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Miranda v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah

March 8, 2019

JACQUES MIRANDA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Dee Benson, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Petitioner Jacques Miranda's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Having considered the motion and pleadings, having reviewed the file, and being otherwise fully informed, the court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 2, 2017, the United States filed a Complaint against Petitioner for Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1). (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 1.) On March 6, 2017, Petitioner made his initial appearance, and Benjamin Hamilton of the Federal Public Defenders Office was appointed to be his counsel. (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. Nos. 3 and 4.) On March 15, 2017, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment against Petitioner alleging one count of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1). (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 9.) Count I of the Indictment alleged that Petitioner knowingly and intentionally possessed with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. (Id.)

         On May 8, 2017, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Petitioner entered into a plea agreement whereby he pled guilty to a Superseding Information, (Case No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 17, ) alleging possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2, and punishable pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §841(b)(1)(B). In exchange for his plea, the government and the court agreed with Plaintiff that his sentence would be 84 months of imprisonment with 48 months of supervised release to follow, under standard and special conditions. (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 20.)

         In his plea and sentencing hearing, Petitioner waived his right to prosecution by indictment in open court pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(b). (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 18.) Petitioner's 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement included an appeal waiver, which prohibited him from appealing or challenging his sentence, except with respect to the ineffective assistance of counsel. (No. 2:17-cr-159, Dkt. No. 20.)

         On May 3, 2018, Petitioner filed a timely Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. (Dkt. No. 1.) On May 7, 2018, Petitioner filed an Addendum to his §2255 motion. (Dkt. No. 2.) The government responded to Petitioner's Motion on July 6, 2018. (Dkt. No. 4.)

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On March 1, 2017, Petitioner was traveling to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles through Las Vegas. Based on information submitted by confidential informants, an investigation of several law enforcement agencies, and cell phone location data acquired pursuant to two warrants[1], an attempt to locate (ATL) was issued with respect to Petitioner. The ATL identified Petitioner's vehicle and notified law enforcement that Petitioner was suspected to be transporting narcotics. The ATL further instructed law enforcement to obtain independent probable cause prior to making a traffic stop.

         Petitioner was first stopped pursuant to the ATL in the afternoon of March 1, 2017, by Utah Highway Patrol in Nephi, Utah. The trooper observed Petitioner, noted that he was confrontational, but gave Petitioner a warning rather than a citation, and did not question or search Petitioner. Petitioner continued to travel toward Salt Lake City.

         At approximately 7:00 PM that evening, Utah State Troopers Barret and Rowley observed Petitioner's vehicle entering Salt Lake City. The troopers followed Petitioner's vehicle off the freeway and through downtown Salt Lake City. As Petitioner's vehicle passed through downtown Salt Lake City, the troopers observed the vehicle fail to signal as it switched lanes, and they initiated a traffic stop. While the Troopers issued a traffic citation, K-9 officers and Petitioner's parole officer were contacted.

         Two K-9 officers and Petitioner's parole officer arrived shortly thereafter. The first K-9 officer to arrive was unable to allow his dog to sniff around the vehicle, per department policy, as Petitioner declined to exit his vehicle. Parole officers arrived thereafter and began to search the vehicle. When one of the parole officers requested access to the trunk of the vehicle, Petitioner stated that it was inaccessible. A second K-9 officer then arrived; the dog sniffed the vehicle and indicated in the trunk area. Trooper Rowley then used Petitioner's key to open the trunk. Inside of the trunk in a black pelican box, the officers discovered one pound of methamphetamine. Petitioner was placed under arrest and taken to the State Bureau of Investigation for questioning.

         At the time of the ATL and stop, Petitioner was a parolee of the State of Utah. Utah law requires that “[a]n inmate who is eligible for release on parole shall, as a condition of parole, sign an agreement…that the inmate…is subject to search or seizure of the inmate's person, property, place of temporary or permanent residence, vehicle or personal effects while on parole: (a) by a parole officer at any time, with or without a search warrant, and with or without cause; and (b) by a law enforcement officer at any time, with or without a search warrant, and with or without cause….” Utah Code § 77-23-301.

         Consistent with Utah law, on November 17, 2015, Petitioner signed a parole agreement. Above his signature, Petitioner affirmed: “I have read, understand and agree to be bound by this ...


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