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United States v. Jones

November 24, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ALFREDERICK JONES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sánchez, J.

MEMORANDUM

On April 22, 2009, Alfrederick Jones was charged in a one-count indictment with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Jones seeks suppression of the handgun recovered by officers at the scene of his arrest, arguing this evidence was found during an unconstitutional search. Because the search was conducted with Jones's consent, Jones's motion to suppress is denied.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. On March 6, 2009, at about 6:30 a.m., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents and Philadelphia and Pennsylvania police officers arrived at Jones's home to execute a federal arrest warrant for Jones. They knocked and announced their presence. After no one answered, they broke through the door.

2. Several agents and officers found Jones in bed in the master bedroom upstairs. Detective Christopher Marano of the Philadelphia Police Department advised Jones he was being placed under arrest. Jones arose and stood near the bed while officers began collecting clothes for him to wear.

3. Detective Marano then verbally recited Jones's Miranda rights. Detective Marano asked Jones if he understood, and Jones stated he understood his Miranda rights and had no questions regarding those rights.

4. Detective Marano asked Jones if the bedroom contained any guns, weapons, or items which might be of concern to law enforcement. Jones said there was a gun under his mattress and told Detective Marano to "go get it."

5. Pennsylvania Trooper John Cargan then asked Jones if there was anything dangerous in the bedroom, and Jones again responded by stating there was a gun under the mattress and again told the officers to retrieve it.

6. Trooper Cargan lifted the mattress and saw a loaded handgun placed underneath it.

7. Special Agent Jenna Motzenbecker of the ATF photographed and seized the handgun.

8. Jones was not handcuffed during this conversation with officers or during their subsequent search for, and seizure of, the handgun.*fn1

DISCUSSION

Jones asserts the gun should be suppressed because the search which revealed the gun was conducted without a warrant and without his consent. Alternatively, Jones argues, even if he did consent to the search, such consent was not valid because it was not voluntarily given.

Warrantless searches "are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment -- subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 1716 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A warrantless search or seizure does not violate the Fourth Amendment if conducted pursuant to valid consent. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219 (1973). To be valid, consent to search must be given voluntarily. Id. at 228. "[T]he question whether a consent to a search was in fact 'voluntary' or was the product of duress or coercion, express or implied, is a question of fact to be determined from the totality of all the circumstances." Id. at 227. In assessing whether an individual's consent was voluntary, courts examine "the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation." Id. at 226. Relevant characteristics of an interrogated individual include his age, education, intelligence, and knowledge of his constitutional ...


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