United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge
executing a search warrant for defendant Samiro Fuentez'
room as part of an unrelated criminal investigation,
Metropolitan Police Department officers found a pistol in a
gun box at the bottom of a large laundry bag. The officers
seized the pistol. Several months later, they arrested Mr.
Fuentez on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm. Mr.
Fuentez now moves to suppress the pistol as the product of a
warrantless seizure, as well as incriminating statements made
after his arrest that the government would reserve for
impeachment. Because the pistol was evidence of a crime and
because his statements were uncoerced, the Court will deny
his motion to suppress the pistol and grant in part and deny
in part his motion to suppress his statements.
course of investigating an alleged sexual assault, the
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) obtained a valid search
warrant on November 17, 2017, to search the two-story
townhome in Northeast where Mr. Fuentez lived with his
family, including minor children. MPD officers executed that
warrant four days later, on the morning of November 21, 2017.
were particularly interested in Mr. Fuentez' bedroom and
with collecting biological, electronic, and documentary
evidence related to the alleged assault. To that end, the
Processing of the crime scene and the collection of evidence,
[t]o include photography and diagrams. The collection of DNA,
bedding to include gray blanket, washcloths, towels, napkins,
all cellular phones, computers, electronic tablets, cameras
and video recording equipment, documents that would link
Samiro Fuentez to the other suspects in this crime.
Fuentez was not present for the beginning of the search but
his room was identified by his mother.
the officers entered Mr. Fuentez' room they saw a Glock
magazine speed loader on a bedroom bureau and a box of
ammunition atop a nearby radiator. While searching for
biological materials consistent with the warrant the officers
also emptied several large laundry bags, in one of which they
found an unlocked gun box with the Glock logo printed on the
side. Inside the box was a 9mm Glock 43 pistol with one round
in the magazine. Cf. United States v. Taylor, 497
F.3d 673, 680 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (“We accordingly
reaffirm that gun cases and similar containers support no
reasonable expectation of privacy if their contents can be
inferred from their outward appearance.”). The officers
seized the pistol.
Mr. Fuentez had a prior felony, he could not legally possess
a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); D.C. Code §
22-4503. On this basis, MPD obtained an arrest warrant for
Mr. Fuentez on May 30, 2018, which they executed without
incident on June 3, 2018. Mr. Fuentez was then taken to MPD
headquarters where he invoked his Miranda rights.
However, as two MPD officers were walking Mr. Fuentez to his
cell, the three got to talking. At some point during the
conversation the officers mentioned that Mr. Fuentez'
home had been shot at that morning and asked Mr. Fuentez
“what he was going to do about it.” Mot. to
Suppress Statements [Dkt. 17] at 1 (quoting discovery
disclosures). Mr. Fuentez responded, “That's why I
need my gun back.” Id.
Fuentez now moves to suppress the pistol and derivative
evidence, as well as his statement. The government opposes.
The Court held a hearing on November 8, 2019, and received
post-hearing supplemental briefing from the parties. The
motions are ripe for review.
Fourth Amendment guarantees “[t]he right of the people
to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. “Time and again” the Supreme
Court “has observed that searches and seizures
conducted outside the judicial process, without prior
approval by judge or magistrate, are per se
unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment-subject only to a few
specifically established and well delineated
exceptions.” Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S.
366, 372 (1993).
such exception to the warrant requirement is the plain view
doctrine. “It is well established that under certain
circumstances the police may seize evidence in plain view
without a warrant.” Coolidge v. New Hampshire,
403 U.S. 443, 465 (1971). But this exception has conditions.
For example, “not only must the item be in plain view;
its incriminating character must also be ‘immediately
apparent.'” Horton v. California, 496 U.S.
128, 136 (1990) (quoting Coolidge, 403 U.S. at 466).
That is to ...