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US v. Luna-Encinas, No. 08-12574

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By FindLaw Staff on April 13, 2010 1:56 PM

In US v. Luna-Encinas, No. 08-12574, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's conviction for being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, because the district court correctly denied defendant's motion to suppress pre-Miranda statements he made to a police officer that led to the discovery of the firearm, because defendant was not in "custody" when he made the relevant inculpatory statements to the police.

As the court wrote:  "After holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the motion to suppress. The district court concluded that while the defendant had been "seized," he was not in "custody" for Fifth Amendment purposes. The district court explained that a reasonable person in Luna-Encinas' position -- i.e., one placed under the control of several law enforcement officers for a matter of fifteen minutes while a drug suspect was sought -- would not have understood his detention to be anything other than "temporary and brief," particularly given the officers' express assurances that he was not the person they were seeking, and the fact that they never pointed a weapon at him. These circumstances, the district court concluded, did not sufficiently resemble an arrest to constitute "custody." On January 24, 2008, Luna-Encinas pled guilty, reserving the right to appeal the district court's suppression order pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2). On April 24, 2008, the district court sentenced Luna-Encinas to eighteen months' imprisonment and three years' supervised release, noting that he would be deported at the end of his prison term. This timely appeal followed."

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