Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session June 24, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 280286 Barry A. Steelman, Judge
Jay Underwood, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Allen Lebron Tucker.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; William H. Cox, III, District Attorney General; and Bret Alexander, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Joseph M. Tipton, P.J., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined.
ROBERT W.WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
This case arises from the execution of a search warrant on the Defendant's residence. A Hamilton County grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging the Defendant with possession of cocaine with the intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant on his residence. He alleged that law enforcement violated the knock-and-announce rule by entering the residence too quickly and that the warrant was facially invalid.
A. Motion to Suppress
The trial court held a hearing on the motion to suppress and the parties presented the following evidence: Jeff Lancaster, a Chattanooga Police Department narcotics detective, testified that he executed a search warrant at the Defendant's residence on March 16, 2011, along with eight to ten officers. Detective Lancaster testified that he and the other officers wore black tactical vests that were marked with "police" in large white letters across the front and the back of the vests. He explained that the residence had been under surveillance for approximately a week.
Detective Lancaster testified that the officers began announcing, "police, search warrant, " as soon as they exited the raid van. He said one person was in the yard at the time, and the officers continued to announce their presence as they proceeded up the steps to the front door of the residence. Upon reaching the front door, Detective Lancaster "knocked and announce[d]." The front interior door of the residence was open, and Detective Lancaster could see into the residence through the outer closed screen door. Detective Lancaster did not see anyone inside the residence, and, after waiting four or five seconds, he entered.
Detective Lancaster testified that he found the Defendant and Donnella Colvin, the Defendant's girlfriend, inside the "living room area" of the residence. He recalled that the Defendant and Ms. Colvin were both seated on a couch, neither making any attempt to respond to the knock at the front door. Detective Lancaster stated that the police found drugs in the kitchen cabinet. He also stated that he found a water bill for the residence in the Defendant's name.
On cross-examination, Detective Lancaster testified that he had participated in the surveillance of the Defendant's residence prior to the execution of the search warrant. He explained that he observed "short-term traffic" consistent with illegal drug sales. A confidential informant informed police that "a black male, light-skinned, known as Allen, was selling crack cocaine from the said location." Three controlled buys were conducted with the confidential informant at the Defendant's residence. Detective Lancaster said that he provided the confidential informant with marked money to buy the drugs and that the marked money was found on the Defendant's person during the execution of the search warrant.
Detective Lancaster testified that it took the police officers approximately ten seconds to get from the van to the Defendant's front porch. He reiterated that he knocked on the front door of the residence and announced "police, search warrant, " and then waited four or five seconds. When he received no response, he entered the residence. He said that he did not cause any damage to the door upon entry. The Defendant, who was seated on a couch, did not show any reaction upon the police officers' entry. Detective Lancaster testified that he executed the search warrant on the same day he received the search warrant signed by a magistrate.
Lee Wolff, a Chattanooga Police Department narcotics detective, testified that he was involved with the execution of a search warrant at the Defendant's residence. Detective Wolff described the arrival at the residence as follows:
As we were pulling up in front of the residence, there was a guy on the front porch of the residence, appeared to have been a customer or someone standing on the front porch.
When we pulled up, he made eye contact with us and he immediately starting informing everyone around the vicinity that we were police, or they call it a bum rush.
When we were exiting the van, [the "guy on the front porch"] jumped off the front porch and started to flee.
Officer Wolff stated that as the man jumped, six or seven feet down, off the front porch of the Defendant's residence yelling "bum rush, bum rush, " the front screen door was shutting "as if someone was at the door." Officer Wolff estimated that it took the officers approximately twenty to thirty seconds to get from the van to the front door of the residence. He stated that all of the officers were yelling "search warrant, police" as they approached.
On cross-examination, Detective Wolff testified that crack cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and cash were found during the search of the residence. He secured these items at the scene and submitted the evidence to the property room at the police department, March 16, 2011, on the same day as the search.
After the presentation of the evidence, the trial court denied the Defendant's motion to suppress, finding that the warrant was facially valid and that, under the circumstances of this case, the Defendant was ...