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United States v. Camou

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

December 11, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHAD DANIEL CAMOU, Defendant-Appellant

Argued May 7, 2013

Submitted December 3, 2014, Pasadena, California

Page 933

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 934

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. D.C. No. 3:11-cr-05027-H-1. Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Criminal Law

The panel reversed the district court's denial of a criminal defendant's motion to suppress images of child pornography found on his cell phone during a warrantless search.

The panel held that the warrantless search of the cell phone at a Border Patrol checkpoint's security offices was not roughly contemporaneous with the defendant's arrest and, therefore, not a search incident to arrest, given both the passage of one hour and twenty minutes between arrest and search, and the seven intervening acts between arrest and search that signaled the arrest was over.

The panel held that the search of the cell phone is not excused under the exigency exception to the warrant requirement because the government failed to show exigent circumstances that required immediate police action, and even if the exigencies permitted a search of the phone to prevent the loss of call data, the search's scope was impermissibly overbroad.

The panel held that cell phones are not containers for purposes of the vehicle exception to the warrant requirement, and that the search of the defendant's cell phone therefore cannot be justified under that exception.

The panel concluded that neither the inevitable-discovery exception to the exclusionary rule, nor the good-faith exception, applies.

James Fife, Deputy Federal Public Defenders, San Diego, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Alessandra P. Serano, Assistant United States Attorney, San Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Harry Pregerson and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges, and James S. Gwin, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 935

PREGERSON, Circuit Judge.

Chad Camou appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress images of child pornography found on his cell phone during a warrantless search. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We reverse.

FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

I. Camou's Arrest and the Seizure of Camou's Cell Phone at 10:40 p.m.

On August 1, 2009, United States Border Patrol agents stopped a truck belonging to Chad Camou at a primary inspection checkpoint on Highway 86 in Westmorland, California. Camou was driving the truck, while his girlfriend, Ashley Lundy, sat in the passenger seat. Agents at the checkpoint grew suspicious when Lundy did not make eye contact, so they asked Camou if they could open the door to the truck. Once they opened the door, the agents saw Alejandro Martinez-Ramirez (Martinez-Ramirez), an undocumented immigrant, lying on the floor behind the truck's front seats. Consequently, at about 10:40 p.m., agents arrested and handcuffed Camou, Lundy, and Martinez-Ramirez. At the same time, agents also seized Camou's truck and a cell phone found in the cab of the truck. Agents then moved Camou, Lundy, and Martinez-Ramirez into the checkpoint's security offices for booking.

II. Agents Processed, Booked, and Interviewed Camou at the Security Offices

Once at the checkpoint's security offices, Border Patrol agents processed and booked Camou and Lundy. At some point during the booking process, Border Patrol Agent Andrew Baldwin inventoried Camou's cell phone as " seized property and evidence."

Agents then began to interview Camou and Lundy. Lundy was given Miranda warnings. It is unclear whether Camou was given Miranda warnings or whether he said anything to the agents at this point. Neither Camou nor Lundy asked for an attorney.

During Lundy's initial interview with Border Patrol Agent Richard Walla, Lundy waived her Miranda rights and explained that, before she and Camou picked up Martinez-Ramirez, Camou had received a phone call from Jessie, a.k.a. " Mother Teresa." " Mother Teresa" arranged for Camou to pick up Martinez-Ramirez in Calexico, California and transport him to either Palm Desert, California or Coachella, California. During Lundy's interview, Camou's cell phone rang several times. The caller identification screen on the phone displayed the phone number that Lundy had identified as belonging to " Mother Teresa." Agents asked Camou if the cell phone belonged to him. Camou replied, " Yes."

Border Patrol Agents Jason Masney and Ciudad Real attempted to further interview Martinez-Ramirez, Camou, and Lundy.

Page 936

Martinez-Ramirez told the agents that he had been in the car for about forty minutes and that Camou had planned to take him to Los Angeles. Camou invoked his right to remain silent. Lundy, meanwhile, agreed to answer more questions. She told the agents that she and Camou had been smuggling undocumented immigrants about eight times per month for about nine months. She explained that Camou would receive phone calls from smugglers on his cell phone both before and after passing the Highway 86 checkpoint.

III. Warrantless Search of Camou's Cell Phone at 12:00 a.m.

At 12:00 a.m., one hour and twenty minutes after Camou's arrest, Agent Walla searched Camou's cell phone. In his subsequent report, Agent Walla claimed he was looking for evidence of " known smuggling organizations and information related to the case." Agent Walla did not assert that the search was necessary to ...


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