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United States of America v. Harold Martinez

February 11, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
HAROLD MARTINEZ



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

MEMORANDUM

Juan R. SAnchez, J. February 11, 2011

Defendant Harold Martinez asks this Court to suppress items law enforcement officers seized from the trunk of his car following his arrest, including bolt cutters, gloves, large screwdrivers, and a steel baseball bat. Although Martinez consented to the search, he argues his consent was not voluntary because he was severely beaten during the course of his arrest and the officer who requested his consent did not advise Martinez he could refuse. Because an examination of the totality of the circumstances reveals Martinez's consent to the search of his car was voluntary, Martinez's motion is denied.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Martinez was arrested in the early evening on September 16, 2009, in the parking lot of a Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was sitting in the driver's seat of a Lincoln Town Car.

2. At the suppression hearing, Martinez alleged he was severely beaten during his arrest.*fn1 As discussed below, Martinez's testimony is not credible.

3. Within a few minutes after Martinez's arrest, Special Agent Alex Zuchman approached him, accompanied by Officer Arroyo, a Philadelphia police officer who spoke fluent Spanish.*fn2 Agent Zuchman asked Martinez in English if he could look in Martinez's car, and Officer Arroyo translated the question into Spanish. Martinez agreed in English, telling Agent Zuchman "no problem" because he "had nothing to be afraid of." Agent Zuchman did not advise Martinez he had the right not to consent to the search.

4. Agent Zuchman believed Martinez understood English because Martinez answered his questions in English and began to answer questions even before Zuchman had finished asking them. Nevertheless, Agent Zuchman continued to have Officer Arroyo translate his questions into Spanish. Agent Zuchman asked Martinez if he had any cell phones, and Martinez responded his phones were in the car. Agent Zuchman retrieved the cell phones and asked if he could look through them. Martinez again responded, "no problem."

5. Agent Zuchman spoke to Martinez in a calm manner, without yelling at him, and Martinez responded calmly. Although Zuchman had a weapon visible on his person during his interaction with Martinez, he did not draw his weapon. Agent Zuchman did not recall whether Martinez was handcuffed during their interaction.

6. Martinez did not seem disoriented or injured in any way during his interaction with Agent Zuchman, and did not complain of any injuries or pain. Although it is Agent Zuchman's practice, when taking an injured person into custody, to get immediate medical attention for the person, he had no reason to even ask Martinez what was wrong because there were no apparent physical injuries.

7. In addition to Martinez, Agent Zuchman asked two of Martinez's co-defendants for permission to search their cars, which were also parked in the Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot. Agent Zuchman asked the defendants for consent at the scene of the arrests so as to avoid any confusion later on as to who was consenting to a search of which car. Although Agent Zuchman had access to written consent forms, he chose not to use them to avoid having the defendants witness each other signing the forms.

8. Following his arrest, Martinez was taken to the Homeland Security Investigations office at 1600 Callowhill Street in Philadelphia, where he was processed by Special Agent James Martinelli, who read Martinez his Miranda rights in English and in Spanish. Agent Martinelli also transported Martinez and his co-defendants to the Federal Detention Center, where he completed an intake processing form for Martinez, asking him questions and recording his answers on the form.

9. Martinez did not complain of any injuries or pain at any time during his processing or transfer, and did not appear to be sick or injured in any way.*fn3

10. In accordance with his usual practice, Agent Martinelli asked Martinez separately (1) whether he had any injuries and (2) whether he was taking any medications. ...


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