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State v. Rowland

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Jackson

June 2, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
RAY ROWLAND

          Session November 2, 2016

         Appeal by Permission from the Court of Criminal Appeals Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 1003516 James M. Lammey, Judge

         The issue we address is whether a defendant has an appeal as of right from the denial of a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) motion for return of property when the defendant did not file a pretrial motion to suppress and pleaded guilty. The defendant was indicted on charges of aggravated assault by use or display of a deadly weapon. Law enforcement officers seized guns and other related items from the defendant's home. The defendant did not challenge the seizure of his property and pleaded guilty to reduced charges of reckless endangerment. Three years later, he filed a Rule 41(g) motion for the return of property. The trial court dismissed the motion, and the defendant appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that the defendant may be entitled to relief under Rule 41(g) based on the court's determination that an illegal seizure occurs when, after a conviction, the State retains possession of property that is not stolen and not connected to the commission of a crime. See State v. Rowland, No. W2014-02311-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 6601315, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 30, 2015), perm. app. granted (Mar. 23, 2016). We hold that the defendant had no appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(b) from the trial court's order denying the Rule 41(g) motion. The Court of Criminal Appeals erred by hearing the defendant's appeal when it lacked jurisdiction under Rule 3(b) and by determining that the defendant could be entitled to relief under Rule 41(g).

         Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals Reversed

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Jennifer L. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Glen Baity and Billy Bond, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          M. Haden Lawyer, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Ray Rowland.

          Sharon G. Lee, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Cornelia A. Clark, Holly Kirby, and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          SHARON G. LEE, JUSTICE

         I.

         In May 2010, a Shelby County Grand Jury indicted Ray Rowland on two counts of aggravated assault by use or display of a deadly weapon. In August 2011, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless endangerment on each count and received concurrent probated and suspended sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days.

         On August 22, 2014, Mr. Rowland filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) motion for return of property in the Shelby County Criminal Court.[1] Mr. Rowland's motion alleged that, on February 24, 2010, the police went to his house after receiving a report that he had fired two gunshots in the direction of another individual. Mr. Rowland, who collected firearms, told the police he owned guns. The police informed Mr. Rowland that if he did not consent to a search of his house, "they would come back with a warrant, tear up his house, and blowtorch his safe." Mr. Rowland consented to the search; the police seized at least forty-seven items, most of which were firearms. Many of the firearms were new, had never been used, and could not have been used in the crime. Mr. Rowland sought return of the seized property based on the illegality of the warrantless search.

         In October 2014, the trial court heard the Rule 41(g) motion for return of property. Neither party introduced any evidence. Following argument of counsel, the trial court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction, noting that Mr. Rowland consented to the search of his house and waived any issue with the search by pleading guilty.

         Mr. Rowland then appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court for a hearing on Mr. Rowland's Rule 41(g) motion. Rowland, 2015 WL 6601315, at *4. The intermediate appellate court reasoned that the State's continued retention of Mr. Rowland's property was an illegal seizure because the property was not stolen and was not connected to the crime for which Mr. Rowland was convicted. Id. at *3. Therefore, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that Mr. Rowland may be entitled to the return of his property under Rule 41(g) based on the State's retention of his property following his guilty plea. ...


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