Argued: September 28, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Wilmington. Louise W.
Flanagan, District Judge. (7:16-cr-00005-FL-1)
Margaret Hayes, Cary, North Carolina, for Appellant.
Kristine L. Fritz, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney, Jennifer, P.
May-Parker, Acting First Assistant United States Attorney,
Phillip A. Rubin, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF
THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for
NIEMEYER and KEENAN, Circuit Judges, and Norman K. MOON,
United States District Judge for the Western District of
Virginia, sitting by designation.
NIEMEYER, Circuit Judge.
Ismael Azua-Rinconada ("Azua") was indicted for
illegally entering the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C.
§ 1326(a), he filed two motions to suppress all
statements and all other evidence obtained by law enforcement
officers during their encounter with him prior to his arrest.
He alleged that the officers, acting without a warrant,
gained access to his residence through coercion, in violation
of the Fourth Amendment, and that they then subjected him to
custodial interrogation without providing him with
Miranda warnings, in violation of the Fifth
Amendment. Following a hearing, the district court denied the
motions, concluding that the officers received voluntary
consent to enter Azua's residence and that Azua was not
in custody when he voluntarily gave answers to the
officers' questions. A jury then found Azua guilty of
violating § 1326(a), and the court sentenced him to time
served and committed him to the custody of the Department of
Homeland Security for deportation.
appeal, Azua contends that the district court erred in
denying his suppression motions because (1) the law
enforcement officers did not have valid consent to enter his
residence and thus needed a warrant, and (2) the
officers' interrogation of him was custodial and thus
violated his Fifth Amendment rights because no
Miranda warnings had been given. For the reasons
that follow, we affirm.
morning of January 6, 2016, a team of six law enforcement
officers working with Homeland Security Investigations
("HSI") set out on a "knock and talk"
operation in a mobile home park in Robeson County, North
Carolina. The team was led by HSI Special Agent Bryan Moultis
and included Corporal José Hernandez, a detective in
the Hoke County Sheriff's Office who spoke Spanish. At
approximately 9:30 a.m., Agent Moultis and Corporal Hernandez
approached the trailer that was Azua's residence to
conduct a "knock and talk." At the time, Moultis
was wearing a shirt with "police" written across
the chest, was carrying a holstered firearm, and had his
badge around his neck. Hernandez was also carrying a
holstered firearm and was wearing a body cam that recorded
the interaction that followed.
Agent Moultis and Corporal Hernandez stood on either side of
the front door of the trailer, Hernandez knocked on the door.
After receiving no response, he continued to knock, saying
"open the door" in Spanish. Hernandez then said, in
English, "Publisher's Clearinghouse," and
Moultis remarked that he could hear voices from inside the
residence. Hernandez then knocked more forcefully and said in
Spanish, "Open the door or we're going to knock it
down," followed, in English, by "Police, open the
Azua and his fiancée, Amaryllis Powell, who was
pregnant with Azua's child, heard the officers'
knocks and the threat to knock down the door, they became
scared. But when Azua realized that it was police who were at
the door, he instructed Powell to open it because, as he
testified, "I knew nothing was going to happen to
her." He also testified that he did not "believe
that they were going to take the door down." Powell
testified that when she opened the door ...