U.S. v. Rodriguez-Suazo

Citation346 F.3d 637
Decision Date06 October 2003
Docket NumberNo. 01-2590.,01-2590.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Alfredo RODRIGUEZ-SUAZO, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

ARGUED: Francisco J. Villarruel, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

Kathleen Moro Nesi, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Francisco J. Villarruel, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

Kathleen Moro Nesi, (argued and briefed), Assistant United States Attorney, Detroit, Michigan, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Francisco J. Villarruel (argued and briefed), Detroit, MI, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before DAUGHTREY, MOORE, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.



Defendant-Appellant Alfredo Rodriguez-Suazo ("Rodriguez-Suazo") appeals from the judgment entered against him after he entered a conditional guilty plea to the following offenses: reentry of deported alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326, fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents and information in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028, and fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546. On appeal, Rodriguez-Suazo argues that the search of his residence was unlawful because the search warrant was not based on probable cause to believe that the items listed in the warrant would be found at the place to be searched. Rodriguez-Suazo also argues that the stop of his vehicle, the search of his vehicle, and his subsequent detention violated the Constitution because the officers lacked probable cause, and they did not have a warrant. Moreover, Rodriguez-Suazo contends that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Rodriguez-Suazo once the traffic stop failed to uncover any evidence of criminal activity. Finally, Rodriguez-Suazo argues that the search warrant affidavit contained intentionally or recklessly false information. Thus, Rodriguez-Suazo contends that anything he said during the search of his home and the search of his person and effects should be suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree. We now AFFIRM the district court's denial of Rodriguez-Suazo's motions to suppress.


On October 31, 2000, the Detroit Police Department arrived at 5492 Florida to execute a search warrant at Rodriguez-Suazo's residence. According to the police, they arrived sometime around 1:00 p.m.1 The search warrant identified 5492 Florida as one of two places to be searched; expressly permitted the search of a 1989 Gray GMC Sierra pickup truck bearing the Michigan license plate number 2615HR; and also authorized the search of a five-foot nine-inch Hispanic male weighing 170 pounds, with black hair and an olive complexion, and going by the name "Alfredo."2 Thus, when the officers arrived at 5492 Florida and observed a man, fitting the warrant's description for individual #2 and driving the GMC truck mentioned therein, the officers followed the truck and stopped it three blocks from that address. Rodriguez-Suazo produced a Michigan driver's license bearing the name Reynaldo Michel Figueroa and admitted that he was an illegal Mexican immigrant. At this point the officers seized Rodriguez-Suazo, seized his wallet and its contents, searched the truck, and confiscated his vehicle. According to Rodriguez-Suazo, he was handcuffed and in police custody for a significant amount of time.3 Rodriguez-Suazo was never read his rights, never shown a warrant, and never told the reason for his detention.

After an unspecified amount of time, the officers returned Rodriguez-Suazo to 5492 Florida where they conducted a search of the premises. The officers possessed a search warrant that was issued in an effort to uncover a drug operation, thus the search warrant included a long list of items to be seized including: all items used in connection with drug offenses, proceeds in connection with drug offenses, passports, vehicle registrations and titles, and records reflecting residences. The home search uncovered a Mexican passport and United States visa with Rodriguez-Suazo's picture and the name Abel Izai Ledezma-Garcia. Eventually, Rodriguez-Suazo admitted that he bought these documents in Mexico for $2,000 and then used them to gain illegal entry intro the United States.

The factual basis for the search warrant came from a confidential informant. On October 30, 2000, the confidential informant told the affiant, Lieutenant Arthur McNamara ("McNamara")4, that based on his observations, a man named Raymie Baraza ("Baraza") used the Proctor address to store his drugs. This same informant told the officers that based on "past observations," Baraza stores a "large amount of narcotic proceeds" at the 5492 Florida location. J.A. at 23-24 (Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Suppress, App. A, Search Warrant-Affidavit). According to the informant, Baraza stored the proceeds where he lived at 5492 Florida. In addition, the confidential informant stated that only the three individuals listed in the search warrant were allowed to enter these premises to conduct narcotic sales. A mere forty-eight hours before the signing of the affidavit and search warrant, the informant accompanied Baraza to the Proctor address so that Baraza could pick up a large amount of cocaine to distribute to another individual.

