United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division
C. GUADERRAMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Noe Andres Ugarte's
"Motion to Suppress Evidence" ("Motion")
(ECF No. 74) filed on August 6, 2019. An evidentiary hearing
on the motion was first scheduled on August 27, 2017.
See ECF No. 84. On August 22, 2019, the Court reset
the evidentiary hearing for September 4, 2019, and ordered
Defendant and the United States to each separately file a
supplemental brief addressing the issue of Fourth Amendment
standing. See ECF No. 85. After Defendant failed to
file his supplemental brief on the issue, the Court vacated
the evidentiary hearing on September 3, 2019 and informed
parties that Defendant's motion would be decided on the
briefs submitted by the parties. See ECF No. 88. For
the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES
March 9, 2019, at approximately 9:39 p.m., U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency ("DEA") agents received
information from a confidential source ("CS") that
two individuals from Albuquerque, New Mexico would be
delivering an undetermined amount of cash drug proceeds in El
Paso, Texas. Mot. at 1; Resp. at 2 (ECF No. 83). The proceeds
came from a previous sale of cocaine, in Albuquerque, New
Mexico at the direction of Victor Manuel Ugarte-Romero
("V. Ugarte"), Defendant's brother. Resp. at 2.
The CS was supposed to pick up the proceeds and bring them to
Defendant, who would then take them to V. Ugarte in Mexico.
Mot. at 2; Resp. at 2.
tasked by the investigating DEA agents, the CS picked up the
proceeds from the two Albuquerque couriers. Mot. at 2; Resp.
at 2. The CS then contacted Defendant and told him to meet
him/her at a Circle K gas station, located at 1915 Montana
Avenue in El Paso. Mot. at 2; Resp. at 2. At 11:53 p.m.,
Defendant and his wife entered the U.S. from Mexico via the
Paso del Norte Port of Entry. Mot. at 2; Resp. at 2. Around
the same time, the CS received a Whatsapp message from V.
Ugarte that Defendant would be at the CS' location
shortly. Mot. at 2.
March 10, 2019, at approximately 12:30 a.m., the DEA agents
observed Defendant's vehicle at the Circle K gas station.
Mot. at 2; Resp. at 2. Defendant's vehicle-a gray Honda
Civic-parked next to the CS' vehicle-a black Dodge
Charger-at the parking lot. Mot. at 2; Resp. at 2. At the
direction of the DEA agents, two El Paso Police Department
officers approached the two vehicles and spoke with Defendant
and the CS. Mot. at 3; Resp. at 3. As a ruse to protect the
identity of the CS, the two officers told Defendant and the
CS that "there were reports of suspicious activity in
the area." Mot. at 3; Resp. at 2. The officers then
asked for, and received, consent from Defendant and the CS to
search both vehicles. Mot. at 3; Resp. at 2. The officers
found $70, 929.00 in U.S. currency in the back seat of the
CS' Dodge Charger. Mot. at 3; Resp. at 2. Defendant, his
spouse, and the CS were transported to the El Paso Police
Department Central Headquarters at 200 S. Campbell Street.
Mot. at 3; Resp. at 3.
the station, Defendant was read his Miranda rights,
which he subsequently waived. Mot. at 2; Resp. at 3. During
the interview, Defendant confessed that he traveled to El
Paso to pick up an undetermined amount of money for his
brother, V. Ugarte, and admitted that the money was drug
proceeds from the sale of cocaine and marijuana. Mot. at 3;
Resp. at 3. Defendant told law enforcement that his brother,
V. Ugarte, was involved in the coordination and
transportation of drugs and drug proceeds to and from
different destinations within the United States. Resp. at 3.
Defendant also told law enforcement that his brother, V.
Ugarte, has previously paid him to deliver drug proceeds on
multiple occasions. Resp. at 3.
April 24, 2019, Defendant was indicted for Conspiracy to
Possess with the Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance,
to wit: over 500 grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 846, and with Possession with the Intent to Distribute
a Controlled Substance, to wit: over 500 grams of cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). See
Indictment, ECF No. 30. Defendant filed the instant
Motion to Suppress on August 6, 2019 (ECF No. 74).
is well established that the burdens of production and
persuasion generally rest upon the movant in a suppression
hearing." United States v. de la Fuente, 548
F.2d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1977). However, in certain
situations, the burden of persuasion shifts to the
government. Id. For example, "[w]hen the
government searches or seizes a defendant without a warrant,
the government bears the burden of proving, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the search or seizure was
constitutional." United States v.
Guerrero-Barajas, 240 F.3d 428, 432 (5th Cir. 2001).
Further, the government also bears the burden of proving that
a confession obtained during custodial interrogation is
admissible. Taylor v. Alabama, 457 U.S. 687, 690
(1982); de la Fuente, 548 F.2d at 533. However, in
order to shift the burden to the government, the defendant
must first discharge his initial burden of producing some
evidence, based on specific factual allegations, sufficient
to make a prima facie showing of illegality. United
States v. Lyons, 31 Fed.Appx. 833 (5th Cir. 2002).
Motion, Defendant seeks to exclude all evidence derived and
flowing from his allegedly illegal seizure. Mot. at 6-7.
Defendant bases his Motion in the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution, Bond v. United States,
529 U.S. 334, 336 (2000) ("The Fourth Amendment provides
that *[t]he right of the people to be free in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated ....'" (quoting
U.S. Const, amend. IV)); and the exclusionary rule,
Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 804 (1984)
("The suppression or exclusionary rule is a judicially
prescribed remedial measure [that]. .. reaches not only
primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal
search or seizure, but also evidence later discovered and
found to be derivative of an illegality or 'fruit of the
poisonous tree.'" (internal citations
their initial briefs, Defendant and the United States
primarily based their arguments on Fourth Amendment case law
involving investigatory detentions and consensual
interactions. But this case presents only one determinative
question before the Court: does Defendant have a cognizable
Fourth Amendment interest in the black Dodge Charger searched
by the El Paso Police Department Officers? The Court
concludes as a matter of law that he does not.