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State v. Payton Hamm

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 11, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
ANGELA CARRIE PAYTON HAMM and DAVID LEE HAMM

          Session January 4, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Obion County No. CC-16-CR-15 Jeff Parham, Judge

         The State appeals the trial court's order granting the Defendants' motions to suppress evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search of their house. The trial court found that, although Defendant Angela Hamm was on probation at the time of the search and was subject to warrantless searches as a condition of her probation, the search was invalid because the police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to justify the search. On appeal, the State contends that (1) the search was supported by reasonable suspicion; (2) the search was reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances; (3) Angela Hamm consented to the search by agreeing to the warrantless search probation condition; and (4) the warrant search was valid as to Defendant David Lee Hamm under the doctrine of common authority. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Tommy A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and James Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Charles S. Kelly, Sr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Angela Carrie Payton Hamm.

          James T. Powell, Union City, Tennessee, for the appellee, David Lee Hamm.

          OPINION

          CAMILLE R. MCMULLEN, JUDGE

         In November 2015, police officers conducted a warrantless search of the Defendants' home and seized various drugs and drug paraphernalia. As a result, the Defendants were arrested and subsequently indicted for possession of more than 0.5 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of alprazolam with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of morphine with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of amphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of clonazepam with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of hydrocodone with the intent to sell or deliver, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         The Defendants each filed a motion to suppress, challenging the warrantless search of their home. Angela Hamm argued that, although she was on probation at the time of the search, the police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct the search. David Hamm argued that neither he nor Angela Hamm consented to the search and that he retained a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home despite Angela Hamm's status as a probationer. The State did not file a written response.

         During an evidentiary hearing, the State presented the testimony of Officer James Hall, who was a member of the Obion County Sheriff's Department Drug Task Force in November 2015. Officer Hall testified that, on November 16, 2015, he served a drug-related arrest warrant on Lindsey Gream from Dyer County, Tennessee. Officer Hall stated that Gream thanked him for taking her to the hospital and keeping her alive and mentioned "heavy players in Obion County" whom the officers should watch. When Officer Hall asked Gream who the people were, Gream replied, "Well, I'm not going to say specifically who exactly. I will let you know of the location, and they're in Glass, " a community in Obion County. Officer Hall asked Gream whether the person was David Hamm, and Gream nodded her head and smiled. Officer Hall said Gream told him that "they" had been trafficking ice methamphetamine to Obion County from "across the river" on a frequent basis. Gream did not indicate how she knew this information. Officer Hall stated Gream did not provide "concrete" information regarding how often the trips across the river had occurred. Rather, she stated that "they" made the trips often and had "re-upped" or had purchased more drugs a few days prior to her conversation with Officer Hall. Officer Hall shared this information with other members of the drug task force, including Officer Ben Yates.

         On cross-examination, Officer Hall testified that he did not attempt to secure a search warrant based on Gream's information because he did not believe that the information was sufficient to establish probable cause for a search warrant. Rather, he believed that, based on this information, the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct a "probation search" on Angela Hamm. Officer Hall stated that, according to one of the rules in Angela Hamm's probation order, she had agreed "to a search, without a warrant, of her person, vehicle, property, place of residence by any probation/parole officer or law enforcement officer at any time." Officer Hall testified that he also believed that reasonable suspicion was necessary to conduct the search because Angela Hamm's probation order did not include the "without reasonable suspicion" language that some probation orders did.[1] Officer Hall did not believe that he had the probation order in his possession prior to conducting the search but said officers confirmed through the State probation office that Angela Hamm had signed the order.

         Officer Hall acknowledged that, while Angela Hamm was on probation at the time of the search, David Hamm was not on probation and had not signed any forms agreeing to have his residence searched. Officer Hall also stated that David Hamm owned the residence but that Angela Hamm was either married to David Hamm or was in a relationship with him and had been living in the residence for "quite some time" prior to the search.

         Officer Hall testified that Gream was a defendant in one of the cases which he had investigated in Dyer County and was a "known methamphetamine user." He said Gream was neither a citizen informant nor a "paid informant." When defense counsel asked Officer Hall how he classified Gream as credible and reliable, Officer Hall replied,

In my experience in working narcotics, it is common for some users- dealers, users to throw bones at somebody else to keep their attention off of them. And whether this is the case with her, I don't think so. She was already caught. And what she got in Dyer County, there was no deal made, no money passed, no signing of her being on some sort of program to work with the [drug task force]. She just gave me that information.

