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United States v. Warren

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

November 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAEWON WARREN, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendant Daewon Warren's (“Warren”) motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Warren was indicted on multiple counts, including sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, sexual exploitation of children, and possessing child pornography. On October 17, 2017, Warren moved to suppress statements that he made to police officers before he was arrested on March 2, 2015, at the Motel 6 at 2551 Ashley Phosphate Road in North Charleston, South Carolina. Warren contends that he did not receive Miranda warnings prior to any statements he made, and so the statements should be suppressed. Specifically, Warren seeks to suppress statements about his hotel room number and that he was staying at the Motel 6 with “his girl.” On October 18, 2017, the court held a hearing on Warren's motion to suppress. After the hearing, the court denied Warren's motion. This order supplements that previous ruling.

         1.Questioning by Detective Ron Metrejean

         Detectives Ron Metrejean (“Detective Metrejean”) and Charlie Benton (“Detective Benton”) first responded to the Motel 6 in an unmarked police car. The detectives were at the Motel 6 on a tip that a “black male with cornrows in a bright shirt” driving a green BMW with paper tags was engaged in human trafficking of an underage black female. The tip initially said that the human trafficking was occurring in room 143.

         While Detective Benton went to room 143 to determine if there was any evidence of trafficking, Detective Metrejean stopped Warren as a suspect matching the physical description in the tip. Detective Metrejean introduced himself to Warren as a detective with the North Charleston Police Department, and while he was not wearing his full police uniform during the questioning he was wearing a police vest and had his firearm visible. Detective Metrejean then engaged Warren in a “field interview contact routine, ” which included asking Warren where he was from, how long he had been staying in the hotel, and what hotel room he was staying in. Detective Metrejean testified that Warren appeared “very cooperative, ” did not seem “worried or concerned” and answered all of the questions calmly. Detective Metrejean at no point made any threats or promises to Warren. The questioning took place in front of a breezeway located in front of the Motel 6 office. The breezeway was an open space, where Warren could have walked backwards or sideways to leave the conversation. At some point during the time period when Detective Metrejean was questioning Warren, Detective Benton was visible as he was climbing down the stairs at the hotel breezeway to approach Warren.

         2. Questioning by Detective Charlie Benton

         During Detective Metrejean's questioning of Warren, Detective Benton joined the conversation to question Warren. This questioning also took place in front of the breezeway of the Motel 6. A “few minutes” after Detective Metrojean started questioning Warren, at least one more police car-this one a marked police car-arrived on the scene, and uniformed police officers were standing “off to the side” in “close proximity” to the hotel breezeway where Detective Metrejean was questioning Warren. FBI Special Agent Ken Hawsey (“Agent Hawsey”) was also on the scene, for a total of at least four law enforcement officers. At the point that Detective Benton questioned Warren, there were at least two officers-Detective Metrejean and Benton, with at least Detective Metrejean in a police vest-in Warren's immediate vicinity. Multiple other back-up officers, in full police clothes, as well as a marked police car, were in Warren's vicinity.

         Detective Benton also questioned Warren in the hotel breezeway. After Benton asked Warren who he was, where he was staying at the hotel, and who he was staying with, Benton then made contact with the victim, after which Warren was arrested.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Warren argues that the failure of Detectives Metrejean and Benton to provide him with Miranda warnings before questioning him in the hotel breezeway requires the exclusion of any statements he made. The government counters that Warren was not “in custody” at the time that he was questioned, and therefore that no Miranda violation occurred. The determination of whether there was a Miranda violation turns on whether the circumstances of Warren's questioning amounted to a custodial interrogation within the meaning of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The court finds that they do not, and thus denies Warren's motion to suppress.

         The Fifth Amendment ensures that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” U.S. Const. Amend. V. When police officers place a defendant in custody, they must inform the defendant of his or her constitutional rights in order to counteract the “‘inherently compelling pressures' of custodial interrogations and to ‘permit a full opportunity to exercise the privilege against self incrimination.'” Arizona v. Robertson, 486 U.S. 675, 681 (1988) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 467). The Supreme Court laid out the test for whether an individual is “in custody” in Berkemer v. McCarty, 469 U.S. 420, 440 (1984):

The operative question is whether, viewed objectively, a reasonable man in the suspect's position would have understood his situation to be one of custody. This determination is made by examining all of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation and determining how a reasonable person in the position of the individual ...

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