United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
FINAL ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S “MOTION TO
BARBER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's “Motion
to Suppress Evidence, ” filed by counsel on September
14, 2018. (Doc. # 23). On September 28, 2018, the United
States of America filed a response in opposition to the
motion. (Doc. # 26). The Court reserved ruling on the motion
until after the Eleventh Circuit decided United States v.
Taylor, No. 17-14915, 2019 WL 4047512 (11th Cir. Aug.
28, 2019). (Doc. # 41). On September 20, 2019, after
Taylor had been decided, the Court entered an Order
denying the motion in part as to the issues raised regarding
the search warrants, and reserving ruling on the third issue
regarding the alleged violation of Defendant's
Miranda rights. (Doc. # 71). After further
consultation, the parties agreed that the Court could review
and rely on the November 7, 2018, suppression hearing
transcript in lieu of holding an independent evidentiary
hearing to address the Miranda issue. (Doc. # 72).
After reviewing the motion, response, court file, and the
record, the Court finds as follows:
facts are largely undisputed. On August 5, 2015, at
approximately 6:00 a.m., law enforcement officers from the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Hendry County
Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at
Defendant's residence. Upon opening the door to his home,
Defendant encountered several uniformed Hendry County
Sheriff's Office deputies, along with an additional
plain-clothes officer believed to be an FBI agent. Defendant
and his father were instructed to exit the residence and
remain on the porch for a brief time lasting approximately
ten to fifteen minutes.
Defendant met with two officers in a back room of the
residence. Defendant was seated in a chair with task force
Agent Bunch and Detective Ewart positioned directly in front
of him. The law enforcement officers did not advise Defendant
of his Miranda rights. However, the officers told
Defendant that he did not have to speak with them, and that
he could terminate the interview at any time. Defendant was
questioned for around an hour and a half about, among other
things, his computer use, internet access, passwords, access
to computers, use of the Tor network, access to child
pornography, and methods of downloads. Defendant was also
asked questions regarding his sexual orientation and habits.
The interview was recorded and transcribed.
motion, Defendant argues that he was interrogated in
violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436
(1966), and that his statements to law enforcement officers
should be suppressed. After reviewing the evidence and
applicable case law, the Court finds that Defendant was not
“in custody” during his interview with law
enforcement officers, and therefore Miranda warnings
were not required.
United States Supreme Court explained in Rhode Island v.
Innis, 446 U.S. 291 (1980) that Miranda
safeguards are triggered “whenever a person in custody
is subjected to either express questioning or its functional
equivalent.” It does not appear that the issue of
interrogation is disputed here. Therefore, the issue
presented is whether Defendant was “in custody”
during his conversations with law enforcement officers during
the execution of the search warrant.
for purposes of Miranda encompasses not only formal
arrest, but any restraint on freedom of movement of the
degree associated with formal arrest. United States v.
Brown, 441 F.3d 1330, 1347 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing
California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983)).
Whether a defendant is “in custody” for
Miranda purposes “depends on whether under the
totality of the circumstances, a reasonable man in his
position would feel a restraint on his freedom of movement to
such extent that he would not feel free to leave.”
United States v. McDowell, 250 F.3d 1354, 1362 (11th
Cir. 2001) (quotation marks and alterations omitted). This is
an objective test; the actual, subjective beliefs of the
defendant and the interviewing officer regarding whether the
defendant was free to leave are irrelevant. United States
v. Moya, 74 F.3d 1117, 1119 (11th Cir. 1996). “The
right to Miranda warnings attaches when custodial
interrogation begins.” United States v. Crews,
No. 3:13-cr-230-J-34MCR, 2014 WL 5690448, at *5 (M.D. Fla.
Nov. 4, 2014) (citing United States v. Acosta, 363
F.3d 1141, 1148 (11th Cir. 2004)).
case, the encounter between Defendant and task force Agent
Bunch and Detective Ewart took place in Defendant's home
during the execution of a search warrant. See Brown,
441 F.3d at 1348 (explaining that “[c]ourts are much
less likely to find the circumstances custodial when the
interrogation occurs in familiar or at least neutral
surroundings, such as the suspect's home”);
United States v. Neston, No. 6:07-cr-186-Orl-22DAB,
2007 WL 9760023, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 18, 2007) (holding
that the defendant was not in custody when he was questioned
during the execution of a search warrant at his
residence). Defendant was not placed in handcuffs or
physically restrained in any way during the interview, and
the law enforcement officers did not brandish their firearms
at any time. See Moya, 74 F.3d at 1119 (holding that
the defendant was not in custody because, among other things,
no handcuffs were employed and no guns were drawn).
important to note that task force Agent Bunch and Detective
Ewart told Defendant that he did not need to speak with them
and that he was free to leave. See Brown, 441 F.3d
at 1347 (explaining that “[u]nambiguously 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 such extensive restraints that informing the
suspect that he could leave could not cure the custodial
aspect of the encounter). The law enforcement officers also
informed Defendant that, although they were executing a
search warrant, he was not under arrest. See Moya,
74 F.3d at 1119 (holding that the defendant was not in
custody because, among other things, he was not told that he
was under arrest); United States v. Phillips, 812
F.2d 1355, 1362 (11th Cir. 1987) (holding that the defendant
was not in custody because, among other things, he was never
placed under arrest or told he was under arrest).
did not ask to leave or otherwise try to terminate the
interview at any time. See Moya, 74 F.3d at 1119
(holding that the defendant was not in custody because, among
other things, he did not ask to leave). The interview lasted
approximately an hour and a half. See McDowell, 250
F.3d at 1363 (noting that “there is no fixed limit to
the length of questioning” and concluding that a
four-hour interview was not a custodial interrogation).
Following the interview, the law enforcement officers did not
place Defendant under arrest. See Neston, 2007 WL
9760023, at *1 (holding that the defendant was not in custody
because, among other things, he was not formally taken into
custody that day). Each of these factors weighs in favor of
finding that Defendant was not in custody at the time of the
reviewing the motion, the testimony and evidence presented at
the suppression hearing, and considering the totality of the
circumstances, the Court finds there was no restraint on
Defendant's freedom of movement of the degree associated
with formal arrest during the encounter with task force Agent
Bunch and Detective Ewart. Under these circumstances, a
reasonable person would not have felt a restraint on his
freedom or that he was not free to terminate the encounter.
Consequently, the Court finds that ...