523 F.3d 1235 (10th Cir. 2008), 07-4141, United States v. Jones

Docket Nº:07-4141.
Citation:523 F.3d 1235
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Tamara Yvonne JONES, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:April 23, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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523 F.3d 1235 (10th Cir. 2008)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Tamara Yvonne JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 07-4141.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

April 23, 2008

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah (D.C. No. 2:05-Cr-534-TS).

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Scott K. Wilson, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Steven B. Killpack, Federal Public Defender, with him on the briefs), Office of the Federal Public Defender, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Stephen J. Sorenson, Assistant United States Attorney (Brett L. Tolman, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Office of the United States Attorney, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Before O'BRIEN, TYMKOVICH, and HOLMES, Circuit Judges.

TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judge.

The question in this case presents a variation on when a police encounter evolves into a custodial interrogation, requiring officers to issue a warning under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Tamara Yvonne Jones challenges statements she made to a federal officer, Agent Jeff

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Bridge, who interrogated her in connection with her recent purchase of iodine crystals, a chemical used in methamphetamine production. During the encounter, Jones explained she had ordered the iodine hoping to resell it to another person who would use it to produce drugs. On the basis of her statements to Bridge, Jones was later charged with possessing iodine knowing it would be used to manufacture methamphetamine, a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(c) and 846.

Before trial, Jones moved to suppress the statements given without a Miranda warning. The district court denied the motion. Because Jones was not in custody when she spoke with Bridge inside his unmarked patrol car, we conclude Miranda does not apply.

We therefore AFFIRM the district court's denial of the motion to suppress.

I. Background

Agent Bridge testified at the suppression hearing and at trial about the circumstances surrounding his encounter with Jones. We construe all facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, in this case the government. United States v. Hudson, 210 F.3d 1184, 1190 (10th Cir. 2000).

The Initial Investigation

On March 16, 2005, customs agents in Buffalo, New York, intercepted a FedEx package containing iodine crystals. The agents were concerned the chemicals were intended for either explosives or methamphetamine manufacture, since iodine is a precursor chemical in cooking methamphetamine. Because the package was addressed to Jones in Sandy, Utah, the Buffalo office contacted Agent Bridge, stationed in Utah, to conduct further investigation.

Bridge checked Jones's criminal history, which revealed recent drug arrests involving methamphetamine. Assisted by other customs agents, Bridge attempted to deliver the iodine to Jones's address listed on the package but failed, as Jones had apparently moved. From local court records, Bridge determined Jones had a court hearing in Salt Lake City on an unrelated matter scheduled for the afternoon of April 7, 2005. He decided to attend the hearing and try to speak with Jones about the package.

Unable to speak with Jones in the courthouse, Bridge and one other agent followed Jones and her companion in their car. Two other agents, in another car, joined them. Both cars were unmarked, and all four agents were in plain clothes.

Gas Station Encounter

After dropping off her companion at a nearby business, Jones pulled into a gas station at the intersection of two major streets. She parked by a gas pump and went into a convenience store. The agents pulled in after her and parked between the convenience store and a car wash, thus situating themselves in a public area with "people coming back and forth." R., Vol. II at 31. The encounter took place in the afternoon daylight. At no time during the encounter did the agents' two unmarked cars block Jones's vehicle.

When Jones came out of the convenience store, with a drink and snack in her hands, Bridge was sitting on the hood of his car. Although three more agents were nearby, either in or out of their cars, Bridge alone initiated contact with Jones. Addressing her by her first name, he showed his badge and said, "I'm a federal agent. Can I talk to you?" Id. at 9. Jones, initially nervous that a stranger used her first name, nevertheless said "yes" and approached Bridge. He showed her the package and asked if she knew what it was and whether she wanted it. She said "no" at first, but then quickly replied "yeah." Id. at 43.

