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United States v. Gamache

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 6, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
RANDOLPH LEO GAMACHE, Defendant, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE. Hon. John A. Woodcock, Jr., U.S. District Judge, Hon. Margaret J. Kravchuk, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

Affirmed.

Stephen C. Smith, with whom Lipman & Katz was on brief, for appellant.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Torruella, Selya and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Randolph Leo Gamache labors to drape this appeal in a fabric woven out of interesting constitutional questions arising under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. But federal courts have no roving writ to address legal questions merely because those questions are intriguing. The case before us is susceptible to resolution through the application of two familiar exceptions to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment: the consent doctrine and the plain view doctrine. Following that well-trodden path to its logical conclusion, we affirm the district court's denial of the appellant's motion to suppress.

I.

Background

We rehearse the relevant facts as supportably found below and chronicle the travel of the case.[1] On July 30, 2012, two armed police officers (Scott Scripture and Ed Leskey) arrived at the appellant's home in Orono, Maine, to serve a temporary order for protection from abuse stemming from an ex parte complaint filed by his former wife. See Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 19-A, § 4006(2). The appellant opened his front door and motioned for the officers to enter. Once inside, Officer Scripture read aloud the material portions of the protection-from-abuse order, including a provision prohibiting the appellant's possession of firearms. See id. § 4006(2-A). He then gave the appellant a copy of the order, which contained a note in bold-face type and capital letters warning that any violation of the order was punishable as a crime. See id. § 4011(1)(A). A second order, attached to the first, required the appellant to surrender any firearms in his possession immediately upon service. The appellant signed that order, acknowledging receipt of service.

Officer Scripture proceeded to inquire whether the appellant had any firearms in his apartment. The appellant pointed to the living room wall, where two shotguns -- one of which was an unregistered sawed-off shotgun -- were clearly visible and prominently displayed. The district court credited Officer Scripture's sworn statement that he would have seen the firearms from his vantage point had the appellant not pointed them out. See United States v. Gamache, No. 13-21, 2013 WL 3324217, at *2 (D. Me. July 1, 2013); see also Id. at *1 n.1 (overruling objection to this factual finding).

Officer Leskey removed the two shotguns from the wall, and the appellant turned over two other guns. The entire interaction lasted about forty minutes and was " nonconfrontational." Id. at *6. At no point did the officers conduct a search of the apartment.

On two subsequent occasions, detectives went to the appellant's home to question him about the sawed-off shotgun. The appellant made incriminating statements to the detectives, admitting, among other things, that he had used a hacksaw to shorten the barrel of the shotgun and that he knew that it was unlawful for him to trim the barrel to less than 18 inches. These interviews were " conversational" and " relaxed." Id. at *2.

In due season, a federal grand jury charged the appellant with a violation of federal law, to wit, possessing an unregistered shotgun with a barrel measuring less than 18 inches. See 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d); see also id. § 5845(a)(1). The appellant moved to suppress the sawed-off shotgun and his statements about it on Fourth and Fifth Amendment grounds. He maintained that his relinquishment of the sawed-off shotgun was coerced under penalty of state criminal sanctions and that his subsequent ...


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