U.S. v. Melendez Santiago, Case No. 05-302 (DRD).

Decision Date20 July 2007
Docket NumberCase No. 05-302 (DRD).
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff v. Elkin MELENDEZ SANTIAGO, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
544 F.Supp.2d 76
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff
Case No. 05-302 (DRD).
United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.
July 20, 2007.

Jorge L. Armenteros-Chervoni, Luis R. Rivera-Rodriguez, Luis Rafael Rivera Law Office, San Juan, PR, for Defendant.

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Ernesto G. Lopez-Soltero, United States Attorney's Office, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiff.


DANIEL R. DOMINGUEZ, District Judge.


Pending before the Court is defendant, Elkin Melendez Santiago's Motion to Suppress (Docket No. 73) and plaintiff, the United States of America's Sealed Motion in Opposition (Docket No. 84). On February 27, 2007 and April 10, 2007, the Court held suppression hearings pertaining to said aforementioned motions. Thereafter, on April 16, 2007 the United States filed its Brief Regarding the Evidentiary Hearing on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements (Docket No. 273) and on May 3, 2007 the defendant, Elkin Melendez Santiago, filed a Rebuttal of Government's Motion Regarding Admissibility of Statements of Defendant Melendez Santiago (Docket No. 285).

The United States avers that FBI agents do not have to re-advise the Defendant of his Miranda rights once the Defendant has intelligently waived them. Pursuant to United States v. Marenghi, 109 F.3d 28, 31-32 (1st Cir.1997), the United States avers that "[w]hen law enforcement officials do not deliberately engage in coercive or improper tactics in obtaining an initial statement, but rather fail to advise a defendant of his or her Miranda warnings, a court's task in determining the admissibility of a subsequent statement is relatively straight forward." In order for a statement to be admissible under said scenario, the Defendant must have been "(1) advised of his or her Miranda rights; and (2) knowingly and voluntarily waive those rights." See Id. The United States alleges that in the instant case, the statements provided by the Defendant were provided after he was advised of his Miranda rights and knowingly and voluntarily waived them. Notwithstanding said fact, the United States contends that the Defendant instead of insisting that his statements were coerced or provided without his knowledge, the Defendant testified that he never gave such statements to the agents. Therefore, the United States avers that the matter has became a credibility issue. Moreover, the United States contends that although it has been decided that there is no requirement that an accused be continually reminded of his Miranda rights, it has also been decided that once their rights are given, they may become stale at one point or another. Notwithstanding, although there is no fixed time-frame set by the First Circuit or the Supreme Court, as to when the Miranda warnings might become stale, the United States avers that a delay of 24 hours does not render the Miranda warnings stale. In conclusion, the United States alleges that since the Defendant's initial and subsequent statements were voluntarily and knowingly made, they should be admitted. Furthermore, the United States contends that not only have they met their burden of proof in proving the admissibility of Defendant's statements, but the Defendant has failed to support the claim that his constitutional rights were violated and therefore his alleged statements should be suppressed. For said reasons, the United States requests the Court to DENY Defendant's Motion for Suppression (Docket No. 73).

On the other hand, the Defendant contends through counsel that the statements that he allegedly made should be suppressed under several legal grounds. First, the Defendant states that the facts stated by the agents are not only "preposterous" but they are contradicted by documental

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evidence. Defendant avers that not only does agent Berrios allege that the initial appearance took place after lunch, instead of 11:50 a.m., as stated in the pretrial services officer's notes, but his testimony could not be corroborated because he failed to take notes during such an important investigation. Furthermore, Defendant avers that although he was at the DEA facilities with all the necessary equipment in order to record, tape, or adopt the Defendants admissions, the agents failed to record, tape or sign the alleged statements. Moreover, the Defendant contends that if the Court decides not to believe Defendant's version of the facts, then the Court should be compelled to suppress the alleged statements, given the Constitutional 6th Amendment violation. Defendant alleges that since the alleged statements and intent to cooperate, materialized after Defendant's initial appearance, the Defendant needed a lawyer. Defendant further contends that being the initial appearance a critical stage of the proceedings, a lawyer should be appointed for the Defendant. Notwithstanding said fact, the Defendant alleges that his request for an attorney went unheeded. For said reason, the Defendant avers that the agents violated his Constitutional right to counsel by failing to provide representation after the Defendant had requested the same and by the FBI agents continuing to question the Defendant and engage in conversation directly related to the instant case. Therefore, Defendant requests the Court to GRANT the pending Motion to Suppress (Docket No. 73).


