Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session November 16, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Blount County No. C-22828 David
Reed Duggan, Judge.
Defendant, Joseph Durward Watson II, was charged with
possession with the intent to sell more than one-half ounce
but less than ten pounds of marijuana. See T.C.A.
§ 39-17-417 (2014). He filed a motion to suppress the
evidence recovered from the search of the home in which the
marijuana was found. The trial court granted the motion,
determining that the police exceeded the scope of a levy
issued for the collection of unpaid court costs and fines. On
appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred by
granting the motion to suppress because the Defendant
disclaimed any expectation of privacy in the home, depriving
him of standing to challenge the search. We affirm the
judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; Mike L.
Flynn, District Attorney General; and Matthew Dunn, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of
Nathaniel H. Evans (on appeal and at hearing), Knoxville,
Tennessee, and Joe Costner (at hearing), Maryville,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Joseph Durward Watson II.
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined. Timothy L. Easter,
J., filed a dissenting opinion.
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.
7, 2014, the Defendant was indicted for possession with
intent to sell more than one-half ounce but less than ten
pounds of marijuana. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress
the drug-related evidence seized at a home on December 20,
2013, that led to the charge in the present case.
hearing, Blount County Sheriff's Investigator David
Mendez testified that he was assigned to the Fifth Judicial
District Drug Task Force. On December 20, 2013, he was
assigned to serve a levy on the Defendant for unpaid court
costs and fines from a previous case. Investigator Mendez
explained that it was not uncommon for deputies in the Drug
Task Force to execute levies for unpaid court costs and fines
from drug-related cases. He acknowledged the sheriff's
department had received a complaint, alleging the Defendant
was selling narcotics out of his home, before the levy was
Mendez testified that he and Sheriff's Deputy Pearson
went to the Defendant's home to serve the levy and that
at some point, Chief Ron Talbott arrived at the home.
Investigator Mendez stated they walked onto the front porch
and knocked on the door for several minutes. When nobody
opened the door, the deputies stepped away from the door and
checked the registration of two vehicles parked in the
driveway. Investigator Mendez stated that the Defendant
walked out of the home and that Investigator Mendez explained
they were there to serve a civil levy and how a civil levy
worked. Investigator Mendez said that he asked the Defendant
if he had anything of value in his pockets and that the
Defendant emptied some loose change from his pockets.
Investigator Mendez stated that they "asked" the
Defendant "that we needed to get in his residence to
execute the levy." Investigator Mendez said the
Defendant responded that he did not live there, that the home
belonged to his girlfriend, that the front door locked
automatically when he left the home, and that "he left
his keys inside." Investigator Mendez said that the
Defendant asked if he was free to leave and that the deputies
allowed him to leave without incident. The Defendant left on
Mendez testified that when he spoke to the Defendant, a
deputy was attempting to obtain records showing the Defendant
lived at the home because the deputies believed the Defendant
was lying. Investigator Mendez noted the sheriff's
department had information that the Defendant lived there.
After the Defendant left, the deputies knocked on the front
door again because Investigator Mendez said the Defendant
stated that his girlfriend was inside the home. Investigator
Mendez said that nobody came to the door, that the deputies
"walked down the side of the house, looking for . . .
[personal] property to . . . satisfy the levy, " and
that the deputies smelled marijuana coming from the crawl
space vent. Investigator Mendez said that he walked to the
deck and looked through a window to determine if anyone was
inside the home, that he did not see anyone inside, and that
he smelled marijuana coming from the nearby crawl space vent.
Investigator Mendez said that he and the deputies returned to
the front of the home and knocked on the door a third time.
Investigator Mendez said that he saw partially smoked
marijuana cigarettes in an ashtray on the front porch and
that he obtained and executed a search warrant that
afternoon. He said several pounds of high-quality
marijuana were found inside the home.
cross-examination, Investigator Mendez denied that he was
instructed to look for drug activity at the Defendant's
home when attempting to execute the levy and that he was only
there to collect money or personal property for the levy. He
admitted, though, that he had information that the Defendant
was selling drugs and that he thought he might find something
illegal. Investigator Mendez maintained that the purpose of
serving the levy was not to investigate the Defendant or to
"look for a reason to get a search warrant."
Mendez testified that two vehicles in the driveway were not
registered to the Defendant, although the Defendant had been
seen driving one of them. He denied drugs were found inside
the crawl space. He said that he initially knocked on the
front door for twenty minutes, that he looked through the
front-porch window, and that he did not see anything.
Investigator Mendez denied that he patted down the Defendant
and said that he did not take the change from the
Defendant's pants pockets because it amounted to less
than one dollar. Investigator Mendez said that the levy was
never served upon the Defendant and denied that the Defendant
advised he intended to pay his outstanding fines and court
Mendez testified that the Defendant stated that the home did
not belong to him, that his "keys" were inside the
home, and that his girlfriend was inside the home.
Investigator Mendez said that he checked to determine whether
the front door was locked after the Defendant left on foot.
Investigator Mendez estimated that he was three feet from the
crawl space vent when he smelled marijuana.
County Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher testified that his
office had established a collections department in an effort
to collect outstanding ligation taxes, court costs, and fines
owed by criminal defendants and that levies and garnishments
were used to collect the outstanding debts. He stated that
the Defendant pleaded guilty and received an effective
six-year sentence in November 2003. Mr. Hatcher said that
although the Defendant's sentences had expired, the
Defendant owed approximately $3000 in court costs and fines.
Mr. Hatcher stated that at the expiration of a criminal
sentence, his office was permitted to collect any unpaid
fines and court costs as a civil judgment by establishing a
payment plan, garnishing wages, or issuing a levy. Mr.
Hatcher testified that the levy issued in this case was in
accordance with the policies of his office but that the
sheriff deputy's return stated the levy was not executed.
cross-examination, Mr. Hatcher testified that unpaid debts
were considered civil judgments after the trial court lost
jurisdiction at the expiration of a criminal sentence. Upon
questioning by the trial court, Mr. Hatcher stated that law
enforcement officers contacted his office, requesting that a
deputy clerk determine if the Defendant owed money relative
to the 2003 convictions. Mr. Hatcher said the request was not
unusual. Upon ...