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United States v. Long

December 9, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
GEOFFREY LONG



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norma L. Shapiro, S.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

A grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging one count of unlawful possession of a machine gun in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (o) and three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm not registered in the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 5861 (d). Defendant, Geoffrey Long, moved to suppress evidence obtained by law enforcement officials during a visit to his residence on August 21, 2006. The motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 22, 2008, Long filed a motion to suppress statements and physical evidence obtained by law enforcement officials during a visit to his residence on August 21, 2006. On November 13, 2008, the court held a suppression hearing at which Special Agent Christopher Curran of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF") testified for the government and defendant Long testified on his own behalf.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

An ATF field division based in Miami, Florida conducted an investigation into illegal importation of machine guns into the United States by Modellblau International ("Modellblau"), a German company. (Nov. 13, 2008 Tr. at 8, 30-31.) The investigation revealed that Long, a resident of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, had received a shipment from Modellblau on September 22, 2004, but investigators did not know the contents of the package. (Id. at 8, 31-32, 48, 76.) Agent Curran, located in the Philadelphia ATF field office, was given information obtained by the Florida agents about the shipment for further investigation. (Id. at 48.) Before visiting Long for questioning, Agent Curran reviewed Long's criminal history and searched federal and state firearm registration databases; he found approximately 30 firearms registered to Long. (Id. at 10.) Agent Curran suspected Long had committed a crime, but did not obtain a warrant to arrest him or search his residence. (Id. at 32-33.)

On August 21, 2006, at approximately 10:00 a.m., Agent Curran, accompanied by Pennsylvania State Trooper John Corrigan and Pennsylvania State Police Detectives Christopher Lee and Francis Carroll, approached Long's residence. (Id. at 7-8, 10-11.) Trooper Corrigan wore a visible badge; all of the officers were otherwise dressed in civilian attire and not readily identifiable as law enforcement officers. (Id. at 12.) On approach to the residence, Agent Curran, Trooper Corrigan and Detective Carroll were armed with pistols maintained in a holstered, visible position. (See Id. at 12-14, 33-34, 73-74.) Detective Lee was armed with a gun, approximately 24 inches in length, visibly slung across his chest in the "ready position" and pointed downward. (Id. at 13, 36.)

Agent Curran and Trooper Corrigan approached the front of Long's residence while Detectives Lee and Carroll approached from the rear. (Id. at 12, 73-75.) The officers encountered Long repairing a vehicle in the driveway. (Id. at 13, 71.) Agent Curran identified himself to Long, asked if Long were armed and requested permission to search him for weapons. (Id. at 14, 17-18, 51.) Agent Curran performed a pat-down search and found Long unarmed.

(Id.) Following the pat-down, Long was not placed under arrest, and Agent Curran testified the officers would have complied had Long asked them to leave his property at that time. (Id. at 54.)

Agent Curran, questioning Long about the shipment of firearms, then asked, "Did you purchase any firearms over the Internet from an individual in Germany and have them shipped?" (Id. at 14-15, 76, 78.) After approximately five to seven minutes of questioning, Long acknowledged his purchases and stated he knew the transactions were illegal. (Id. at 15, 57-58, 85.) Based on these admissions, Agent Curran believed he had the right to place Long under formal arrest, but chose not to do so. (Id. at 59-60.) Had Long asked the officers to leave after his admissions, Agent Curran testified that they would not have complied. (Id. at 61.)

Agent Curran informed Long that he "was going to need to seize the firearms." (Id. at 16.) Agent Curran asked whether Long had stored the firearms inside his residence, and Long answered, "Yes." (Id.) Agent Curran asked for permission to enter the house and inspect the firearms. (Id. at 16.) Long knew the officers would discover contraband inside the house, but believed he was under arrest and his only choice was to cooperate. (Id. at 79.) The officers did not obtain written consent from Long to search his residence. (Id. at 55.)

Long stated no one was inside the house and led the officers into the residence. (Id. at 17.) Upon entry, Agent Curran asked for permission to perform a protective sweep of the house to confirm that no one else was present. (Id. at 17.) Long did not object; two officers searched the house while Agent Curran remained with Long in the kitchen. (Id. at 17, 19.) Agent Curran asked to see the firearms, and Long led the officers to his bedroom on the second floor of the residence. (Id. at 19.) Long retrieved two machine guns under the bed and opened a large safe containing numerous firearms. (Id. at 19-20.) Long made several incriminating statements while identifying the contraband for the officers. (Id. at 20-22.) The officers identified 17 firearms as contraband; Long agreed to abandon them and signed an abandonment of property form. (Id. at 24-26.) The officers removed the contraband firearms, but not the lawfully registered firearms and left Long's property. (Id. at 25, 28.) The officers were inside Long's residence for approximately two hours, and except for allowing Long to use the restroom, the officers accompanied Long at all times. (Id. at 62.) Long was not placed under formal arrest and was allowed to remain at home. (Id. at 28.) At no time was Long given the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

III. DISCUSSION

Long claims he was seized and his residence searched without a warrant or probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Long argues the self-incriminating statements are inadmissible because he was not Mirandized and the physical evidence is inadmissible because it is the fruit of an unlawful search and seizure. The government argues the self-incriminating statements are admissible because they were not the product of a custodial interrogation, or in the alternative, they were given during a reasonable investigative detention that did not ...


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