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United States v. Ingino

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
VINCENT JOHN INGINO Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court is the defendant Vincent John Ingino's (“Ingino”) motion to suppress incriminating statements he made to the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) because, as he alleges, he was subjected to a custodial interrogation without being advised of his Miranda[1] rights. (Doc. 22; Doc. 23, at 7). Based on the following, Ingino's motion (Doc. 22) shall be DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On November 13, 2018, Ingino was indicted on two counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. (Doc. 1). The charges stem from drug transactions that resulted in the death of two individuals. (Doc. 1). Ingino pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on November 26, 2018. (Doc. 11).

         On March 25, 2019, Ingino filed the present motion to suppress statements he made to Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) on September 17, 2018. (Doc. 22). On April 18, 2019, the government filed its brief in opposition to Ingino's suppression motion. (Doc. 26). Ingino filed a reply brief on April 29, 2019. (Doc. 27). On July 15, 2019, this court held a hearing on the suppression motion. (Doc. 32). The motion is now ripe for disposition.

         III. FINDINGS OF FACT

         At the suppression hearing, the court heard testimony from four witnesses: Sarah Donald (“Donald”), a probation officer at the Monroe County Probation and Parole Department, who was assigned to Ingino; PSP Troopers Jonathan Bailey (“Trooper Bailey”) and Justin Leri (“Trooper Leri”), who were investigating Ingino for drug transactions; and Lindsey Hartman (“Hartman”), Ingino's girlfriend. The following facts are taken from their testimony, the evidence introduced at the hearing, Ingino's motion, and the parties' briefs and exhibits.[2]

         Between August 11 and 12, 2018, two individuals in Monroe County, Pennsylvania were found deceased and toxicology testing indicated that both died with a mixture of heroin, fentanyl, and, in one case, acetyl fentanyl present in their bodies. On August 13, 2018, Ingino failed to report to Monroe County Probation for his appointment with Donald on an unrelated matter. On August 24, 2018, Ingino reported for his rescheduled appointment with Donald, but she told him to return in one week after he had completed his drug and alcohol assessment. Ingino reported one week later, tested positive for opiates, and admitted that he had used drugs. Donald told Ingino to seek treatment and report back to her once he successfully completed it.

         On September 6, 2018, Trooper Leri contacted Donald requesting Ingino's address, which she gave to him. On September 12, 2018, Donald texted Ingino and asked him to contact her by 12:00 p.m. that day. Having failed to hear from Ingino, Donald contacted her office's field team unit requesting a visit of Ingino's home. On September 14, 2018, Trooper Bailey accompanied the field team officers' visit to Ingino's home. This was the first time that Donald learned that Ingino was under investigation for the deaths of the two Monroe County individuals, who died on August 11 and 12, 2018. After the officers and Trooper Bailey searched Ingino's home, they left a letter with Ingino's girlfriend, Hartman, indicating that Ingino was to report to the probation office on September 17, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. for an appointment with Donald. Donald relayed the appointment time and location to PSP in the event that PSP wanted to speak with Ingino, Ingino reported for the meeting and tested positive for controlled substances. Donald advised Ingino that she would be filing a violation by the end of the week and that he would receive a letter in the mail with his court date for the violation. Donald explained to Ingino that if he did not show up for his court hearing, a bench warrant would be issued for his arrest. In her testimony, Donald acknowledged that she did not have the power to arrest Ingino. Donald also testified that Ingino did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during their meeting.

         From her office, Donald saw Troopers Bailey and Leri arrive, and informed Ingino that they were there to speak with him. Ingino did not ask any questions and replied, “okay.” Donald testified that Ingino did not offer any resistance toward speaking with the troopers. Donald did not provide Ingino with any instruction as to whether he had to speak with the troopers. Then, Donald and a co-worker with whom she shared her office left, and Troopers Bailey and Leri went into Donald's office to speak with Ingino. Donald did not tell Troopers Bailey and Leri that Ingino had just tested positive for controlled substances.

         IV. LEGAL STANDARD

         “[P]olice officers are not required to administer Miranda warnings to everyone whom they question.” Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 495, (1977). However, when law enforcement officers subject someone to a “custodial interrogation, ” they are required to read the individual his Miranda rights prior to questioning, advising him of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 467-68. When questioning by law enforcement does not rise to the level of a “custodial interrogation, ” officers “are not required to administer Miranda warnings.” Mathiason, 429 U.S. at 495.

         A suspect is “in custody” when “there is a ‘formal arrest or restraint on freedom of movement' of the degree associated with a formal arrest.” United States v. Leese, 176 F.3d 740, 743 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125 (1983)). When, as in the present case, a suspect is not under arrest, the question becomes whether a reasonable person in the suspect's ...


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