Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mitchell v. United States

March 02, 2000


Before Farrell, Glickman, and Washington, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glickman, Associate Judge

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Mildred M. Edwards, Trial Judge)

(Submitted October 15, 1999)

In what started as a traffic stop for a minor parking violation, Park Police recovered a pistol, an ammunition clip and marijuana from appellant Carlton Mitchell's car and person. The police also took a series of incriminating statements from Mitchell beginning prior to and continuing after his formal arrest. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Mitchell's motion to suppress this evidence. Mitchell then entered a conditional plea of guilty, *fn1 reserving his right to appeal the adverse rulings on his motion. The issues before us are whether the police violated Mitchell's Fourth Amendment rights in the course of his roadside detention, and whether the police violated Mitchell's Fifth Amendment rights by interrogating him without complying with the requirements of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). We hold that Mitchell's constitutional rights were honored, and that the trial court therefore did not err in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We accordingly affirm Mitchell's criminal convictions.

FACTS *fn2

At about 10:30 p.m. on February 26, 1996, Officer Vincent Gaudioso of the United States Park Police was on his motorcycle en route to the Jefferson Memorial when he noticed Mitchell's white Buick Skylark parked on Ohio Drive in violation of posted no parking signs. Seeing Mitchell alone in the car, apparently passed out or asleep in the driver's seat, Officer Gaudioso tapped on the window. Mitchell rolled down the window. Officer Gaudioso told him that he was illegally parked and asked to see his driver's license and registration. Mitchell produced his license and, in lieu of his registration, title to the car in his name. Officer Gaudioso asked Mitchell if he was "okay," and Mitchell said he had just gotten off work and was tired.

In the course of this exchange, Officer Gaudioso shined his flashlight in the car and observed a three-quarter full bottle of malt liquor in the center console and a box of Phillies blunt cigars on the front passenger seat. Suspecting that the cigars might be used to smoke marijuana, *fn3 Officer Gaudioso next asked Mitchell if he had any marijuana in the car. Mitchell said that he did not. Officer Gaudioso then asked Mitchell to step out of the car, because, the officer testified, "he was in violation with the alcoholic beverage and I was going to search the car and make sure there were no other alcohol beverages in the car." *fn4

Officer Gaudioso testified that as Mitchell was exiting the car, he asked Mitchell again if he had any marijuana - and this time Mitchell pointed to the center console and said "it's over there." The officer testified that after he received this response, he patted Mitchell down and, not finding a weapon on him, directed Mitchell to step to the back of the car and keep his hands on the trunk. According to Mitchell, the sequence was different. Mitchell testified that when he exited the car Officer Gaudioso frisked him first (finding nothing), and then asked him for the second time whether he had marijuana. Mitchell admitted, however, that in response to this question, he answered "yeah, it's right there" on the console. In addition, Mitchell testified that when he made this self-incriminating statement he did not feel that he was under arrest or going to be arrested. *fn5

By this time, a second officer, Officer Padberg, arrived on the scene to back up Officer Gaudioso. According to Officer Gaudioso, "during the course of time I was patting down Mr. Mitchell and walking him to the back of the car, Officer Padberg had reached in and dumped out the alcohol beverage, and also retrieved the ziplock of marijuana." Thus, by Officer Gaudioso's account, Officer Padberg searched the car and found the bag of suspected marijuana after Mitchell admitted to having marijuana in the car. On this point Mitchell agreed: after he told Officer Gaudioso where to find the marijuana, "that's when he searched the car," and "then he got, you know, the weed out."

Officer Gaudioso then searched the front of the car himself. The officer moved aside some cassette tapes in the center console and found a clip to a .380 semiautomatic pistol containing five rounds. Officer Gaudioso returned to the back of the car, put Mitchell in handcuffs and asked him if he had any weapons in the car or on his person. After Mitchell said he did not, Officer Gaudioso testified that he unzipped Mitchell's coat and discovered a .380 semiautomatic pistol inside his waistband. *fn6 According to Mitchell, Officer Gaudioso became very angry and began yelling at him when he discovered the pistol after having overlooked it in his earlier frisk. *fn7

The police transported Mitchell to First District Police headquarters where Officer Gaudioso read him his Miranda rights. Mitchell responded that he did not wish to speak with the police and that he was not willing to answer any questions without an attorney present. He filled out a waiver card accordingly. Nonetheless, over the course of an hour or two while Officer Gaudioso finished processing the arrest, Mitchell made several statements in which he acknowledged his possession of the pistol and ammunition clip. Officer Gaudioso recorded these statements in his notes as Mitchell made them.

According to Officer Gaudioso, as Mitchell was being fingerprinted and before he was warned of his Miranda rights, he commented, "damn I looked for that clip, I looked for that clip for four days now. Where'd you find it at?" After the rights warning, while he was sitting next to Officer Gaudioso who was filling out arrest forms, Mitchell volunteered that the pistol was registered to a friend and "I'd be in the house just practicing how to carry [the weapon] for when I get stopped." Mitchell also stated that he had been charged with first degree murder in 1989, had served eight months in prison, and he started carrying the pistol for self defense after being shot in the legs. Finally, Officer Gaudioso testified that Mitchell commented:

You patted me down but missed it [the gun]. Only checked again because you saw the clip in the car. . . . I didn't admit to gun because D.C. jump-out [i.e., D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Viper Squad] searched me once before, pat me down and missed the jump [i.e., gun]. I didn't say nothing and got away with it. A tip for you, a lot of guys who carry wear layer of clothes and put the jump right in the middle of waistband under clothes. Police pat across waist and miss it. You should pull shirts up . . . . Also pull pants away from body and up. The jump will fall down.

Officer Gaudioso testified that, except for the statement about the 1989 murder charge, Mitchell made these statements spontaneously (i.e., not in response to questions). Mitchell, the officer testified, was "a pretty talkative fellow" and "just started spouting out statements." Mitchell was seated at the time on a wooden bench adjacent to a table where Officer Gaudioso was writing up his reports. Mitchell was not handcuffed because Officer Gaudioso felt he posed no threat and was "compliant" and "friendly." Officer Gaudioso testified that he did not ask Mitchell any questions during the paperwork process about the offenses for which he arrested him or the events of the evening. As Mitchell volunteered his statements, Officer Gaudioso "may have nodded an agreement" or said "yes," "I understand," or "uh huh, uh huh," but, he testified, he did not follow up on Mitchell's statements with questions or comments designed to elicit further admissions. Officer Gaudioso did ask Mitchell for routine biographical information. When he discovered from a records check that ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.