U.S. v. Alvarez-Sanchez

Decision Date15 September 1992
Docket NumberALVAREZ-SANCHE,No. 89-50060,D,89-50060
Citation975 F.2d 1396
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Pedroefendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Carol A. Klauschie, Deputy Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendant-appellant.

Robert L. Brosio and Michael W. Fitzgerald, Asst. U.S. Attys., Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before D.W. NELSON and REINHARDT, Circuit Judges, and PRICE, * Senior District Judge.

REINHARDT, Circuit Judge:

The defendant, Pedro Alvarez-Sanchez, was convicted after a jury trial of possession of counterfeit government obligations in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472. During the trial, the government introduced in evidence a confession obtained while the defendant was in custody. The defendant had moved to suppress his confession on the ground that it was inadmissible under 18 U.S.C. § 3501 due to the delay between his arrest and arraignment. The district court denied the defendant's motion, and he appeals that denial. We review de novo the district court's decision to admit the confession. See United States v. Gonzalez-Sandoval, 894 F.2d 1043, 1048 (9th Cir.1990); United States v. Wilson, 838 F.2d 1081, 1085-86 (9th Cir.1988). We reverse and remand.


The facts, as found by the district court in its denial of the defendant's suppression motion, are relatively simple. On Friday,

                August 5, 1988, Alvarez-Sanchez was arrested by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies on narcotics charges during the execution of a search warrant on his residence.   During the search, the deputies recovered $2,260 in counterfeit money;  the Secret Service was notified.   Although the state never pursued any narcotics or other prosecution against Alvarez-Sanchez, he remained in state custody throughout the weekend.   On Monday, August 8, 1988, while still in state custody, Alvarez-Sanchez was interviewed by federal agents, one of whom was apparently fluent in Spanish.   After agreeing to waive his Miranda rights, Alvarez-Sanchez confessed to knowing possession of the counterfeit money.   Later that afternoon, the federal agents took custody of the defendant, and the next morning, Tuesday, August 9, he was arraigned before a federal magistrate

The defendant argues that his confession was inadmissible because it was obtained during a period of unreasonable prearraignment delay. Rule 5(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that an arrested person be arraigned before a magistrate "without unnecessary delay." The right to a speedy arraignment codified in Rule 5(a) has been recognized to serve at least three important interests; it: (1) "protect[s] the citizen from a deprivation of liberty as a result of an unlawful arrest by requiring that the Government establish probable cause," (2) "effectuate[s] and implement[s] the citizen's constitutional rights by insuring that a person arrested is informed by a judicial officer" of those rights, and (3) "minimize[s] the temptation and opportunity to obtain confessions as a result of coercion, threats, or unlawful inducements." 113 Cong.Rec. 36,067 (1967); see also McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332, 343, 63 S.Ct. 608, 614, 87 L.Ed. 819 (1943) ("The purpose of this impressively pervasive requirement of criminal procedure [that of prompt arraignment] is plain.... The awful instruments of the criminal law cannot be entrusted to a single functionary."). Alvarez-Sanchez's case presents us with the problem of determining the circumstances under which the failure to arraign an arrestee within a reasonable time should result in the suppression of his confession.

Nearly fifty years ago, the Supreme Court determined that one appropriate remedy for violations of Rule 5(a) is to suppress confessions obtained during an unnecessary delay in arraignment. See McNabb, 318 U.S. at 341, 63 S.Ct. at 613. In a line of decisions culminating in Mallory v. United States, 354 U.S. 449, 77 S.Ct. 1356, 1 L.Ed.2d 1479 (1957), the Supreme Court adopted a general exclusionary rule that rendered inadmissible all confessions obtained during a detention in violation of Rule 5(a). This rule was not as severe as it seemed, however, as not all delays in arraignment violate Rule 5(a)--only "unnecessary delays." As long as the delay was reasonable, it did not violate Rule 5(a). See, e.g., Muldrow v. United States, 281 F.2d 903, 905 (9th Cir.1960); Williams v. United States, 273 F.2d 781, 798 (9th Cir.1959), cert. denied, 362 U.S. 951, 80 S.Ct. 862, 4 L.Ed.2d 868 (1960). Suppression was required only "when the federal officers cannot justify their failure to promptly bring the accused before a committing magistrate, or when the federal officers delay arraignment in order to obtain evidence from the accused." Cote v. United States, 357 F.2d 789, 794 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 883, 87 S.Ct. 173, 17 L.Ed.2d 110 (1966); see also Smith v. United States, 390 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir.1968). The rule was clear, however, with regard to delays deliberately incurred in order to allow investigating officers time to interrogate the accused--any confession obtained would have to be suppressed. See Upshaw v. United States, 335 U.S. 410, 414, 69 S.Ct. 170, 172, 93 L.Ed. 100 (1948).

