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United States v. Scott

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 6, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TYREN SCOTT

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 18), seeking to exclude at trial post-Miranda statements regarding the possession of a firearm. Defendant asks the Court to make a factual determination as to the level of his intoxication at the time of his interrogation, and to rule that his post-Miranda statements were involuntary and inadmissible under Miranda v, Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 24, 2019, Defendant was arrested by Baton Rouge Police Officer Brian Roy. Officer Roy testified that he received a dispatch call reporting a black male who was found asleep behind the wheel of a 2007 silver Honda Civic, and that the vehicle was obstructing the roadway at the intersection of North Harrell's Ferry Road and Sherwood Forest Boulevard. Officer Roy approached the vehicle and saw Defendant asleep in the driver's seat. Officer Roy reached through the window and turned off the car, then instructed Defendant to step out of the vehicle to ensure that Defendant was not having a medical event.

         After Defendant stepped out of the vehicle, Baton Rouge Fireman Zachary Bushnell, who had arrived on the scene with EMS, observed Defendant reach towards the floorboard of the vehicle in an attempt to retrieve a gun. Fireman Bushnell grabbed the gun and passed it to another fireman. Another Baton Rouge police officer, Timothy Tucker, arrived on the scene and took possession of the gun.

         Defendant was handcuffed, searched, and placed in the Officer Tucker's patrol car while the officers checked and secured the gun. Officer Tucker later transferred Defendant to Officer Roy's patrol car where Officer Roy gave Defendant his Miranda rights. Officer Roy claims that before he gave the rights, he asked Defendant if he could understand him, to which Defendant replied "yes sir." When asked whether Defendant understood his Miranda rights, Officer Roy claims the Defendant repeatedly answered, "yes sir."

         Officer Roy continued to question Defendant as he sat in the patrol car. In Defendant's post-Miranda statements, he stated that the vehicle belonged to his girlfriend and that he was not reaching for the gun. When asked who the gun belonged to, Defendant claimed that he found the gun near Sherwood Forest Boulevard two weeks prior. Defendant was later transferred to another patrol car. Officer Roy claims that Defendant made the following post-Miranda warning statement: "I promise I wasn't trying to reach for no gun. If that's the case, I would have came [sic] out with the gun... I'm just minding my own business. I had that for my safety. I'm. not trying to hurt nobody or nothing." Officer Roy claims that Defendant later admitted to him that he took Xanax about three hours before the incident and insisted that he was no longer feeling the effects of the drug and had not taken any other drugs. Defendant allegedly proceeded to answer additional questions in which he indicated that he was aware of his surroundings and understood where he was.

         On June 6, 2019, Defendant was indicted for one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1). Defendant asks the Court to make a factual determination as to his level of intoxication at the time of his interrogation and to rule that his statements were involuntary and inadmissible under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Motion to Suppress on October 30, 2019.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendant admitted to officers that he had consumed Xanax prior to losing consciousness behind the wheel. He argues that once he regained consciousness, he was not of sound and sober mind while making the post-Miranda statements. Defendant cites to United States v. Taylor, 508 F.2d 761 (5th Cir. 1975) in arguing that when a "defendant was so affected as to make his statement, after appropriate warnings, unreliable or involuntary" due to intoxication, then the proper remedy is suppression of the challenged statement. See Id. at 763. The Government contends that the facts of this case do not support suppression of Defendant's statements because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals explained in Taylor that "the mere fact that the defendant had taken drugs prior to giving the statement does not render it inadmissible." Id. at 763. The Government ultimately requests that the Court deny Defendant's Motion to Suppress because Defendant waived his Miranda rights and his subsequent statements were voluntary.

         A. The Validity of Defendant's Waiver of Miranda Rights

         Under Miranda, a defendant's waiver of the right to remain silent must be made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). A valid Miranda waiver requires two components: (1) the relinquishment of the right must have been voluntary in the sense that it was the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or deception, and (2) the waiver must have been made with a full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it. United States v. Ream, 563 F.3d 95, 104 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Cardenas, 410 F.3d 287, 293 (5th Cir. 2005). The burden is on the Government to prove a valid waiver of these rights and that the subsequent confession was voluntary by a preponderance of the evidence. Colorado v. Connelly, 479, U.S. 157, 168, 107 S.Ct. 515 (1986). The Court must employ a totality of the circumstances test to assess whether Defendant's waiver was valid. United States v. Foy, 28 F.3d 464, 474 (5th Cir. 1994).

         For a confession to be admissible at trial, the Government must show that a defendant was informed of his Miranda rights and that his waiver thereof and the resultant confession were the product of a free and deliberate choice. United States v. Collins, 40 F.3d 95, 98 (5th Cir. 1994). The waiver also must be free of government coercion. See United States v. Raymer, 876 F.2d 383 (5th Cir. 1989). When the Court employs the totality of the circumstances test to assess whether Defendant's waiver was valid, it must consider the element of government coercion. See Id. at 387. Defendant did not assert coercion to support his motion to suppress his statements, nor did he allege any facts that could be considered by the Court to be coercion. At the evidentiary hearing, none of the evidence presented revealed that any form of government coercion was used to induce Defendant's statements. Audio and video evidence showed that the Defendant answered officers' questions in a manner that seemed to be voluntary. No. threats or menacing conduct by the officer has been alleged by the Defendant. Thus, the Court finds that Defendant's post-Miranda statements were the result of voluntary and deliberate choice free of government coercion.

         For the second element, the Government must show that Defendant made the waiver with the full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it. Defendant argues that his consumption of Xanax prior to his arrest rendered him intoxicated to the point that his statements were involuntary. A confession may be involuntary if the defendant is so intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs that the confession is not rationally and freely given. United States v. Blake, 481 Fed.Appx 961, 962 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Kreczmer,636 F.2d 108, 110 (5th Cir. 1981). However, the mere fact that a defendant had taken drugs prior to giving the statement does not necessarily render the statement inadmissible. United States v. Taylor,508 F.2d 761, 763 (5th Cir. 1975). The evidence must show that defendant was so affected as to make his statement, after appropriate warnings, unreliable or involuntary. Id. The Court is required to consider several factors in this analysis, including whether a defendant showed signs of intoxication, cooperativeness and alertness during questioning, the amount of detail in a defendant's answer, whether the officers believed the defendant to be aware and reasonable during questioning, whether defendant indicated that he understood his Miranda rights, and whether defendant responded ...


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