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United States v. Guinn

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division

July 4, 2019




         Defendant, Devon Miles Guinn, has filed a Motion to Suppress [Doc. 15]. The United States filed a Response in Opposition [Doc. 22]. This matter is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b) and the standing orders of the District Court for a Report and Recommendation.

         On Thursday, June 6, 2019, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion. Present at the hearing were Defendant, his counsel, James T. Bowman, Esq. and Helen Nicole Himebaugh, Esq., and Assistant United States Attorney Robert Reeves, Esq. and AUSA intern K.C. Kettler. Testifying at the hearing were Officers John Bulla, Matthew Gryder, and Brian Williams. This matter is now ripe for resolution. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned RECOMMENDS the Motion to Suppress [Doc. 15] be DENIED.


         On January 8, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Defendant charging him with conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A), being a felon in possession of a weapon under 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1), and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) [Doc. 3]. On March 29, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress [Doc. 15], seeking to suppress an incriminating statement he made to law enforcement officers after his arrest. He claimed that because officers lacked probable cause to arrest him, his subsequent confession should be suppressed as having been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The United States has made a number of arguments in response [Doc. 22]. First, it argues that officers had probable cause to arrest Defendant for possessing drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine. Second, it argues that even if probable cause were lacking, officers had a reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant and that the detention lasted no longer than necessary. Third, the United States argues that if the Court were to find that both the arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment, Defendant's statements should still be admitted because Defendant's statements were “‘sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint.'” Brown v. Illinois, 422. U.S. 590 (1975) (citing Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 486, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963)).


         At approximately 8:21 a.m. on November 1, 2018, officers from various police departments and federal agencies arrived at 306 ½ East D Street, Apartment #2, Elizabethton, Tennessee to arrest Casey Howren on a federal warrant. After initially knocking on the glass door, which was covered with blinds on the inside, Officers Bulla and Gryder heard movement within the apartment. Upon knocking on the door again, the blinds fell off the door, permitting Officer Bulla to see directly into the apartment. He immediately observed an individual, later identified as Michael Arnold, laying on the couch beside a coffee table with a large pink bong and a glass pipe used for ingesting narcotics.

         Officer Bulla asked Arnold to open the door, which he did. Officer Bulla entered the apartment and observed on the coffee table additional glass pipes and white residue that appeared to be methamphetamine. At this time, Howren and Defendant exited the bedroom and entered the living room where the officers were present. Officers arrested Howren on the warrant.

         Officers then performed a protective sweep to determine if anyone else was in the apartment. During that sweep, officers discovered what appeared to be more methamphetamine in a plastic bag that had been placed in a shoe in the living room and, in the bedroom where Howren and Defendant had just exited, four glass pipes and a syringe laying out on the bedside table. All of these items were in plain view. Officers arrested both Arnold and Defendant for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and transported them to the Carter County Jail.

         Around 9:30 a.m., after Howren refused to give consent to search the apartment, officers sought and obtained a state search warrant. During the search, officers found additional methamphetamine, multicolored pills, and a handgun. At approximately 1:16 p.m., officers met with Defendant at the jail where he waived his Miranda rights and gave an incriminating statement regarding his possession of methamphetamine and the firearm.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The first issue the Court addresses is the propriety of the officers entering the residence of Ms. Casey Howren. The Fourth Amendment provides that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]” U.S. Const. amend. IV. Searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. El Bey v. Roop, 530 F.3d 407, 415 (6th Cir. 2008). However, “for Fourth Amendment purposes, an arrest warrant founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is within.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 603 (1980). An arrest warrant is sufficient to enter a residence if the officers, by looking at common sense factors and evaluating the totality of the circumstances, establish a reasonable belief that the subject of the arrest warrant is within the residence at the time. United States v. Pruitt, 458 F.3d 477, 482 (6th Cir. 2006). In this case, officers went to the residence of the very individual they sought to arrest, Ms. Casey Howren. Their entry in the residence was proper, and Defendant does not challenge that.

         After the officers properly entered the residence, they immediately discovered drug paraphernalia and identified what appeared to be methamphetamine on the coffee table right in front of Arnold. Soon after they entered and made that discovery, Howren and Defendant come out of the bedroom and enter the living room where the officers are. During the protective sweep, officers discovered more drug paraphernalia in the bedroom where Defendant had just exited. It was only after this discovery that officers arrested Defendant.

         Defendant argues officers lacked probable cause to arrest him. To be sure, officers arrested Defendant without a warrant. However, “a warrantless arrest by a law officer is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment where there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been or is being committed.” Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 153 (2004). “Whether probable cause exists depends upon the reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of the arrest.” Id. (citing Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003). Courts “look to the totality of the circumstances and decide whether the historical facts, viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer, amount to probable cause.” United States v. Brooks, 270 Fed.Appx. 382, 384 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Pringle, 540 U.S. at 370) (internal quotation marks omitted). As such, ‚Äúprobable ...

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