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Commonwealth v. Quiles

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 23, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
EDWIN DOLORES QUILES, Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence March 12, 2015 In the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-52-CR-0000531-2013

          BEFORE: STABILE, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          DUBOW, J.

         Appellant, Edwin Dolores Quiles, appeals from the Judgment of Sentence entered in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas following his conviction of two counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, and one count of Criminal Conspiracy to Deliver a Controlled Substance.[1] After careful review, we affirm Appellant's convictions, but vacate his Judgment of Sentence because the trial court erroneously considered Appellant's Connecticut conviction for simple assault when determining Appellant's Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive ("RRRI") eligibility.

         We summarize the relevant factual and procedural history as follows. On October 24, 2013, Appellant and his co-defendant pulled into a gas station in Pike County, Pennsylvania. Appellant went into the gas station, while his co-defendant made a pre-arranged sale of heroin to an undercover member of the Pike County Detective's Office. Following the controlled buy, Police Officer Joseph Ostrom entered the gas station and placed Appellant under arrest, while other officers took his co-defendant into custody.

         Officers transported Appellant to the Pike County Detective Bureau Office, where Chief Detective Michael Jones and Officer Ostrom interviewed Appellant. At the beginning of the interview, which was conducted in

         English, Chief Detective Jones advised Appellant of his rights pursuant to Miranda.[2] Appellant acknowledged his rights, signed a written waiver of those rights, and spoke with Chief Detective Jones and Officer Ostrom. Appellant also signed written consent forms for the search of his automobile and his cellular phone.

         Appellant was arrested and charged with two counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, one count of Criminal Conspiracy to Deliver a Controlled Substance, and related possession charges. Appellant filed a

         Motion to Suppress, seeking to suppress statements he gave to investigators and the evidence the investigators recovered in his phone and car on the grounds that he did not sufficiently understand English and was under the influence of heroin at the time he waived his rights and consented to the search.

         The trial court held a hearing on the Motion, at which Chief Detective Jones, Officer Ostrom, and Appellant testified. The trial court denied the Motion.

         Appellant proceeded to a jury trial, and the jury convicted him of two counts of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, and one count of Criminal Conspiracy to Deliver a Controlled Substance.

         On March 12, 2015, the trial court sentenced Appellant to an aggregate term of nine to thirty years of imprisonment. The court found that Appellant was precluded from RRRI eligibility "due to [Appellant's] previous conviction for Assault in the State of Connecticut." Sentencing Order, filed 3/12/15, at 2.

         Appellant filed Post-Sentence Motions, which the trial court denied. Appellant timely appealed, raising the following issues:

1. Did the [t]rial [c]ourt commit error by denying [Appellant's] motions to suppress the contents of his cell phone and his statements to the police by a finding that he knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily consented to both the search of the phone and to speak with the police?
2. Did the [t]rial [c]ourt commit error in its Sentencing Order by finding [that Appellant] was ineligible for RRRI?

Appellant's Brief at 8.

         While the instant appeal was pending, our review of the record revealed that the Pre-Sentence Investigation ("PSI") report was missing from the certified record. We issued an Order directing the trial court to supplement the record, and the trial court complied. With all necessary documents now before us, we turn to Appellant's arguments on appeal.

         Motion to Suppress

         Our well-settled standard of review in an appeal from an order denying a motion to suppress is as follows:

Our standard of review in addressing a challenge to the denial of a suppression motion is limited to determining whether the suppression court's factual findings are supported by the record and whether the legal conclusions drawn from those facts are correct. Because the Commonwealth prevailed before the suppression court, we may consider only the evidence of the Commonwealth and so much of the evidence for the defense as remains uncontradicted when read in the context of the record as a whole. Where the suppression court's factual findings are supported by the record, we are bound by these findings and may reverse only if the court's legal conclusions are erroneous.

Commonwealth v. Jones, 988 A.2d 649, 654 (Pa. 2010) (citation omitted).

         In Pennsylvania, "the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures." Commonwealth v. Clemens, 66 A.3d 373, 378 (Pa. Super. 2013) (internal alteration and quotation marks omitted). If an individual gives valid consent, then the ensuing search is not unreasonable and the individual's constitutional rights are not violated by the police's conduct. See Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 250-51 (1991). To be considered valid, the consent must be "the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice-not the result of duress or coercion, express or implied, or a will overborne-under the totality of the circumstances." Commonwealth v. Caban, 60 A.3d 120, 130 (Pa. Super. 2012), overruled on other grounds as recognized in Commonwealth v. Coleman, 130 A.3d 38, 42 n.1 (Pa. Super. 2015).

         Similarly, "the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protect an individual's right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself." Commonwealth v. Fischere, 70 A.3d 1270, 1275-76 (Pa. Super. 2013). This right may also be waived, if, under the totality of the circumstances, the waiver is "the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice." Commonwealth v. Cruz, 71 A.3d 998, 1005 (Pa. Super. 2013).

         Appellant argues that neither his consent to search his property nor his waiver of his Miranda rights were freely and voluntarily given. Specifically, Appellant avers that he was under the influence of heroin during his ...


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