It has been well established that Miranda warnings must be communicated to a suspect before he is subjected to "custodial interrogation". U.S. v. Ventura, 85 F.3d 708, 710 (1st Cir.1996). In other words, "[u]nder Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 479, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), evidence obtained as a result of police interrogation prior to the defendant being read his 'Miranda rights' cannot generally be used against the defendant in the prosecution's case in chief." See U.S. v. Materas, 483 F.3d 27, 32 (1st Cir.2007)(emphasis ours ). "The Court in Miranda noted that the term `custodial interrogation' signified `questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.'" See Locke v. Cattell, 476 F.3d 46, 51 (1st Cir.2007)(quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602). The "custodial interrogation" inquiry necessary demands the determination of its two subsidiary components: 1) custody, and 2) interrogation. See Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292, 297, 110 S.Ct. 2394, 2397, 2398, 110 L.Ed.2d 243 (1990)(standing for the proposition that "[i]t is Miranda's premise that the danger of coercion results from the interaction of custody and official interrogation")(emphasis ours). The custody determination is the initial, and generally, the central inquiry: it is the touchstone to the need for Miranda warnings. See U.S. v. Quinn, 815 F.2d 153, 160 (1st Cir.1987). The ultimate determination as to custody is "whether there was a formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the degree associated with a formal arrest." See Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 100, 116 S.Ct. 457, 465, 133 L.Ed.2d 383 (1995)(quoting California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517, 3520, 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983))(internal quotations omitted). In order to ascertain said ultimate determination, there are two essential inquires that need to be assessed. See Id.

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The first inquiry — i.e., what circumstances surrounded the interrogation-is distinctly factual and state-court findings in response to that inquiry attract a presumption of correctness under § 2254(d). The second inquiry — i.e., would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave-calls for application of the controlling legal standard to the historical facts and thus presents a "mixed question of law and fact" qualifying for independent review.

See Id.

The second component of "custodial interrogation" is, of course, the interrogation. Interrogation refers to both express questioning and its "functional equivalent", which includes "any words or actions on the part of the police (other than those normally attendant to arrest and custody) that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect". See Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980). Again the inquiry is objective: how would the officer's statements and conduct be perceived by a reasonable person in the same circumstances? See U.S. v. Taylor, 985 F.2d 3, 7 (1st Cir.1993). The latter portion of this definition focuses primarily upon the perceptions of the suspect, rather than the intent of the police. This focus reflects the fact that the Miranda safeguards were designed to vest a suspect in custody with an added measure of protection against coercive police practices, without regard to objective proof of the underlying intent of the police. See Rhode Island, 446 U.S. at 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682.

On the other hand, case law authority has created a well known exception to the Miranda rule for "routine booking interrogation", involving questions related to the suspect's name, address and related matters. See U.S. v. Disla, 805 F.2d 1340, 1347 (9th Cir.1986). The case law has held that these questions, even when asked for arrest, rarely elicit incriminating responses because they serve an administrative need. See U.S. ex rel. Hines v. La Vallee, 521 F.2d 1109, 1112 (2nd Cir. 1975)(cert. denied sub nom.). However, this exception does not apply when the law enforcement officer, under the camouflage of asking background information, seeks information that may incriminate. See U.S. v. Mata-Abundiz, 717 F.2d 1277, 1280 (9th Cir.1983).

Furthermore, the First Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that

When law enforcement officials do not deliberately engage in coercive or improper tactics in obtaining an initial statement, but rather only fail to advise...

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  • U.S. v. MelÉndez–santiago
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 30, 2011
    ...conspiracy, justifying a sentence enhancement. Meléndez was a cocaine addict who used cocaine daily, United States v. Melendez Santiago, 544 F.Supp.2d 76, 83 (D.P.R.2007) ( Melendez II ), but he had no prior criminal record. He was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment, which was less than ......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 30, 2011
    ...conspiracy, justifying a sentence enhancement. Meléndez was a cocaine addict who used cocaine daily, United States v. Melendez Santiago, 544 F. Supp. 2d 76, 83 (D.P.R. 2007) (Melendez II), but he had no prior criminal record. He was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment, which was less than......

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