Session April 4, 2019
by Permission from the Court of Criminal Appeals Circuit
Court for Obion County No. CC-16-CR-15 Jeff Parham, Judge
Obion County Drug Task Force conducted a warrantless search
of the residence of probationer Angela Hamm and her husband,
David Hamm, which yielded illegal drugs and drug-related
contraband. Defendant Angela Hamm had agreed, pursuant to
probation conditions imposed in a prior case, to a
warrantless search of her person, property, or vehicle at any
time. We granted the State's appeal in this case to
consider whether the warrantless search of a
probationer's residence who is subject to a search
condition requires officers to have reasonable suspicion of
illegal activity prior to conducting the search. We conclude
that it does not and therefore reverse the trial court's
judgment and the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision
affirming the same.
R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of
Criminal Appeals Reversed; and Remanded to the Trial
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; Andrew C.
Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Tommy A. Thomas, District
Attorney General; and James T. Cannon, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the Appellant, State of Tennessee.
Charles S. Kelly, Sr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the
Appellee, Angela Carrie Payton Hamm.
T. Powell, Union City, Tennessee, for the Appellee, David Lee
A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Holly Kirby, J., joined.
Cornelia A. Clark, J., filed a separate dissenting opinion.
Sharon G. Lee, J., also filed a separate dissenting opinion.
A. PAGE, JUSTICE
Facts and Procedural History
November 2013, an Obion County jury convicted defendant
Angela Hamm (formerly Angela Carrie Payton) of manufacturing
a controlled substance. The trial court ordered her to serve
a six-year sentence. The sentence was suspended, and she was
placed on supervised probation. Notably, the probation order
included a warrantless search condition, which stated:
"I agree to a search, without a warrant, of my person,
vehicle, property, or place of residence by any
Probation/Parole Officer or law enforcement officer, at any
it appears that Angela Hamm married defendant David Hamm and
moved into his Obion County home. The record indicates that
Clifton Hamm also resided with the defendants.
two years later, on November 16, 2015, Officer James Hall
with the Obion County Sheriff's Department/Obion County
Drug Task Force received information from an informant that
"heavy players" were trafficking methamphetamine in
Glass, a community in Obion County. The informant, who had
drug charges pending against her, volunteered information
about certain drug traffickers bringing methamphetamine to
Obion County from across the river. She did not indicate how
she obtained the information nor would she identify the
traffickers by name. However, when specifically asked about
David Hamm, the informant smiled and nodded.
November 17, 2015, drug task force agents went to the
defendants' house to conduct a warrantless
"probation search" pursuant to Angela Hamm's
probation order. The agents assumed they had reasonable
suspicion to conduct such a search based on the information
gathered from the above-mentioned informant. When officers
knocked on the door of the residence, no one answered.
Clifton Hamm's teenage son was standing in the front yard
and told them that the defendants had just left but that
Clifton Hamm and others were in the shop behind the house.
The agents walked behind the house to the detached shop where
they encountered Clifton Hamm and two other men. The group
appeared to be watching security camera footage, but Clifton
Hamm quickly turned off the television.
agents then entered the house through an unlocked side door
and proceeded to perform a warrantless search of the
residence, including the defendants' shared bedroom.
Therein, the agents found pills, two glass pipes,
methamphetamine, and scales.
defendants were each arrested and later jointly indicted for
six counts of possession of controlled substances with intent
to sell or deliver and one count of possession of drug
paraphernalia. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-434(a)
(possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 grams or more
of a Schedule II controlled substance, methamphetamine);
-417(a)(4) (possession with intent to deliver a Schedule IV
controlled substance, alprazolam); -417(a)(4) (possession
with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled
substance, morphine); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to
sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance,
amphetamine); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or
deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance, clonazepam);
-417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or deliver a
Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone); and -425(a)
(possession of drug paraphernalia). Both defendants filed
motions to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the
warrantless search of their home. At the hearing on the
defendants' motions, the State presented the testimony of
Officers James Hall and Ben Yates.
Hall testified that he received the information in question
from the informant in November 2015. He confirmed that the
decision to search the defendants' home was made based on
the information provided to him by the informant. He
acknowledged that the informant was a "known
methamphetamine user." However, Officer Hall believed
the informant to be reliable because she was not a paid
informant nor was she "throw[ing] bones at somebody else
to keep [ ] attention off of [herself]. . . . She was already
Yates added that agents were also armed with previously
obtained relevant information from two additional informants
at the time of the search. He had received second-hand
information from a "reliable informant" that the
defendants were "doing it big in Glass." When asked
about the informant's reliability, Officer Yates replied,
"This informant has been involved in numerous narcotic
cases, the seizure of narcotics, [and] made numerous cases
for the drug task force." He acknowledged, however, that
the informant received his information from "friends
that purchase methamphetamine" and that the informant
had not personally observed the illegal activity.
addition, an informant cooperating with drug task force
agents had previously attempted to purchase
methamphetamine-albeit unsuccessfully-from Clifton Hamm at
his residence. However, agents were unaware that Clifton Hamm
was residing with the defendants at the time.
agents testified that prior to performing the search of the
defendants' home, they confirmed with the local probation
office that Angela Hamm was on probation and that the
probation order subjected her to a warrantless search.