The continued vitality of the McNabb Mallory remedy for Rule 5(a) violations was made uncertain, however, when in 1968 Congress enacted statutory provisions regarding the admissibility of confessions in federal criminal prosecutions, which provisions are codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3501 and Two sections of § 3501, sections (a) and (c), appear to address the role of pre-arraignment delay in determining the admissibility of confessions obtained during such delay. 2 The most elaborate, and pertinent, is § 3501(c). That section states that a confession obtained during a pre-arraignment detention "shall not be inadmissible solely because of delay in [arraignment] if such confession is found by the trial judge to have been made voluntarily and if the weight to be given the confession is left to the jury and if such confession was made or given by such person within six hours immediately following his arrest or other detention." The clear effect of this provision is to create a six-hour "safe harbor" during which a confession will not be excludable on the basis of the McNabb- Mallory rule. The section also provides that the permissible time for arraignment is extended "in any case in which the delay in The other section that appears to affect the McNabb- Mallory rule is § 3501(a). This section states that "[i]f the trial judge determines that the confession was voluntarily made it shall be admitted in evidence." If, as this language suggests, the section renders the admissibility of a confession dependent only on its voluntariness, then the McNabb- Mallory rule is eliminated entirely. Although a prolonged detention prior to a confession may weaken a person's will and thereby render a confession involuntary, delay in arraignment (which includes both pre- and post-confession delay) does not necessarily affect the voluntariness with which a confession is given. Further, because involuntary confessions are rendered inadmissible by the Constitution regardless of any additional Rule 5(a) violation, see, e.g., Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206-07, 80 S.Ct. 274, 279-80, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960), McNabb- Mallory would be purely superfluous. In short, § 3501(a) literally construed would make delay in arraignment that violates Rule 5(a) irrelevant to the admissibility of a confession.

                the text of which is set out in the margin. 1  One of the purposes of this enactment was to limit the McNabb- Mallory rule by allowing certain pre-arraignment confessions to be admitted notwithstanding the presence of a Rule 5(a) violation.   See United States v. Halbert, 436 F.2d 1226, 1231 (9th Cir.1970).   Unfortunately, the text of § 3501 is confusing and has given rise to uncertainty and disagreements among the circuits over the proper application of the provision.   See United States v. Perez, 733 F.2d 1026, 1034 (2d Cir.1984) (discreetly describing interpretation of the act as "somewhat murky").   The degree to which the operation of the McNabb- Mallory rule has been curtailed is unquestionably not clear from the plain language of the statute
                [arraignment] is found by the trial judge to be reasonable considering the means of transportation and the distance to be traveled to the nearest available such magistrate or other officer."   Section 3501(c) is designed to allow the McNabb- Mallory rule to operate only when the delay in arraignment exceeds the greater of six hours or the time deemed reasonable by the court in light of the available means of transportation and the distance to the nearest magistrate.   See Perez, 733 F.2d at 1031.   Another way of putting it is that § 3501(c) modified the right to speedy arraignments so that delays of less than six hours or delays that are necessary in light of the logistics involved should be considered reasonable per se, but left unaltered the McNabb- Mallory requirement that all confessions given during an unreasonable delay in arraignment should be suppressed

Section 3501 is one of the many statutes, however, which provide strong evidence of the truth of Judge Learned Hand's simple aphorism that "[t]here is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally." Guiseppi v. Walling, 144 F.2d 608, 624 (2d Cir.1944) (Hand, J., concurring), aff'd, 324 U.S. 244, 65 S.Ct. 605, 89 L.Ed. 921 (1945); see also United States v. Monia, 317 U.S. 424, 431, 63 S.Ct. 409, 412, 87 L.Ed. 376 (1943) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting) ("The notion that because the words of a statute are plain, its meaning is also plain, is merely pernicious oversimplification."). The difficulty with construing § 3501(a)...

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