On November 8, 2000, Rodriguez-Suazo was indicted on three counts: reentry of deported alien, fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents and information, and fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents. Rodriguez-Suazo filed three motions to suppress. Rodriguez-Suazo's first motion sought to suppress the evidence retrieved from the 5492 Florida address and the statements he made during and after the search because the search warrant was not based on probable cause to search him and his home when the issuing magistrate relied on an affidavit with falsified information. Rodriguez-Suazo argued then, and on appeal, that the information relayed by the informant and incorporated into the affidavit was either falsified by the informant or by the affiant, and thus the affiant was not truthful or was reckless in his disregard for the truth by relying on the informant in the affidavit. In an attempt to refute the confidential informant's statements, Rodriguez-Suazo submitted his own affidavit stating that no male individual5 has been to the Florida address who could have possibly observed Rodriguez-Suazo in possession of illegal drugs or large sums of money. The defendant's affidavit also contains a sworn statement that Rodriguez-Suazo does not know anyone named Raymie Baraza. A subsequent motion to suppress argued that the stop of Rodriguez-Suazo while driving in his vehicle and his eventual arrest were unlawful because the police did not have probable cause to search the vehicle or reasonable suspicion to detain Rodriguez-Suazo. That motion aimed to suppress any evidence seized from the vehicle or Rodriguez-Suazo and any statements made by Rodriguez-Suazo to the police. The final motion to suppress focused on the invalidity of the search warrant as it pertained to 5492 Florida. Rodriguez-Suazo claimed that the search warrant was issued without probable cause to believe that the items contained in the warrant would be found at the location named therein. Thus, Rodriguez-Suazo contends that the issuing magistrate abandoned his role as a neutral and detached judicial officer by issuing this entirely unsupported warrant. In the alternative, defendant argues that, despite the magistrate's authorization, no reasonable police officer would have relied on this unsubstantiated warrant.

Rodriguez-Suazo requested an evidentiary hearing to pursue these arguments further. The district court denied his request for an evidentiary hearing and suppression motions but preserved its right to reevaluate its decision if Rodriguez-Suazo could make a proffer that the police officers did not have a warrant at the time of their stop and search of Rodriguez-Suazo.6 The district court also suggested that even if Rodriguez-Suazo could show that the officers did not have a warrant at the time of these events, the government nonetheless could satisfy the probable cause requirement if the officers knew of the warrant's contents when they searched Rodriguez-Suazo and his home.7

After he was unsuccessful in his motions to suppress evidence, Rodriguez-Suazo, pursuant to a conditional Rule 11 Plea Agreement, pleaded guilty to all three counts in the indictment. Ultimately, Rodriguez-Suazo was adjudicated guilty on each count, and on November 14, 2001, he was sentenced to twenty months' imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently. Rodriguez-Suazo now timely appeals from the district court's judgment and its order denying his motions to suppress.

A. Standard of Review

When reviewing a district court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we review the factual findings for clear error and the legal conclusions as to the existence of probable cause de novo. United States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 264 (6th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1176, 120 S.Ct. 1207, 145 L.Ed.2d 1110 (2000). "It is well settled that in seeking suppression of evidence the burden of proof is upon the defendant to display a violation of some constitutional or statutory right justifying suppression." United States v. Feldman, 606 F.2d 673, 679 n. 11 (6th Cir.1979). "When reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the government." United States v. Garza, 10 F.3d 1241, 1245 (6th Cir.1993).

The standard of review for determining the sufficiency of the affidavit "is whether the magistrate had a substantial basis for finding that the affidavit established probable cause to believe that the evidence...

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