United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
G. Byron, Judge
cause is before the Court on Defendant Ronald Hill's
Motion to Suppress Statements (Doc. 28), and Motion to
Suppress Evidence (Doc. 35). The Government has submitted
Responses in Opposition to the Defendant's motions.
(Docs. 34, 42). Upon due consideration, and with the benefit
of an evidentiary hearing held on July 2, 2019,
Defendant's Motions to Suppress are Denied.
November 12, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(“FBI”) used a peer-to-peer file-sharing program
to download images and videos of child pornography from a
computer using an IP address belonging to the Defendant.
(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 4-5). On December 4, 2018, FBI Special
Agent (“SA”) Kevin Kaufman submitted an
application and an affidavit in support of a search warrant
to Magistrate Judge Spaulding. (Doc. 42-1, pp. 9-37). That
same day, Magistrate Judge Spaulding issued a Search and
Seizure Warrant. (Id. at p. 2). The FBI, accompanied
by local law enforcement, executed the search warrant on
December 6, 2018. (Doc. 1, ¶ 10). The Defendant moves to
suppress incriminating statements made to SA Kaufman and SA
Rod Hyre and incriminating evidence recovered from his
MOTION TO SUPPRESS STATEMENTS
Hill argues that his statements to the FBI should be
suppressed because he was subjected to custodial questioning
without the advisement of Miranda warnings, and his
statements were not voluntary. (Doc. 28, p. 4). The
Government characterizes the interview as non-custodial and
voluntary. (Doc. 34, p. 7).
suspect is entitled to Miranda warnings when
interrogated while in custody because such circumstances are
presumed to exert pressure on the suspect to speak.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).
“[T]he ultimate inquiry is simply whether there is a
formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement of the
degree associated with a formal arrest.” Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 662 (2004) (quoting
California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983)).
That is, to find the questioning to have occurred in a
custodial setting, the Court must find that a reasonable
person in Mr. Hill's position would feel both
“constrained not to leave” and that his
“freedom of actions [was] curtailed to a degree
associated with formal arrest.” United States
v. Luna-Encinas, 603 F.3d 876, 881 (11th Cir. 2010)
(emphasis in original). The test employed by the Court is
objective; the subjective beliefs of either the defendant or
the interviewing officer on whether the defendant is free to
leave or is under arrest are irrelevant. United States v.
Moya, 74 F.3d 1117, 1119 (11th Cir. 1996). The only
relevant inquiry is how a reasonable person in the
defendant's position would have understood the situation.
Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 442 (1984).
Courts must examine all of the circumstances surrounding the
interrogation, and no particular fact in the analysis is
dispositive. United States v. Brown, 441
F.3d 1330, 1349 (11th Cir. 2006). However, the Court should
consider the defendant's age, education, intelligence,
the duration and nature of the detention and questioning, and
the lack of any advice to the accused of his constitutional
rights. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226
factors for the Court to consider include whether the
defendant is told he is not under arrest and is free to
leave. United States v. Brown, 441 F.3d 1330, 1347
(11th Cir. 2006). In Brown, the Eleventh Circuit
advising a defendant that he is free to leave and is not in
custody is a powerful factor in the mix, and generally will
lead to the conclusion that the defendant is not in
custody absent a finding of restraints that are “so
extensive that telling the suspect he was free to leave could
not cure the custodial aspect of the interview.”
Id. (quoting United States v. Muegge, 225
F.3d 1267, 1271 (11th Cir. 2000)).
