Read Part I of This Article Here
Knock and talks are often used by law enforcement officers to attempt to further an investigation where information immediately known may be short of probable cause. On February 10, 2014, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the United States v. Crisolis-Gonzalez [i], which serves as an excellent review regarding many legal issues that occur during a knock and talk. The facts of Crisolis-Gonzalez are as follows:
Crisolis-Gonzalez was subsequently indicted for federal crimes. He filed a motion to suppress which was largely denied by the district court, except for the suppression of his pre-Miranda statement about his immigration status (see Part II of this article for a discussion). Crisolis-Gonzalez appealed the denial of the motion to suppress to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This article will focus on the admissibility of statements made and the validity of the consent to search. [Part one of this article discussed issues involving the agent’s entry into the apartment and the protective sweep of the apartment.]
At the outset, it is important to note that Crisolis-Gonzalez was handcuffed when he was originally questioned by the agents regarding his immigration status.
Crisolis-Gonzalez argued several points regarding his statements and consent to search. First, he argued that the pre-Miranda statement he made regarding having a gun should be suppressed because (1) the agents should have known that questions regarding his immigration status would be likely to illicit an incriminating response, and (2) the agent’s response that with consent to search, they would be looking for fraudulent documents, guns, large amounts of cash and drugs led to the unlawfully elicited gun admission. Second, he argued that his consent to search the apartment was involuntary because of the coercive atmosphere created by the agents. Third, he argued that that his post-Miranda statement should be suppressed because it was tainted by the previous illegal conduct by the agents.
As to the first issue regarding the pre-Miranda questions regarding Crisolis-Gonzalez’s immigration status, the court stated:
The court then noted that Crisolis-Gonzalez statement about having a gun was totally unrelated to the questioning regarding his immigration status. Further, the court found the agent’s response as to the object of their search, if provided consent, was also not the type of statement intended to solicit an incriminating response. The court stated:
The court then noted that Crisolis-Gonzalez statement about the gun was a volunteered, spontaneous admission.
The next issue before the court was whether the consent search was given freely and voluntarily. The court stated that, to determine whether consent is free and voluntarily, they must look at the “totality of the circumstances” surrounding the search. [v] Here, Crisolis-Gonzalez contended that the agents, by their conduct, created a coercive atmosphere. When examining the facts of the case, the court stated that they found no evidence of coercion. First, they said that they were aware of the circumstances of the incident, and the agents did not create a coercive interview environment. Second, the court found it significant that two of the four people present refused to consent to the search; in other words, if half of the people asked for consent to search felt comfortable with refusing consent, it is reasonable to believe that the agent did not coerce the defendant into consenting to the search.
The final issue before the court was whether all the alleged illegalities rendered Crisolis-Gonzalez’s post-Miranda statements inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” In other words, the defendant contended that the illegalities prevented his Miranda waiver from being “voluntary, knowing and intelligent,” all of which are requirements for a Miranda waiver to be valid.
In addressing this issue, they noted that they held that there were no illegalities committed by agents in this case; therefore, Crisolis-Gonzalez’s argument failed. Further, the court noted that he signed the Miranda waiver form twice with the agents and nothing in the record indicates any facts to support that these waivers were induced by coercion and invalid.
Therefore, the court upheld the denial of the motion to suppress.
Note: Court holdings can vary significantly between jurisdictions. As such, it is advisable to seek the advice of a local prosecutor or legal adviser regarding questions on specific cases. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice on a specific case.
[i] No. 12-3807 (8th Cir. 2014)
[ii] Id. at 2-4
[iii] Id. at 8
[v] Id. at 9