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United States v. Diaz-Quintana

February 6, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Daniel L. Hovland, Chief Judge United States District Court


Before the Court is the Defendant's motion to suppress evidence filed on November 14, 2008. See Docket No. 19. On December 3, 2008, the Government filed a response in opposition to the motion. See Docket No. 26. The Defendant filed a reply brief on December 15, 2008. See Docket No. 27. The Court denies the motion for the reasons set forth below.


On August 22, 2008, the defendant, Fidel Diaz-Quintana, was driving westbound on Interstate 94 near Dickinson, North Dakota when he was pulled over at 2:33 p.m. by North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Christopher Messer for driving 88 mph in a 75 mph zone. Diaz-Quintana was driving a 2003 Jaguar with Washington license plates. His adult son was a passenger in the vehicle. Trooper Messer, an eight-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, requested Diaz-Quintana's driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Diaz-Quintana produced a Mexican driver's license bearing the name "Fidel Diaz-Quintana" and informed Trooper Messer that his passport and visa were in Washington. Diaz-Quintana failed to provide any documentation of his legal status in the United States. He told Trooper Messer that the vehicle belonged to a relative and that he and his son were returning to Washington after attending a funeral in Grafton, North Dakota. Trooper Messer contacted the United States Border Patrol at 2:46 p.m. to determine Diaz-Quintana's immigration status because he was unable to verify the validity of the Mexican driver's license. Trooper Messer was informed that a Border Patrol Agent would contact him.

Based on his training and experience, Trooper Messer noticed several indicators of criminal activity during the traffic stop: the vehicle did not belong to the driver or passenger; the vehicle had out-of-state license plates; and the trip was short in duration for the long distance covered. Because of these indicators, Trooper Messer asked North Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Shawn Skogen to have his drug-detecting dog inspect the vehicle. Trooper Skogen arrived at 2:53 p.m. and had his dog inspect the vehicle. At 2:58 p.m., Border Patrol Agent Mark Bane called Trooper Messer and talked with Diaz-Quintana. Diaz-Quintana identified himself as "Fidel Diaz-Quintana," a Mexican national, and stated that he entered the United States legally with a Mexican passport. Agent Bane informed Trooper Messer that he would investigate the status of Diaz-Quintana's visa and passport. Agent Bane's record check, using Diaz-Quintana's name and date of birth, did not return any immigration history or port-of-entry crossing or visa information.

As Trooper Skogen's drug-detecting dog inspected the vehicle, Trooper Messer issued DiazQuintana a speeding citation. The dog did not detect any drugs. At 3:10 p.m., Agent Bane called Trooper Messer and again spoke with Diaz-Quintana. Diaz-Quintana confirmed that he had used the name "Fidel Diaz-Quintana" on his visa application. Agent Bane performed another record check that did not return any immigration history or port-of-entry crossing or visa information. At 3:20 p.m., Agent Bane instructed Trooper Messer to transport Diaz-Quintana to the Stark County Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson, North Dakota so that a Border Patrol official could travel to Dickinson and take custody of him. Trooper Messer took Diaz-Quintana into administrative custody and transported him to the law enforcement center, where he was booked and fingerprinted at 3:48 p.m.

On August 23, 2008, at approximately 11:00 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Benjamin Lotvedt arrived at the Stark County Law Enforcement Center and subsequently transported Diaz-Quintana to the Border Patrol station in Portal, North Dakota for administrative processing. Agent Lotvedt fingerprinted Diaz-Quintana and inquired about basic biographical information, such as his name, date and place of birth, parents' names, and address in Mexico. At 3:30 p.m., Diaz-Quintana was advised of his right to speak with a Mexican consular official. He declined to do so. An analysis of Diaz-Quintana's fingerprints indicated prior criminal and immigration history under the name "Saul Rojo-Flores." The criminal history revealed a 1989 conviction for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and a 1996 conviction for unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The immigration history revealed deportation proceedings initiated on January 19, 1990, and August 21, 1996.

Upon the discovery of Diaz-Quintana's criminal and immigration history, Agent Lotvedt placed Diaz-Quintana under arrest and advised him of his Miranda rights in English at 5:30 p.m. Diaz-Quintana stated that he understood his rights and agreed to answer questions. Diaz-Quintana told Agent Lotvedt that he had previously been ordered to be removed from the United States; that on or about May 1, 2008, he re-entered the United States through the port-of-entry in San Ysidro, California, with a valid Mexican passport; and that he did not apply to the United States Attorney General for permission to re-enter the United States. There is no record of Diaz-Quintana or "Saul Rojo-Flores" entering a port-of-entry with a valid Mexican passport in the past year. There are no records that indicate Diaz-Quintana or "Saul Rojo-Flores" had ever applied for or been granted permission to re-enter the United States.

Diaz-Quintana was indicted on September 23, 2008, with "Re-entry of Deported Alien Subsequent to Prior Aggravated Felony Conviction." See Docket No. 13. The indictment alleges that Diaz-Quintana, an alien who had been previously deported and removed from the United States subsequent to an aggravated felony conviction, knowingly and unlawfully entered and was found in the United States without first obtaining the consent of the Attorney General of the United States or his successor, the Secretary for Homeland Security, to reapply for admission into the United States.

Diaz-Quintana moves the Court "to find that there was an unlawful and unconstitutional seizure . . . in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that any and all statements made to the border patrol, as well as fingerprints and any other evidence pertaining to the defendant's identity, secured following the unconstitutional seizure be suppressed as violative" of the Defendant's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. See Docket No. 20. Diaz-Quintana contends that he was unlawfully detained at the Stark County Law Enforcement Center in Dickinson, North Dakota, and the Border Patrol station in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because he was interrogated while unlawfully held in custody and before being read his Miranda rights. Diaz-Quintana argues that his statements to Agent Lotvedt were the fruit of a Fourth Amendment violation and, therefore, must be suppressed.

The Government contends that reasonable suspicion existed with respect to non-criminal violations of immigration laws and, therefore, the Border Patrol properly initiated a civil administrative seizure of Diaz-Quintana which legally developed into probable cause to believe a crime had been committed. The Government argues that once the Border Patrol learned that there was no port-of-entry crossing or visa information that pertained to Diaz-Quintana, there was reason to believe that Diaz-Quintana was in the United States illegally. The Government contends that the information gathered by Trooper Messer and Agents Bane and Lotvedt was obtained as part of an administrative deportation process and is admissible in a criminal proceeding. The Government further contends that once Agent Lotvedt had probable cause to believe that Diaz-Quintana had a criminal history and had been previously deported, Agent Lotvedt properly read Diaz-Quintana his Miranda rights. Therefore, Diaz-Quintana's post-Miranda statements are admissible.



The United States Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. United States v. Fuse, 391 F.3d 924, 927 (8th Cir. 2004). A traffic stop is considered a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The principles of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968) (holding that a law enforcement officer may conduct an investigation "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place"), govern such stops. See Fuse, 391 F.3d at 927. "[A] traffic 'stop must be supported by at least a ...

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