Thursday, July 12, 2007

Illegal Reentry Conviction Upheld Against Fourth Amendment, STA Challenges

US v. Soriano-Jarquin: Soriano-Jarquin was a passenger in a van that was stopped along I-95 in Virginia due to a defective headlight. While citations were being prepared on the headlight and other violations, a state trooper asked to see the identification of the dozen passengers in the van. It became apparent that the passengers did not speak English and the trooper suspected they were illegal immigrants. He was right, as discovered by an ICE agent shortly thereafter. Of the bunch, Soriano-Jarquin has been previously deported for illegal entry (a month prior in Arizona) and was therefore arrested for illegal reentry.

What happened next is best tucked in the "go see your client before the prelim" file:
At a preliminary hearing before a magistrate judge on May 17, 2005, the government mistakenly produced an individual named Francisco Almaraz Soriano, rather than the defendant, Francisco Soriano-Jarquin. At the time, no one alerted the court to the error. On the stand, ICE Special Agent Jason Fulton identified the individual present as Francisco Soriano-Jarquin, though upon cross-examination Fulton stated that he could not be sure the individual was Soriano-Jarquin. The judge found probable cause to hold Soriano-Jarquin.
Soriano-Jarquin was later indicted for the same offense, although the body of the indictment named another defendant (not even Almaraz Soriano). It was dismissed, without prejudice, and a new indictment obtained the same day. Soriano-Jarquin then moved for a dismissal pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act, arguing that the second indictment was not timely filed. The district court rejected that motion, as well as Soriano-Jarquin's motion to suppress evidence obtained during the stop of the van. A jury convicted Soriano-Jarquin of illegal reentry.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit rejected all of Soriano-Jarquin's arguments. First, the court rejected the argument that the trooper violated the Fourth Amendment by asking to see the identification of the van's passengers, noting that such a request is part of a legitimate traffic stop and is related to officer safety. In addition, the request in this case did not prolong the stop. Second, the court held that the mistake of not having Soriano-Jarquin at his own preliminary hearing was not fatal to the prosecution, because he failed to timely raise the issue and the later-filed indictment essentially mooted any problems with the prelim. Third, the court rejected the claim that the prosecution violated the Speedy Trial Act because of the problems with the initial indictment, noting that an incorrect indictment is not the same as the "no indictment" required for dismissal under the STA. Finally, the court rejected the argument that the district court erred by not allowing Soriano-Jarquin to call an ICE agent to testify after Soriano-Jarquin failed to follow the proper regulatory procedures to secure that testimony.

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