United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Crites-Leoni United States Magistrate Judge
matter was referred to the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Pending
before the undersigned is Defendant Oscar
Dominguez-Chaidez' Motion to Suppress (Docs. 23 and 26)
evidence and statements that were obtained on March 29 and
requests that the Court suppress any and all statements made
by him to law enforcement officers, as well as any physical
evidence seized, including a firearm. Chaidez claims that the
“statements were obtained in violation of his rights
under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of
the United States and procedures guaranteed by Miranda v.
Arizona and its progeny.” (Doc. 23 at 1; Doc. 26
at 1.) As to any physical evidence seized, Chaidez alleges it
was seized “without a warrant, probable cause, consent,
or other excuse and was from an area in which he had a
reasonable expectation of privacy. Id. Chaidez
claims “[t]here was no credible evidence to believe [ ]
Chaidez' constitutional rights were not violated by
searching his vehicle without consent, or that any other
warrantless search exception applied.” (Doc. 32 at 1.)
Chaidez failed to identify any supporting facts from the
record to support his contention.
Government filed a detailed Brief in opposition to the
Motion. (Doc. 25.) The Government asserts that the statements
Chaidez made to law enforcement officers were voluntary.
Alternatively, the Government argues that Officer Blagg's
question to Chaidez regarding whether he had a firearm was
permitted under the “public safety” exception to
the Miranda rule. Finally, the Government argues
that the firearm in this case was seized based on
Chaidez' voluntary consent to the search of his truck,
thus any evidence seized during the scope of that search,
including the firearm, should be admissible at trial. As an
alternative argument, the Government asserts that in the
absence of consent and based on the facts and circumstances
of the case, Officer Blagg could have conducted a warrantless
search of the truck under the automobile exception to the
evidentiary hearing was held on June 14, 2016. Two
Caruthersville Police Department Officers testified at the
hearing, Officer Chris Blagg and Officer Paul Meacham. Both
officers were cross-examined extensively by defense counsel.
on all the pleadings, the testimony and evidence adduced at
the hearing and having had the opportunity to observe the
demeanor and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, the
undersigned recommends that the following findings of fact
and conclusions of law be adopted and that the Motion to
Suppress be denied.
Findings of Fact
March 29, 2016, around 1:16 p.m., Officer Blagg of the
Caruthersville Police Department was on duty and dispatched
to 411 Taven Apartments for a report of a domestic
disturbance involving a man armed with a gun. Three
adult bystanders in front of the apartment indicated they had
observed a man waving a firearm while standing in the open
doorway of Apartment 411 and that a woman was inside the
apartment when the man was waving the firearm. When Officer
Blagg spoke to the bystanders, the door to Apartment 411 was
closed. He knocked on the door. As he did so, he had his gun
drawn at his side. Kathy Schoolcraft answered the door and
Chaidez was observed standing inside the apartment along with
three children. Officer Blagg had prior experience responding
to domestic calls involving Schoolcraft and other men.
on the nature of the call and the statements of the
bystanders, Officer Blagg was concerned for the safety of the
public and his own safety. He asked Chaidez and Schoolcraft
if anyone had a weapon. Schoolcraft invited Officer Blagg in
the apartment and explained that she and Chaidez had a verbal
altercation. Officer Blagg conducted a pat down search of
Chaidez and did not find any weapons on his person. Chaidez
indicated that he did not have a weapon on his person rather
it was in his truck. Chaidez volunteered to get the gun for
Officer Blagg; he went outside to his truck which was parked
right in front of the apartment.
Blagg followed Chaidez to the truck. After Chaidez opened the
truck door he started to reach inside to recover the firearm.
At that point, Officer Blagg asked Chaidez to please allow
him to retrieve it. Officer Blagg was still concerned for his
safety and the safety of others. Chaidez backed away from the
truck and told Officer Blagg that the firearm was in the
console of the truck in a bag. Officer Blagg found the bag in
the console; it contained a .45 caliber handgun. Officer
Blagg seized the firearm due to the nature of the incident
and the fact it could be evidence of a crime.
Officer Blagg recovered the handgun, Chaidez told Officer
Blagg that he was nervous because he is not a U.S. citizen
and he did not know if he was allowed to possess the firearm.
Officer Blagg replied that he was not familiar with
immigration laws and would have to check on it. The
information related to Chaidez' citizenship was
volunteered and not in response to any question asked by
pair returned to the apartment and Schoolcraft was sitting on
the couch. Officer Blagg asked Schoolcraft if Chaidez had
pulled a gun on her and Schoolcraft stated that the
altercation was only verbal. She indicated the fight was over
her infidelity while Chaidez was away. Officer Blagg advised
the couple of Missouri's 12-hour Rule that applies in
domestic situations and requires couples who are involved in
domestic disputes to be apart for at least twelve hours as a
“cool down” period. Chaidez volunteered to be the
person to leave. Both Chaidez and Officer Blagg left the
leaving the apartment, Officer Blagg returned to the police
department. Chaidez followed him there. The men smoked
cigarettes together at the police department. Chaidez wanted
to know when he would be able to pick up his gun and he made
other incriminating statements. Officer Blagg reiterated that
he would have to do some checking before he would be able to
return the gun to Chaidez.
next day, Chaidez returned to the police department and
approached Officer Paul Meacham about whether the gun would
be returned to him. Chaidez again made incriminating
statements. Officer Meacham explained that he would have to
do some checking before the firearm could be returned.
Officer Meacham asked Chaidez to leave his phone number so
that he could call Chaidez when more information was
Meacham communicated with officers from the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, as well as Immigration and
Customs Enforcement. He learned that it was unlawful for an
illegal alien such as Chaidez to possess the firearm. During
the first couple weeks of April, 2015, Officer Meacham had
approximately six phone conversations with Chaidez. Chaidez
initiated all of the calls except the first one, which
Officer Meacham made to advise Chaidez the firearm could not
be returned to him. During a number of the calls Chaidez
asked whether he should hire a lawyer. Officer Meacham told
Chaidez that he was not allowed to give him legal advice and
that Chaidez would have to make that decision himself.
testimony of both officers was informative and forthright.
Both were subjected to cross-examination by defense counsel.
The undersigned finds that the testimony of the
officers--regarding the circumstances under which Chaidez
volunteered to show Officer Blagg the location of the
firearm, as well as the other statements Chaidez made to both
officers--was consistent and credible.
now moves to suppress all of his statements and the firearm
that was seized from his truck.
Conclusions of Law
A. The Defendant's statements are ...