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State v. Frazier

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 25, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
CHARLOTTE LYNN FRAZIER AND ANDREA PARKS

          Session July 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dickson County No. 22CC-2016-CR-59I3 Robert E. Burch, Judge Sitting by Designation

         The Defendants, Charlotte Lynn Frazier and Andrea Parks, along with ninety-five other co-defendants, were charged through a presentment with conspiracy to manufacture, sell, or deliver 300 grams or more of methamphetamine with at least one defendant having committed an overt act within 1, 000 feet of a school, park, library, recreation center, or child care facility. The Defendants each filed a motion to suppress evidence seized during the execution of search warrants at their homes. The Defendants alleged that the magistrate, a circuit court judge, lacked the authority to issue the search warrants because the Defendants' homes were located outside the magistrate's judicial district. The trial court granted the Defendants' motions. The State sought and was granted permission to appeal in both cases pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9, and this court consolidated the appeals. We hold that the magistrate did not have the authority to issue search warrants for property located outside his judicial district and that, as a result, the searches of the Defendants' homes were unconstitutional. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's orders granting the Defendants' motions to suppress and remand the cause to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; W. Ray Crouch, Jr., District Attorney General; and David Wyatt, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Leonard G. Belmares, II, Charlotte, Tennessee, for the appellee, Charlotte Lynn Frazier.

          Tammy L. Hassell, Charlotte, Tennessee, for the appellee, Andrea Parks.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In September 2014, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Kentucky State Police, the Twenty-Third Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Nineteenth Judicial District Drug Task Force, and the Clarksville Police Department began a joint investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine in Dickson and Montgomery Counties. During the course of the investigation, a circuit court judge with the Twenty-Third Judicial District issued warrants authorizing the interception of electronic communications.

         Based on information obtained during the investigation, Agent Kyle Chessor of the Twenty-Third Judicial District Drug Task Force applied for search warrants for the Defendants' homes in October 2015. Ms. Parks's home was located in Robertson County, and Ms. Frazier's home was located in Montgomery County. Robertson and Montgomery Counties are located in the Nineteenth Judicial District. See T.C.A. § 16-5-506(19)(A)(i). The magistrate, the circuit court judge from the Twenty-Third Judicial District who had issued the warrants authorizing the interception of electronic communication, also issued the search warrants authorizing the searches of the Defendants' homes.

         The search of Ms. Parks's home yielded 17.9 ounces of methamphetamine, twenty grams of marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. During the search of Ms. Frazier's home, officers recovered approximately one kilogram of crystal methamphetamine, approximately one hundred ecstasy pills, two sheets of LSD, two ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, assorted rounds of ammunition, and $112, 031 in cash. The officers also searched a vehicle parked at the residence that belonged to co-defendant Matthew Smith and recovered eight ounces of crystal methamphetamine, $38, 838 in cash, a loaded Glock handgun, and a Remington twelve gauge shotgun.

         Both of the Defendants filed a motion to suppress evidence seized during the search of their respective homes. The Defendants contended that the search warrants were invalid because the magistrate was not authorized to issue search warrants for property located outside of his judicial district and that, therefore, the searches violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution.

         During the hearings on the Defendants' separate motions, the parties did not submit any proof but argued their respective positions. The Defendants argued that the magistrate was not authorized to issue the search warrants since the property to be searched was located outside of his judicial district, while the State argued that the magistrate had such authority. The State noted that the wiretaps that led to the search warrants originated in the Twenty-Third Judicial District in Dickson County and maintained that the circuit court judge "being aware of the facts of the particular case, all the work that had been going on, in particular with the wiretap warrants and the required ten-day reports, that because this case was being investigated here, the State's position is that [the circuit court judge] did, in fact, have authority to issue a search warrant for the property."

         The trial court granted the Defendants' motions to suppress. The trial court found that the search warrants were void because the magistrate was not authorized to issue search warrants for property located outside of his jurisdiction.

         Thereafter, the State filed motions in the trial court requesting permission to seek an interlocutory appeal in this court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9. The trial court granted the State's motion. This court subsequently granted the State's application for permission to appeal and consolidated the appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         The State contends that the trial court erred in granting the Defendants' motions to suppress. The State argues that Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-1-106 designates circuit court judges as "magistrates" with authority to issue search warrants for property located anywhere in the State of Tennessee. The State also argues that any error in the circuit court judge's issuance of the search warrants is non-constitutional error and that, as a result, suppression is not required. Finally, the State argues that the evidence seized during the searches of the Defendants' homes is admissible under the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule or under the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-6-108. The Defendants respond that the circuit court judge did not have the authority to issue a search warrant for property located outside the territorial boundaries of his judicial district. According to the Defendants, the search warrants were void ab initio, and the searches of their homes violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution.

         A trial court's factual findings made during a motion to suppress are presumptively correct on appeal unless the evidence preponderates against them. State v. Saylor, 117 S.W.3d 239, 244 (Tenn. 2003). Determinations of witness credibility and the resolution of conflicts in the evidence are left to the trial court. State v. Riels, 216 S.W.3d 737, 753 (Tenn. 2007). The prevailing party is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence and to all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence. State v. Day, 263 S.W.3d 891, 900 (Tenn. 2008). A trial court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. State v. Sawyer, 156 S.W.3d 531, 533 (Tenn. 2005). Likewise, a trial court's application of law to the facts is reviewed de novo. State v. Walton, 41 S.W.3d 75, 81 (Tenn. 2001).

         A. Validity of ...


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