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10th Circuit on Immigration, Suppression & Arrests at Truck Wash

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United States v. Enrique Rivera De La Cruz

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rendered a landmark decision in United States v. Enrique Rivera De La Cruz, 703 F.3d 1193, Case No. 11-5114 (10th Cir. 2013), a case involving an illegal immigrant who was detained and arrested due to a case of mistaken identity. The court held that law enforcement did not have the authority to detain the immigrant even though it was discovered he was in the U.S. illegally, and that the discovery of his fake identification and illegal status must be suppressed.

It all began at Gill’s Truck Wash in Tulsa Oklahoma in February of 2011. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was looking for Juan Guel-Rivera, a suspected illegal immigrant. Three agents were at the truck wash where Guel-Rivera reportedly worked, staking it out to see if he would appear.

When a car with tinted windows drove up to the truck wash, one of the ICE agents caught a glimpse of a person who appeared could be Guel-Rivera. They stopped the vehicle. Guel-Rivera was not in the car. A man named Enrique Rivera De La Cruz was driving the car, his brother was in the front passenger seat, and his wife, mother-in-law, and sister were in the backseat.

ICE agents asked De La Cruz to turn off and exit the vehicle, and he did as told. His brother, Armando, however, attempted to run. Armando was caught approximately 200 yards away.

At this point, the agents knew that the vehicle did not belong to their person of interest. They also knew that Guel-Rivera was not present. In spite of this, they continued to detain Enrique Rivera De La Cruz. They discovered that Armando De La Cruz was in the country illegally and when they asked Enrique De La Cruz for identification, he provided a fake ID. De La Cruz also admitted to being in the country illegally, after he was read his Miranda rights.

Enrique De La Cruz was subsequently arrested and indicted for illegal reentry. De La Cruz argued that the evidence obtained in the detention and arrest should be suppressed, but he was denied by the trial court. The trial court’s decision was made on the basis that the ICE agents had reasonable suspicion to believe that De La Cruz was involved in criminal activity, and that his identification is not subject to suppression even if its seizure was unlawful.

De La Cruz appealed. The 10th Circuit found in his favor.

The 10th Circuit upheld the standard that “Once reasonable suspicion has been dispelled, ‘[e]ven a very brief extension of the detention without consent or reasonable suspicion violates the Fourth Amendment.’” U.S. v. Burleson, 657 F.3d 1040, 1045 (10th Cir. 2011).

The 10th Circuit also held that the agents did not have the authority to detain De La Cruz “…simply because criminal activity is afoot.” De La Cruz himself must have been reasonably suspected of criminal activity to be detained. The fact that Armando and Guel-Rivera both worked at the truck wash and were in the country illegally did not necessarily mean that De La Cruz was also guilty of any crime. (Romero v. Story, 672 F.3d 880, 887-88 (10th Cir. 2012).

Additionally, the court held that, just because a person appears to be of Mexican descent, this is not enough to provide the presumption that they are in the country illegally. (U.S. v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 885-87 (1975).) And, the fruits of an illegal arrest must be suppressed. (Immigration and Naturalization Services v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984) and U.S. v. Olivares-Rangel, 458 F.3d 1104 (10th Cir. 2006))

For more information on criminal law, immigration, and your rights, call Springer & Steinberg, P.C. at (877) 342-1230.

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