The Supreme Court has said that you can never suppress the body of a person accused of a crime – the person’s identity is not able to be kept out of evidence, even if that identity is the result of an unlawful arrest or search.
This is a huge issue in illegal reentry cases. If a person is deported then returns to this crime, that’s illegal reentry. If the person is deported after having been convicted of certain kinds of felonies – whoa buddy, that’s illegal reentry after having been convicted of an aggravated felony.
In light of the Supreme Court’s rule about how you can’t suppress the body of the person accused, many people who handle illegal reentry cases find them massively depressing. If you can’t suppress the person’s identity, even if the knowledge comes from an unlawful search, then you’ve gutted the Fourth Amendment for people accused of illegal reentry.
Yet, in United States v. De La Cruz, the Tenth Circuit said that a motion to suppress should have been granted when the subject of the motion to suppress was whether a man’s identification was taken against his Fourth Amendment rights.
Mr. De La Cruz Was in the Wrong Place
Three ICE agents were staking out Gill’s Truck Wash in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were looking for a man who they thought was in the country illegally. The truck wash wasn’t open yet.
A car pulled up with tinted windows. A passenger got out. The agents got a one or two second glimpse of the person driving the car.
They decided that the person driving the car may be the guy they’re looking for.
They pulled the car over.
The car was not driven by the man they were looking for – instead, it was driven by Enrique De La Cruz.
Mr. De La Cruz was dropping off his brother Armando. In the backseat of the car sat Mr. De La Cruz’s wife and his mother in law. They were joined by Armando’s wife.
The agents asked Mr. De La Cruz if he was the man they were looking for. They compared the way he looked to the picture they had of the other man. Mr. De La Cruz was not the other man.
The agent, figuring that he had already pulled the guy over, asked Mr. De La Cruz for his identification. Mr. De La Cruz gave them a fake id. They used the fake id to figure out who he is. Turns out he was in the country illegally – after having been previously deported.
The Tenth Circuit
The Tenth Circuit found that this stop and search violated Mr. De La Cruz’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.
The interesting part, though, is what they held about whether he’s allowed to complain about the stop.
As the Tenth Circuit set it up
In Lopez-Mendoza, a case addressing civil deportation hearings, the Supreme Court noted that “[t]he ‘body’ or identity of a defendant or respondent in a criminal or civil proceeding is never itself suppressible as a fruit of an unlawful arrest, even if it is conceded that an unlawful arrest, search, or interrogation occurred.” Id. at 1039. Lopez-Mendoza, however, does not “exempt from the ‘fruits’ doctrine all evidence that tends to show a defendant’s identity.” Rather, Lopez-Mendoza’s “statement that the ‘body’ or identity of a defendant are ‘never suppressible’ applies only to cases in which the defendant challenges the jurisdiction of the court over him or her based upon the unconstitutional arrest, not to cases in which the defendant only challenges the admissibility of the identity-related evidence.”
So, Mr. De La Cruz can challenge the admissibility of the fake id at his trial. That fake license was taken in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, so it won’t come in at trial.