Courts are “much less likely to find the circumstances
custodial when the interrogation occurs in a familiar or at
least neutral surroundings, such as the suspect's
home.” Id. The Eleventh Circuit in
Luna-Encinas further instruct trial courts to
consider whether officers brandished weapons, touched the
suspect, or used language or tone that indicate compliance
with the offier's directives could be compelled, as well
as the duration of the detention. Luna-Encinas, 603
F.3d at 882.
instant case, the officers approached Defendant's home
and knocked on his door in a customary manner, as opposed to
banging on the door. SA Kaufman announced in a conversational
tone “Police, Come to the door. Police. Come to the
door.” (Ex. 2(a), p. 1, line 13
“1:13”). Upon opening the door, SA Kaufman said,
“Hi. You Ronald?” (Id. at 1:15). After
confirming Mr. Hill's identity and inquiring whether any
other people or weapons were in the home, SA Hyre introduced
himself. (Id. at 2:2). SA Kaufman advised Hill they
had a search warrant and asked Hill to identify his wireless
provider and whether his router was password-protected.
(Id. at 2:11-14). Mr. Hill was asked several
questions about his internet provider, which information was
already known from the investigation, and asked Mr. Hill how
many computers or other devices he had in the home.
(Id. at 2:19-3:14). Then SA Hyre stated:
Okay. Hey, Ron, first thing to understand is you're not
under arrest. Okay? Nothing like that. Okay? We're just -
we'd like to - and you don't have to talk to us be
we'd like to ask you some questions. Okay? Obviously
we're - we're - we've got the warrant and so
we'd just like to ask you some questions.
(Id. at 3:17-21).
Hill responded, “Yeah, Okay.” (Id. at
3:25). SA Hyre asked Mr. Hill, “You understand
that?”, and Hill replied “Yeah.”
(Id. at 4:1-2).
Kaufman and Hyre were dressed in civilian clothing, but their
body armor and side arms were visible and remained holstered.
(Ex. 2). A third uniformed officer stood off to the side with
his weapon secured. (Id.). Other local law
enforcement were staged to the side and came around the
corner to enter the home as SA Kaufman spoke with Defendant.
(Id.). One female officer drew her weapon from its
holster immediately before entering the home, keeping the
weapon close to her side and pointed down. (Id.).
and Kaufman advised Mr. Hill that as soon as the officers
clear his home they will go inside to retrieve a shirt for
him. (Ex. 2(a), at 4:3-8). The conversation turned to whether
Mr. Hill lived alone and had recently obtained his HVAC
degree. (Id. at 5:4- 17). An unidentified officer
asked SA Kaufman, SA Hyre, and Defendant if they want to come
inside, and SA Kaufman, SA Hyre and Mr. Hill sat at the
kitchen table. (Id. at 6-12). After taking
their seats at the kitchen table, SA Hyre removed his body
armor, and a female agent asked “Any other
tools?”, (Id. at 7:2), and Mr. Hill held his
hands up briefly. (Ex. 2). Mr. Hill testified at the
evidentiary hearing and described this gesture as his attempt
to show the officers he was being cooperative and that they
could search him or do anything they want. Mr. Hill was not
required to raise his hands in response to the agent's
after being seated at the kitchen table, SA Kaufman told Mr.
Hill “the reason why we're here is because there is
a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that you were using that
ended up distributing child pornography to us.” (Ex.
2(a), at 8:23-25). SA Kaufman's tone in making this
statement was conversational and polite. Mr. Hill denied
being a “hands-on offender” and readily admitted
to watching child pornography “[o]nce every couple of,
I don't know, months, maybe.” (Id. at
9:10-11; 20-25; 10:1). Mr. Hill admitted to viewing child
pornography starting a couple years earlier while he was in
his 40s. (Id. at 11:13-23). Mr. Hill provided his
password to the officers, so they could access his computer,
admitted to downloading a video file called “Baby
J”, and discussed a past allegation of sexual abuse
against him. (Id. at 12:9-14; 13:6-9; 14:23-16:16).
discussing his typical procedure of downloading, viewing, and
deleting child pornography, Defendant asked SA Kaufman
“Am I going to jail?” (Id. at 19:5). SA
Um, right now, like I said, you're not under arrest.
It's - it - we're going to do the search warrant and
see what - see what's out there. Don't know if
you're gonna be arrested today or not. It ...