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For the sake of Jones's privacy, Bridge asked if he could speak with her in his car. She agreed. To ensure she was unarmed before they got in the car, Bridge asked if he could quickly frisk her and check her purse for weapons. She declined to let Bridge search her purse but agreed to a pat-down. Not wanting to take a chance that Jones could surprise the agents with a gun in her purse, Bridge asked Jones to leave her purse outside next to the car, right where she had placed her drink and snack during the pat-down. Jones got into the backseat of the car, on the right, and Bridge sat next to her, behind the driver's seat. One agent remained outside to make sure no one stole Jones's belongings. Two other agents got in the front seats, but did not participate in the conversation and mostly sat looking forward. Only Bridge spoke with Jones.

Inside the car, Bridge told Jones she was not under arrest, did not have to talk to him, and was free to leave. To that end, he motioned to her door, made sure it was unlocked, and told her so. Bridge then gave Jones the standard instruction that it was a crime to lie to a federal agent. At some point, after "establishing the basics of what [he] wanted to talk to her about," id. at 50, Bridge also noted the seriousness of the encounter by pointing out he could arrest Jones based on the iodine package. Throughout the whole conversation, however, Bridge's tone remained polite, calm, and conversational. And other than the police radio, which remained mostly silent during the conversation, nothing inside Bridge's car revealed it was a police vehicle.

After briefly talking about Jones's methamphetamine addiction, Bridge asked about the package. Jones explained she had ordered the iodine on Ebay, hoping to profit by reselling it to a man named Jetti. Jetti would then deliver the iodine to a methamphetamine producer. Bridge asked if Jones would help the agents get in touch with Jetti, and Jones agreed to cooperate to the extent she could. She provided a physical description of Jetti and said she would try to reach him to arrange a controlled delivery by the agents. She gave Bridge her cell phone and work phone numbers and provided the address where she was living at the time.

At some point during the conversation, Jones asked the agents to roll down her window, which they readily did. Bridge then again told Jones she was free to terminate the encounter and leave. She asked if she needed an attorney, and Bridge said it was up to her; Jones did not ask for one. The agents also handed Jones her food, which she consumed while speaking with Bridge inside the car.

Agent Bridge managed to put Jones at ease, and after the conversation inside the car, she allowed the agents to search her purse and vehicle. She said she had methamphetamine in her purse, which the agents quickly found along with other drug-use paraphernalia.

In its entirety, the gas station encounter lasted about 45 minutes to an hour.1 At no point did the agents brandish or unholster their concealed weapons, raise their voices, or in any other way indicate that Jones was required to submit to their authority. She was never handcuffed, remained cooperative throughout the interview, and never asked to leave or said she did not want to talk to Agent Bridge. After the search, Jones left in her own car. She was not arrested that day. Later, she was charged with possession of iodine

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knowing it would be used to manufacture methamphetamine.

II. Analysis

Prior to trial, Jones sought to suppress her statements to Agent Bridge as a violation of her Miranda rights, and the subsequently discovered evidence as a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court denied Jones's suppression motion on both grounds. On appeal, she challenges only the Miranda issue.

A. Legal Framework

"In reviewing a district court's ruling on a motion to suppress, this court accepts the district court's factual findings unless clearly erroneous and views the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party," the government in this case. United States v. Hudson, 210 F.3d 1184, 1190 (10th Cir. 2000). In our review, "[w]e are permitted to consider evidence introduced at the suppression hearing, as well as any evidence properly presented at trial." United States v. Harris, 313 F.3d 1228, 1233 (10th Cir. 2002). The ultimate question of whether Miranda applies, however, is reviewed de novo. Hudson, 210 F.3d at 1190.

Police officers need not administer Miranda warnings to everyone they question. Id. On its own terms, Miranda applies only to "custodial interrogation[s]." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Thus, "Miranda rights need only be given to a suspect at the moment that suspect is 'in custody' and the questioning meets the legal definition of 'interrogation.' " United States v. Chee, 514 F.3d 1106, 1112 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Perdue, 8 F.3d 1455, 1463 (10th Cir. 1993)). Because the government conceded Bridge's conversation with Jones was in the form of an interrogation, in resolving Jones's appeal we need only...

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