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United States v. Fulks

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

January 16, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKATO FULKS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, District Judge.

On January 9, 2015, the parties appeared before the Court for a hearing on Defendant Mikato Fulk's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 14) and the Government's Response. (Doc. 15). After considering the testimony of the witnesses and the briefs and arguments presented by the parties, the Court DENIED the Motion as far as statements made to Detective Gene Johnson and Special Agent Brain Rorex, but GRANTED the Motion as to any statements made from the time Fulks was placed into the Springdale Police Department's vehicle and taken to his residence on Old Wire Road to conduct a search. To the extent this Order conflicts with statements or rulings issued from the bench, this Order will control.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 21, 2014, while investigating a case involving the distribution of controlled substances, detectives from the fourth judicial task force of the Springdale narcotics unit and members of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") executed a search warrant at 1567 Dodd Avenue in Springdale, Arkansas. Officers kicked in the door of the residence upon entry and handcuffed the occupants, including Fulks. Fulks informed officers that he resided at a house nearby, located at 2437 Old Wire Road, and offered his consent to search the home, where he admitted there were guns. Officers then went to Fulks' residence to conduct a search. Fulks was not provided with Miranda warnings prior to giving consent to search or making the statement about the guns.

In his Motion, Fulks asks the Court to suppress all statements attributed to him on the day of his arrest because officers failed to provide him with Miranda warnings prior to obtaining incriminating information from him. Fulks raises the following arguments: (1) he was in custody for purposes of Miranda and (2) officers asked him questions that were reasonably likely to elicit incriminating information.

The Government concedes that Fulks was in custody for purposes of Miranda, but argues that Miranda was not triggered because he volunteered the information concerning firearms at his residence without any interrogation by officers.

Neither the validity of the search warrant at Dodd Avenue, nor the validity of the consent to search Fulks' residence are challenged in this Motion to Suppress.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

A. Detective Gene Johnson's Testimony

Detective Gene Johnson of the fourth judicial drug task force in Springdale, Arkansas, testified that he was conducting an ongoing investigation regarding the distribution of controlled substances by monitoring packages being sent to 1567 Dodd Avenue. On July 21, 2014, the postal service intercepted a package containing one pound of methamphetamine and 10 pounds of marijuana, upon which officers "obtained an anticipatory search warrant so that once the package was delivered to the residence, we served the search warrant."

On that same day, at approximately 12:50 p.m., officers broke down the door and made entry into the Dodd Avenue residence. Fulks was present in the home along with four other occupants. Detective Johnson testified that officers secured the occupants by placing them on the floor to handcuff them, and then separated them. He subsequently took Fulks outside of the home and asked Fulks where he resided. Fulks replied that he lived at 2437 Old Wire Road on a part-time basis with his wife and kids. Detective Johnson contended that he did not ask Fulks whether he had drugs or weapons, and further denied that he spoke to Fulks' wife or anyone else claiming that the guns belonged to them.

Detective Johnson testified that as he began to walk away from Fulks, Fulks stated that if officers were going to search his residence, they did not "need to kick in his door, that he would give his consent to search." Detective Johnson maintained that he did not ask to search Fulks' residence, but that this consent was given spontaneously. Detective Johnson stated that no Miranda warnings were given to Fulks, as officers did not yet have cause to arrest him, because at that point, Fulks was simply present in the house where drugs were located and a search warrant had been executed.

Prior to executing the Dodd Avenue warrant, Detective Johnson acknowledged that he was aware of Fulks' prior felony. However, he contended that the focal point of the investigation centered around the drug investigation at the Dodd Avenue address, in which Fulks was a participant. Detective Johnson maintained that he did not inform Fulks of his Miranda rights as he was not interrogating him, but only asked questions that pertained to where he resided. Subsequently, Detective Johnson advised a supervisor at the DEA that Fulks consented to a search of his residence, after which DEA Agent Brian Rorex obtained Fulks' written consent to search his residence at Old Wire Road.

After a search was conducted at Old Wire Road, a detective brought Detective Johnson a HiPoint 9mm pistol, which had been identified as Fulks' weapon. Detective Johnson took the firearm back to the police station, where ...


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