531 F.3d 420 (6th Cir. 2008), 07-5408, United States v. Pacheco-Lopez

Docket Nº:07-5408.
Citation:531 F.3d 420
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Pedro PACHECO-LOPEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:June 26, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 420

531 F.3d 420 (6th Cir. 2008)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Pedro PACHECO-LOPEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 07-5408.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

June 26, 2008

Argued: Dec. 6, 2007.

Page 421


Kent Wicker, Reed Wicker, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant. Madison T. Sewell , Assistant United States Attorney, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellee.


Kent Wicker , Reed Wicker, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant. Laura L. Hall, Terry M. Cushing , Monica Wheatley , Assistant United States Attorneys, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellee.

Before: MERRITT , COLE , and GRIFFIN , Circuit Judges.

MERRITT , J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which COLE , J., joined. GRIFFIN , J. (pp. 430-33), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.

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MERRITT , Circuit Judge.

The defendant, Pedro Pacheco-Lopez (Lopez), challenges the district court's denial of his request to suppress certain statements made prior to his arrest. The defendant argues that his initial statements-made prior to receiving his Miranda warnings-should have been suppressed because they were responses to a custodial interrogation and do not fall under the “booking exception" to Miranda. Additionally, the defendant argues that his later admission, made after receiving his warning, resulted from impermissible “Miranda -in-the-middle" questioning. Because the booking exception applies narrowly to biographical questions and has rarely been applied outside of a police station, we hold that the defendant's first statements should have been suppressed. We similarly find that Lopez's post-Miranda admission should be suppressed. Accordingly, the district court's decision is REVERSED.

I. Facts

On March 13, 2006, undercover officers arrested Gerardo Castro-Acosta and others on Clay Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, during an arranged “controlled buy" of sixteen kilograms of cocaine. The individuals involved in the drug deal had arrived in a white Subaru car and a red Dodge pickup truck. After making the arrests, the police obtained a search warrant for 6006 Cooper Chapel Road, the address in Louisville for the cars registered under Acosta's name. When the police arrived at the home, they found the defendant, Lopez, and another individual identified as Bernal-Bajo. The officers had no information concerning either of the men when they were discovered at the residence.

The officers executing the search warrant immediately handcuffed Lopez and placed him at the kitchen table for questioning. The exact sequence of events during the questioning is unclear, however, because each of the three officers who testified at the July 10, 2006, suppression hearing recalled the events in a slightly different manner.1 The district court judge relied primarily on DEA Agent Mark Slaughter's testimony after finding that Kentucky State Trooper Lagrange's testimony was “somewhat imprecise" and that Agent Brian Bester was not present. In accordance with the district court's factual finding, as well as the fact that one officer admitted to remembering the facts incorrectly, we give greatest weight to Officer Slaughter's account.

Slaughter testified that the detainee, Lopez, was initially asked questions related to securing the residence and to his identity. Slaughter, who does not speak Spanish, discovered that the detainees did not speak English and obtained translating assistance from Lagrange. Slaughter asked Lopez his name and where he lived; the detainee responded that he lived in Mexico and not at the Cooper Chapel Road residence. Slaughter next asked Lopez when he arrived at the house and how he had gotten there. Lopez responded that he had driven from Mexico the previous Sunday in a white Ford pickup truck; he then volunteered the keys to the pickup. At that point, Lopez was advised of his Miranda rights in Spanish by Lagrange. Immediately thereafter, Slaughter asked Lopez whether he or Bernal-Bajo had brought any cocaine to the residence. Lopez

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acknowledged that he had transported cocaine. Slaughter and Lagrange then took Lopez to a bedroom for further questioning,2 at which time Lopez indicated that he did not want to speak further with the investigators.3 No further questioning occurred. Slaughter then went to the garage to assist in an inspection of the white pickup, where officers discovered that the drive shaft of the truck had been hollowed out to accommodate cocaine. 4

Lopez entered a guilty plea conditioned on the outcome of his motion to suppress the statements. The district court judge, describing the characterization of the pre-Miranda questions as the “key factor" in the case, held that the initial interaction was not an “interrogation." Dist. Ct. Op. at 2, 2006 WL 2355846, at *2. The judge's description of the initial questions as “relatively innocuous" and only important with the benefit of “20/20 hindsight" informed this ruling. Id. As a result, “the additional questions asked and answered after the Miranda warning [were] not subject to suppression under Seibert. " Id. at 3, 2006 WL at 2355846, at *2.