         Officer Hall acknowledged that Gream provided the information while a drug charge was pending against her.

         Officer Hall acknowledged that Gream never told him that she had ever been inside of the Defendants' home or that she had ever purchased drugs from the Defendants. Office Hall did not know whether Gream was relaying information that someone else told her, and he did not corroborate any of the information that she provided.

         Officer Hall testified that neither of the Defendants was home when the officers searched the house and that David Hamm never consented to the search. Officer Hall believed that Clifton Hamm allowed the officers inside of the residence. When defense counsel asked whether Clifton Hamm opened the door and allowed the officers inside the house, Officer Hall replied, "We asked . . . [where] the bedroom was, and I believe he pointed us in the direction and said that's the bedroom." Officer Hall acknowledged that the officers first learned that the Defendants slept in the same bedroom after the officers entered the house.

         Based on the information that he received from Gream, Officer Hall and three other officers went to the Defendants' house. The officers knocked on the front and side doors, but no one answered. The officers asked a boy, who was approximately thirteen or fourteen years old, and who was outside the home, whether either of the Defendants was there. The teenager replied that the Defendants had just left to visit the parole or probation officer. The teenager stated that Clifton Hamm and others were in the shop behind the house. Officer Yates and Officer Kelly walked to the shop located approximately twenty to thirty yards behind the house where they met Clifton Hamm, Vernon Harrell, and Mark Payton. Clifton Hamm lived at the home, Payton was Angela Hamm's ex-husband, and Harrell was a friend. Officer Hall stated that Officer Yates told him that when he approached the shop, the men were watching the security system camera and that Clifton Hamm turned off the security camera when Officer Yates walked into the shop. Officer Hall said Officer Yates and Officer Kelly remained at the shop for approximately five minutes. The officers reported that Clifton Hamm told them where the Defendants' bedroom was located.

         Officer Hall testified that the officers opened the side door and entered the residence. They searched the entire house, except a little girl's bedroom. While searching the Defendants' bedroom, Officer Kelly found pills in the nightstand on Angela Hamm's side of the bed. Inside a closet shared by the Defendants, Officer Hall found a magnetic eye glass case that contained weighing scales and two bags of ice methamphetamine. Two glass pipes were also located in the Defendants' bedroom. No evidence was found in the remainder of the house.

         Officer Ben Yates of the Union City Police Department testified that, on November 17, 2015, while he was a member of the drug task force, he participated in a "probation search" at Angela Hamm's residence. Officer Yates stated that on November 16, he received information from Officer Hall about a conversation that Officer Hall had with Gream. Officer Yates said that, prior to his conversation with Officer Hall, a reliable informant told Officer Yates that the Defendants were "doing it big in Glass." Officer Yates explained that the informant had provided information in the past that led to the seizure of narcotics in numerous cases. The informant had not observed the drugs transactions but said that he "has friends that purchase methamphetamine." Officer Yates said that he did not believe that he had sufficient evidence to procure a search warrant because the informant had not been in the residence or seen the drug transactions.

         Officer Yates also testified that, prior to receiving the information about Gream from Officer Hall, an informant who was cooperating with the drug task force went to Clifton Hamm's residence to purchase methamphetamine from Clifton Hamm but was unable to do so. Officer Yates said that, at that time, he was unaware that Clifton Hamm was living with the Defendants.

         Officer Yates testified that he and other officers confirmed with the probation office that Angela Hamm was on probation as a result of a conviction for manufacturing a controlled substance. The officers also confirmed that the probation order provided that Angela Hamm was subject to a warrantless search. Officer Yates could not recall whether he obtained a copy of Angela Hamm's probation order before going to the Defendants' home. He said he may have spoken to Angela Hamm's probation officer before going to the home and obtained a copy of the probation order later.

         Officer Yates testified that when he, Officer Hall, Agent Andrew Kelly, and Investigator David Crocker arrived at the Defendants' house, Officer Yates came in to contact with Clifton Hamm's teenaged son, who was standing at the side door near a detached garage. When Officer Yates asked the teenager whether the Defendants were home, the teenager stated that the Defendants had just left for the probation office in Union City, Tennessee. Officer Yates asked if anyone else was there, and the teenager replied that everyone else was in the shed.

