Friday, November 09, 2007

Identity Evidence Suppressable

US v. Oscar-Torres: Oscar-Torres was arrested as part of a project to round up illegal immigrants who were also alleged gang members. It went like this:
On July 22, 2005, ICE agents and Raleigh police officers went to the Fox Ridge Manor apartment complex in Raleigh, the last known address of a number of suspected gang members. Several teams of officers went to individual apartments seeking to arrest specific gang members. One team stationed itself at the only entrance to the complex and stopped all vehicles entering and leaving in order to question the occupants.

The officers stationed at the entrance stopped and questioned Oscar-Torres, among others. In response to their questions, he admitted to being an illegal alien and, at their request, lifted his shirt to display a tattoo that they believed signified gang membership. Without a warrant, the officers then arrested Oscar-Torres and transported him to ICE headquarters . . ..
There he was fingerprinted and interrogated (sans Miranda warnings), during which it was discovered that Oscar-Torres had been previously deported for entering the country illegally. He was charged with illegal reentry.

Prior to trial, Oscar-Torres moved to suppress the evidence against him that was secured as a result of his arrest, including his statements and the fingerprints. The district court concluded that the arrest was illegal and ordered Oscar-Torres's statement suppressed. However, the court refused to suppress the fingerprints, holding that evidence of identity could never be suppressed.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed. It noted that there was a split in the circuits (and within the Ninth Circuit, apparently) on the issue of whether evidence of identity could be suppressed, stemming from different interpretations of language in INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 US 1032 (1984). The Fourth Circuit adopted the view that the language in Lopez-Mendoza only stands for the proposition that courts are not deprived of jurisdiction over a defendant because of an illegal arrest. It therefore reversed the district court's blanket rule and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the court is to examine whether the fingerprints were taken with investigatory purposes in mind (not OK) or as part of the administrative arrest/booking process (OK).

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