Lopez filed a timely appeal and argues that the initial questions did constitute an “interrogation" and that the answers, along with the subsequent, post-Miranda statements, should be suppressed.

II. Interrogation and the “Booking Exception


In cases involving a motion to suppress, this Court reviews the district court's factual findings for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. United States v. Meyer, 359 F.3d 820, 824 (6th Cir.2004) . Additionally, when reviewing a district court's denial of a motion to suppress, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the United States. United States v. Erwin, 155 F.3d 818, 822 (6th Cir.1998) .

Before the police may interrogate a suspect in custody,5 they must first read the Miranda warnings. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966) . An “interrogation" comprises “not only [ ] express questioning, but also any words or actions on the part of the police that the police know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980) . Miranda warnings are not, however, required for questions “reasonably related to the police's administrative concerns," such as the defendant's name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth and current address. Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U.S. 582, 601, 110 S.Ct. 2638, 110 L.Ed.2d 528 (1990) ; United States v. Clark, 982 F.2d 965, 968 (6th Cir.1993) (“ordinarily ... the routine gathering of biographical data for booking purposes should not constitute interrogation under Miranda " ).6 This “booking exception" to Miranda requires the reviewing court to carefully scrutinize the facts, as

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“[e]ven a relatively innocuous series of questions may, in light of the factual circumstance and the susceptibility of a particular suspect, be reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response." United States v. Avery, 717 F.2d 1020, 1025 (6th Cir.1983) . Where the booking exception does not apply to statements made before administration and voluntary waiver of Miranda rights, those statements are “irrebuttably presumed involuntary" and must be suppressed. United States v. Mashburn, 406 F.3d 303, 306 (4th Cir.2005) (citing Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 307, 105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222 (1985) ).

This case requires further delineation of the line between questions relating to the processing of an arrest that are biographical and questions of an investigatory nature. The latter, but not the former, constitute “interrogation" and implicate the Fifth Amendment and the attendant Miranda warning requirement. Compare Avery, 717 F.2d at 1024 (question was part of a “routine procedure to secure biographical data" and thus not interrogation), and United States v. King, 165 F.3d 29, 1998 WL 708707 (6th Cir.1998) (per curiam) (holding that a defendant's response to a question about his address was not protected by Miranda, notwithstanding the fact that police made use of the statement, because it was not intended to elicit incriminating statements), with United States v. Soto, 953 F.2d 263 (6th Cir.1992) (per curiam) (suppressing a response to a question about what a defendant was doing with drugs), and United States v. Cole, 315 F.3d 633, 636 (6th Cir.2003) (suppressing defendant's initial response to the question, “Whose gun is this?" but denying the motion to suppress later, voluntary statements), and United States v. Downing, 665 F.2d 404 (1st Cir.1981) (suppressing a question regarding the location of an airplane).

Lopez's pre-Miranda statements cannot be described as merely biographical, but instead resulted from an interrogation subject to the protections of Miranda. Some of the initial questions would not-in isolation-implicate Miranda; at the very least, asking the defendant his name is the type of biographical question permitted under the booking exception. But asking Lopez where he was from, how he had arrived at the house, and when he had arrived are questions “reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response," thus mandating a Miranda warning. The fact that Officer Slaughter did not actually know that Lopez was involved in criminal activity does not affect our analysis. The officers who questioned Lopez did know that the shipment of cocaine involved in the arranged buy had arrived from outside the state during the previous week. Consequently, asking questions about when and how Lopez arrived at a household...

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