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United States v. Soto-Delgado

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

February 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CANDELARIO SOTO-DELGADO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          ROBERT J. SHELBY United States District Judge

         Defendant Candelario Soto-Delgado, has filed a second Motion for Franks Hearing.[1] In his Motion, Mr. Soto-Delgado requests an evidentiary hearing concerning the veracity of the affidavit supporting the search warrant for his residence. He argues the affiant knowingly or recklessly omitted material information from the affidavit, and therefore evidence resulting from the execution of the warrant should be suppressed. Because Mr. Soto-Delgado has not made the substantial preliminary showing required to obtain a Franks hearing, the court DENIES his Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Soto-Delgado challenges the affidavit in support of the warrant officers obtained to search his Salt Lake County residence. This affidavit was executed on September 2, 2015, by Detective Russel Billings.[2] In the affidavit, Detective Billings described the property to be searched as:

a single family dwelling, with white wood siding, door is located in the front middle of the south facing residence, with numbers 6508 painted on the concrete steps leading to the front door, also on the mailbox located at the curb. There are outbuildings located on the property and also what appears to be a horse stall; . . .[3]

         Detective Billings asserted that in his professional experience those selling illegal substances commonly store such substances in outbuildings, vehicles, and trailers in order to avoid detection by law enforcement. He also stated “[f]ailure to search the residence, outbuildings, vehicles present at and arriving to or leaving the residence during the service of this warrant may result in Detectives missing valuable evidence related to this investigation.”[4] To support probable cause to search the property, Detective Billings described two controlled-buys of narcotics from Mr. Soto-Delgado.[5] He also described police surveillance of Mr. Soto- Delgado.[6]

         At an evidentiary hearing on Mr. Soto-Delgado's earlier Motion to Suppress, [7] Detective Bennett, who helped Detective Billings prepare the search warrant application, testified concerning his research on the subject property. As part of conducting background research, Detective Bennett pulled the Salt Lake County Assessor's map. From that map, he could see the physical address of 6508 West 3500 South contained two parcels with separate owners.[8]Detective Bennett consulted additional sources to verify that the two parcels shared the same street address.[9]

         According to Detective Bennett's review of the Assessor's map, the southern parcel at 6508 West 3500 South contained a residence, and was owned by Daniel Aposhian. The southern parcel did not contain any outbuildings. The northern parcel at 6508 West 3500 South contained the outbuildings, horse stall, and pasture, and was owned by Matt Aposhian. At the time officers obtained the warrant, the parcels were separated by an unlocked agricultural gate and a single wire fence.[10]

         Detective Billings did not mention in his affidavit that 6508 West 3500 South, while identified by one physical street address, contained two parcels with separate owners. Officers executed the search warrant and found narcotics and narcotics packaging in the outbuilding on the northern parcel.[11] They also found narcotics, cash, and narcotics packaging materials in several vehicles parked on the northern parcel.[12]

         ANALYSIS

         In this Motion, Mr. Soto-Delgado requests an evidentiary hearing concerning the veracity of the affidavit supporting the search warrant for 6508 West 3500 South. He argues Detective Billings omitted material information from the affidavit, and therefore evidence obtained from execution of the warrant must be omitted.

         Generally, courts presume an affidavit supporting a search warrant is valid.[13] But in Franks v. Delaware the Supreme Court made clear a defendant may challenge the underlying search warrant, through the supporting affidavit, in certain circumstances.[14] To successfully challenge a search warrant, a defendant must prove two elements by a preponderance of the evidence:[15] (1) that the affiant made “a false statement knowingly or intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth”[16] and, (2) that if the affidavit had not included the allegedly false statement the affidavit would not have provided probable cause for the warrant.[17] The “standards of deliberate falsehood and reckless disregard set forth in Franks apply to material omissions, as well as affirmative falsehoods.”[18]

         To be entitled to a Franks hearing, a defendant must make a “substantial preliminary showing” of these two elements.[19] To establish the affiant's omissions were reckless, under the first element of Franks, the defendant must show the affiant omitted facts that were “‘clearly critical' to a finding of probable cause.”[20] “[N]egligence or innocent mistakes are insufficient to justify the exclusion of evidence.”[21]

         The court concludes Mr. Soto-Delgado has failed to make a substantial showing that the omitted facts were clearly critical to the probable cause determination, and thus has failed to show reckless omission under the first Franks element. Mr. Soto-Delgado merely asserts that if the Judge had been aware there were two separate parcels he would have required probable cause for the search of each parcel individually. Mr. Soto-Delgado, however, points the court to no legal authority to support this assertion.[22] The Government also noted in its Opposition that, while there is case law that mandates law enforcement to seek separate warrants to search separate dwellings, it “has not found any authority that suggests that parcel numbers, legal property descriptions, or even property ownership dictate the bounds of a search warrant or probable cause, particularly when the separate parcels ...


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