Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Evelyn Cruz on U.S. v. Quintana

U.S. v. Quintana No. 09-2749 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 22404 October 28, 2010


Mr. Diaz-Quintana was stopped by a Highway Patrol Trooper in North Dakota for driving 88 m. p. h in a 75 m. p. h zone on August 22, 2008 at 2:30 in the afternoon. Mr. Diaz-Quintana identified himself produced a Mexican driver’s license, and identified the passenger as his adult son. Mr. Diaz-Quintana indicated that the car, with Washington license plates, belonged to a relative and that they were returning to Washington from a funeral. The trooper summoned a second officer who had a drug dog. The officer with a drug dog arrived at 2:53. The dog sniffed the car and did not alert. The trooper also contacted the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol ran a check on Mr. Diaz-Quintana’s name and no records came back. The Officer questioned Mr. Quintana as to his immigration status and he answered that he had entered with a visa. A second run of the record using variations of the name was conducted, but no records came back. The Border patrol told the trouper to take Mr. Diaz-Quintana into custody at 3:20. Twenty-six hours after the initial traffic stop the Border Patrol picked up Mr. Diaz-Quintana. The Border Patrol agent ran Mr. Diaz-Quintana’s fingerprints through the Border Patrol’s IAFIS/IDENT system and it returned a hit for a Saul Rojo-Flores who had been deported for two drug convictions, and subsequently removed twice following illegal reentry.


Mr. Diaz-Quintana filed a motion with the district court seeking to suppress his statements to the Border Patrol and evidence derived from his detention by the Border Patrol. He failed to submit any evidentiary support for his motion. In opposition, government attorney submitted the affidavits of the trouper and the border patrol agents. The district court denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing.

On appeal to the 8th Circuit Mr. Diaz-Quintana again argued that the trooper and Border Patrol agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unreasonably prolonging a valid traffic stop for over twenty four hours to ascertain his immigration status. He argued that the stop was a de facto arrest and custodial detention without probable cause. The government conceded that the only reason for prolonging Mr. Quintana’s detention was to ascertain his immigration status.

In analyzing the case, the circuit court first discussed the relevant law. A noncitizen may be arrested and detained pending a decision whether he is removable, but only if a warrant is issued. (INS v. Lopez-Mendoza 468 U.S. 1032 (1984)) However, Border Patrol agents are authorized to conduct warrantless interrogations of persons believed to be aliens as to their right to be in the United States. 8 USC§1226(a) The Border Patrol can also arrest a person who may flee before a warrant is secured. 8 USC §1357(a) Moreover, the court pointed out, the regulations distinguish between warrantless arrests to commence civil deportation proceedings (8 CFR §287.8) from warrantless arrests for criminal violations of immigration laws. (8 CFR §287.3) Finally, civil immigration arrests are not covered by the protections of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

In this case, Mr. Diaz-Quintana’s argument that the district court committed plain error by not holding an evidentiary hearing was dismissed because he had failed to raise questions about the officers’ testimony in his motion to suppress. Mr. Diaz-Quintana admitted to the officers that he was a Mexican national by providing his Mexican drivers license. The circuit court found that the Border Patrol agent had probable cause to take Diaz-Quintana into administrative custody at the conclusion of the traffic stop based on the officers’ account of the events and the fact that Mr. Diaz-Quintana did not challenge the agent’s inference or data in the initial records search. The court held that the trouper was authorized to assist the Border Patrol by holding Mr. Diaz-Quintana until the Border Patrol agents could pick him up the next day. Finally, the Border Patrol could verify Mr. Diaz-Quintana’s identity by running his fingerprints through the Border Patrol’s IAFIS/IDENT system. (8 USC §1357(g)(10)(B) Since the detention was less than 48 hours, it was within the regulations and not excessive. (8 CFR §287.3(d)) Finally, the government did not have to prove that use of the IAFIS/IDENT system was the quickest means of investigating whether or not Mr. Diaz-Quintana was in the U.S. legally.


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