United States v. Vasquez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-15-2011
  • Case #: 10-50336
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rymer for the Court; Circuit Judges Tallman and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

A search warrant which incorrectly lists a defendant’s rank and position in a criminal organization is still valid if, despite the error, the issuing magistrate would still have a substantial basis in believing that there was a “fair probability” evidence of criminal activity would be found.

Miguel Vasquez, an officer in the Mongols Motorcycle Club, was arrested and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, after agents executed a warrant against Vasquez in his home to seize evidence of RICO violations under 18 U.S.C. § 1962. Vasquez appealed his conviction. First, Vasquez argued that the warrant was invalid, in that it incorrectly listed Vasquez as president of his Mongols chapter. The Court held that the warrant and evidence seized from it was still valid as Vasquez was still an officer in the Mongols – though not the president of his chapter – and that the magistrate was proper in concluding that, due to Vasquez’s position as an officer, notes related to the Mongols’ activities would be found in Vasquez’s home due to his position. Second, Vasquez argued that the search warrant was an unconstitutional general warrant. The Court held that the warrant was valid as it sought to seize only Mongols documents. Third, Vasquez challenged his conviction for lack of evidence linking him to the gun and ammunition. The Court disagreed, saying there was sufficient evidence to establish constructive possession. Finally, Vasquez claimed his sentence is unreasonably excessive. The Court held that the trial judge properly exercised discretion by sentencing Vasquez to a term significantly below the Guideline’s recommendation. AFFIRMED.

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