda warnings, he also showed him a standard
advice of rights form. Hr'g Tr. at 13. Mr. Blanco did not
indicate in any way that he was having trouble understanding
English, nor did he ask for an interpreter. Id. Mr.
Blanco never asked SA Ortiz to repeat himself. Id.
at 14. Mr. Blanco nodded his head after each warning was
read. Video of Blanco Rights Advisal, Gov't Ex. 4, ECF
No. 35; Hr'g Tr. at 16. SA Oritz believed that Mr. Blanco
understood English. Hr'g Tr. at 13.
reading the form, SA Ortiz asked Mr. Blanco if he had any
questions, Mr. Blanco responded, "no." Resp. 3, ECF
No. 24. SA Ortiz asked Mr. Blanco to read the form aloud but
did not wait for Mr. Blanco to do so. Hr'g Tr. at 26.
After Mr. Blanco asked him for clarification, SA Ortiz
explained to Mr. Blanco, in Spanish, that Mr. Blanco needed
to acknowledge that he understood his rights by initialing
next to each listed right on the waiver. See id. at
16; Gov't Ex. 4, ECF No. 35. Then SA Ortiz began
questioning, in English, Mr. Blanco about the incident at the
bridge, and Mr. Blanco immediately requested that he begin
his questioning again in Spanish. Mot. 2, ECF No. 21; Resp.
3, ECF No. 24. The interview proceeded entirely in Spanish
from this point. Mot. 2, ECF No. 21; Resp. 3, ECF No. 24. Mr.
Blanco's demeanor throughout these exchanges was calm,
cooperative, and alert. Hr'g Tr. at 13-14;Gov't Ex.
Court further notes that Mr. Blanco has no known criminal
history prior to this incident. Hr'g Tr. at 22. Mr.
Blanco is a nineteen-year old U.S. Citizen who was two months
away from completing is high school education at an
alternative school for high school drop outs. Mot. 1, ECF No.
21. But he has not graduated in part due to his failure to
obtain credits in English. See Hr'g Tr. at 18,
23. However, he passed all his other courses like History,
Science, and Social Studies, which were all taught in
English. Hr'g Tr. at 18. He suffers from no mental
disease or defect and showed no signs of intoxication during
this interaction. Resp. 5, ECF No. 24; Hr'g Tr. at 23.
Fifth Amendment guarantees that "[n]o person... shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against
himself." U.S. Const, amend. V. Evidence obtained in
violation of the Fifth Amendment must be suppressed and
cannot be used at trial. Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S.
298, 306 (1985) (explaining that the Fifth Amendment
prohibits the use of compelled testimony at trial).
Miranda, the Supreme Court decided that a person
subjected to a custodial interrogation must be given certain
warnings designed to safeguard his or her Fifth Amendment
rights. Miranda v. Arizona,384 U.S. 436, 444-45
(1966). Without a knowing and voluntary waiver of those
rights, any ...