         Officer Yates stated that he and other officers walked behind the house to a detached shop and stopped Harrell as he was leaving the shop. Harrell said he was a visitor and did not live at the residence. Officer Yates said he and Officer Hall entered the shop, and Officer Yates saw Clifton Hamm and Payton holding pool sticks and watching a television that depicted video from four security cameras set up around the property. When Officer Yates entered the shop and asked the men how they were doing, Clifton Hamm quickly turned off the television. Officer Yates asked Clifton Hamm where the Defendants were, and Clifton Hamm told him that they had just left to go to Union City. When Officer Yates asked Clifton Hamm why he was acting nervous and why he had turned off the television, Clifton Hamm denied that the television was on. Officer Yates stated that, at that time, he did not know where Clifton Hamm was residing, but that he later learned that Clifton Hamm was living at the Defendants' home.

         Officer Yates returned to the Defendants' home where he saw Clifton Hamm's son standing at the door with another officer. Officer Yates asked him whether he lived at the home. The teenager confirmed that he, Clifton Hamm, and the Defendants lived at the home. Officer Yates asked the teenager which bedroom belonged to the Defendants, and the teenager stated that their bedroom was located in the back of the house on the right. All of the evidence seized during the search was located in the Defendants' bedroom.

         On cross-examination, Officer Yates acknowledged that David Hamm never consented to the search and that, to his knowledge, David Hamm was not on probation at the time of the search. Officer Yates did not know who owned the Defendants' house.

         Officer Yates acknowledged that, although he received information from a reliable informant who had previously provided information that led to convictions, he did not believe that the information provided by the informant regarding the Defendants was sufficient to establish probable cause because the informant had not been inside the Defendants' home and had not observed illegal activity. Rather, the informant was providing secondhand information. Defense counsel asked, "So, what we have here is a lot of people telling other people stuff, and that's how that information came to be; would you say that's pretty fair?" Officer Yates responded, "That's pretty fair."

         Defense counsel for David Hamm presented the testimony of Evelyn Stigler, Angela Hamm's probation officer. Stigler testified that she had been supervising Angela Hamm since November 8, 2013, and that Angela Hamm signed a form agreeing to a warrantless search as a condition of probation. Stigler said that to her knowledge, David Hamm was not on probation and had not signed a form agreeing to a search of his person or home. She also said that she had never spoken to David Hamm or informed him that he was subject to a lesser expectation of privacy. Stigler stated that Angela Hamm's name was Angela Payton when she signed the probation order, and that it appeared she had married since signing the order.

         Following the suppression hearing, the trial court entered an order granting the Defendants' motion to suppress. The trial court found that, although Officer Hall received a tip of some "heavy players" in the Glass community of Obion County, the person "never mentioned a name or how she knew this information." The trial court noted that when Officer Hall suggested the name of David Hamm, the person "winked and smiled" but did not mention Angela Hamm. The trial court found that, while Officer Yates testified that he received information from a reliable informant about people in Glass "doing it big, " the informant was not identified and no evidence was presented establishing the informant's reliability. The trial court also found that "[t]he informant's information was second-hand information from another informant who had attempted unsuccessfully to purchase drugs from another resident (Clifton Hamm) at the location." The trial court concluded that the evidence did not establish "articulable facts to support the reasonable suspicion of the officer to justify a search pursuant to the probation order."

         The State represented to the trial court that it was unable to proceed with the prosecution as a result of the order suppressing the evidence. Accordingly, the trial court granted the Defendants' motions to suppress and dismissed the indictment. It is from this order that the State now timely appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         On appeal, the State contends that the warrantless search of the Defendants' home was constitutional because it was supported by reasonable suspicion and authorized as a condition of Angela Hamm's probation. The State asserts that, even if the search was not supported by reasonable suspicion, the search was reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances. Next, the State contends that Angela Hamm consented to the search by agreeing to be subject to warrantless searches as a condition of her probation. Finally, the State maintains that the warrantless search was valid as to David Hamm under the doctrine of common authority.

         A trial court's factual determination in a suppression hearing will be upheld on appeal unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. State v. Odom, 928 S.W.2d 18, 23 (Tenn. 1996). Questions regarding the credibility of witnesses, the weight or value of the evidence, and determinations regarding conflicts in the evidence are matters entrusted to the trial judge as trier of fact. State v. Talley, 307 S.W.3d 723, 729 (Tenn. 2010). "The party prevailing in the trial court is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing as well as all reasonable and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from that evidence." State v. Williamson, 368 S.W.3d 468, ...


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