M.D.Fla.: Guest’s host’s consent was coerced and suppressed

Defendant was an overnight guest with standing. His host’s consent was coerced by the police and wasn’t voluntary. United States v. Powell, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141017 (M.D. Fla. July 16, 2019)*:

Based on the totality of the circumstances and having considered the relevant factors set out in Spivey, the undersigned finds that Ms. Williams’s consent was not voluntary. This finding includes consideration of the following taken together: 1) Ms. Williams’s custodial status; 2) Ms. Williams’s level of cooperation with the officers; 3) the use of strong coercive police tactics; 4) the large law enforcement presence at the scene; 5) the humiliating nature of the encounter; 6) Ms. Williams’s belief that incriminating evidence would be found; 7) Ms. Williams’s level of education and intelligence; 8) Ms. Williams’s lack of experience with law enforcement; and 9) Ms. Williams’s lack of awareness that she could refuse to consent. Ms. Williams’s education and level of cooperation with police are insufficient to render her consent voluntary in light of the other factors and circumstances as discussed below. Overall, Ms. Williams’s consent was the product of duress and coercion, rather than one of free will.

As to the voluntariness of Ms. Williams’s custodial status, Sergeant Doherty testified Ms. Williams was not free to leave, Tr. at 114, and Ms. Williams stated she did not feel free to discontinue the conversation and leave, Tr. at 227. Ms. Williams’s custodial status was involuntary, even though she was not physically restrained. See Tr. at 114.

Regarding Ms. Williams’s cooperativeness with law enforcement, Sergeant Doherty and Detective Fields testified that Ms. Williams was cooperative with them. Tr. at 116 (Sergeant Doherty’s testimony); Tr. at 159 (Detective Fields’s testimony). Clearly, Officer Bailey viewed Ms. Williams’s hesitancy to consent as less than fully cooperative, triggering his forceful intervention.

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