United States v. Michael Pedro Andres (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Federal Docket

July 6, 2020

Evidence/Motion to Suppress – The good cause exception to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12’s requirement that pretrial motions must be filed timely does not apply to strategic decisions or inadvertence.

Sentencing Guideline  – Although asserting the right to trial does not necessarily preclude a downward departure based on acceptance of responsibility, the sentencing court did not err in refusing to grant the departure where the defendant maintained his innocence pretrial and raised issues as to his factual innocence.

Michael Pedro Andres was convicted of distribution of methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C § 841(a)(1), conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). He was sentenced to 360 months of imprisonment and ten years of supervised release.

On appeal, Andres raised two claims. First, he argued that the district court erred in denying his “concededly untimely” motion to suppress because he had shown good cause for its untimely filing, namely his decision to take the case to trial since he faced a mandatory life sentence and his hope “that the case would resolve itself before having to file a suppression motion.” Andres also argued that the court erred by failing to grant him a downward departure under U.S.S.G. 3E1.1 because he demonstrated acceptance of responsibility.

The Court disagreed on both issues, holding that “[n]either a strategic decision nor inadvertence constitutes good cause” for an untimely motion. The Court noted that Andres provided no authority permitting tactical decisions to justify knowingly defying a scheduling order. Because there was no good cause, the district court did not abuse its discretion denying the motion.

The Court further held that, notwithstanding Andres’ failure to file a timely motion to suppress, it was not plain error to admit the methamphetamines recovered during a traffic stop Andres sought to challenge.

The Court also held that the sentencing court did not err in finding that Andres did not accept responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1. Although Andres was not precluded from receiving an acceptance of responsibility reduction simply by going to trial, a downward departure for acceptance of responsibility would be more appropriate where the right to trial was exercised to preserve issues unrelated to factual guilt.

Here, Andres maintained his innocence and “raised issues relating to his factual guilt.” Because there were only disputed pre-trial statements and non-memorialized conduct that indicated Andres accepted responsibility before trial, the court did not err by refusing to reduce Andres’s sentence. Further, nothing indicated that the court believed it was precluded, as a matter of law, from granting the reduction.

Appeal from the Northern District of Alabama

 Opinion by Logoa, joined by Branch and Fay

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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