Conversely, both acknowledged that David Hamm was not on
probation at the time of the search. According to their
testimony, the agents were unaware that the defendants shared
a bedroom until they entered the home.
May 2, 2016 order, the trial court granted the motions to
suppress, stating that it could "find nothing by way of
articulable facts to support the reasonable suspicion of the
officer to justify a search pursuant to the probation order .
. . ." The trial court reviewed the factors upon which
the State relied to establish reasonable suspicion and
addressed each in turn:
1) Officer James Hall received a tip from a person he had
pulled over on a traffic stop that generally said there were
some "heavy players" in the Obion County Glass
2) This person however never mentioned a name or how she knew
3) Officer Hall suggested the name of Defendant David Hamm,
to the person who winked and smiled, but never mentioned the
Defendant Angela Hamm.
4) Officer Ben Yates testified he received information from a
reliable informant that there were some people in Glass
"doing it big."
5) The informant was not identified, nor was there any
indication as to why the informant was reliable.
6) The 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.
State appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which
affirmed the trial court's decision to grant the motions
to suppress in a plurality opinion authored by Judge Camille
McMullen. State v. Hamm, No. W2016-01282-CCA-R3-CD,
2017 WL 3447914, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 11, 2017). It
concluded that the State was required to have reasonable
suspicion to support the probation search and that the State
lacked such suspicion in the case at hand. Id. at
*9. Judge John Everett Williams filed a separate concurring
opinion agreeing that the State lacked reasonable suspicion
to conduct the search and further concluding that Angela
Hamm's signature on the probation order did not
constitute a valid consent to search. Id. at *10-16
(Williams, J., concurring). Finally, Judge Alan Glenn filed a
separate dissenting opinion concluding that the agents had
reasonable suspicion to search Angela Hamm's house and
that the search was also lawful as to David Hamm under the
doctrine of common authority. Id. at *17-18 (Glenn,
granted the State's application for permission to appeal
in this case to consider "[w]hether law enforcement must
have reasonable suspicion of a probationer's criminal
wrongdoing to support a search of the probationer's
residence under an agreed-to warrantless-search condition of
Standard of Review
appeal from a ruling on a motion to suppress, we will uphold
the trial court's findings of fact unless the evidence
preponderates against those findings. State v.
Stanfield, 554 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tenn. 2018) (citing
State v. Hawkins, 519 S.W.3d 1, 32 (Tenn. 2017);
State v. Bell, 429 S.W.3d 524, 528 (Tenn. 2014);
State v. Climer, 400 S.W.3d 537, 556 (Tenn. 2013);
State v. Turner, 297 S.W.3d 155, 160 (Tenn. 2009);
State v. Day, 263 S.W.3d 891, 900 (Tenn. 2008);
State v. Odom, 928 S.W.2d 18, 23 (Tenn. 1996)).
"'Questions of credibility of the witnesses, the
weight and value of the evidence, and resolution of conflicts
in the evidence are matters entrusted to the trial judge as
the trier of fact.'" Id. (quoting
Hawkins, 519 S.W.3d at 32; Odom, 928 S.W.2d
at 23). "The party prevailing in the trial court on a
motion to suppress '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.'" Id.
(quoting Turner, 297 S.W.3d at 160; Odom,
928 S.W.2d at 23). We review the trial court's
application of the law to the facts de novo with no
presumption of correctness. Id. (citing
Hawkins, 519 S.W.3d at 32-33; State v.
Walton, 41 S.W.3d 75, 81 (Tenn. 2001)); Turner,
297 S.W.3d at 160.
The Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees
that "'[t]he right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . .
.'" State v. Christensen, 517 S.W.3d 60, 68
(Tenn. 2017) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. IV); State v.
McCormick, 494 S.W.3d 673, 678 (Tenn. 2016). Similarly,
article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution provides
that "'the people shall be secure in their persons,
houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches
and seizures[.]'" Christensen, 517 S.W.3d
at 68 (quoting Tenn. Const. art. I, § 7).
search and seizure provisions of the federal and state
constitutions are "'identical in intent and
purpose.'" Id. (quoting Sneed v.
State, 423 S.W.2d 857, 860 (Tenn. 1968)). "Under
both constitutional guarantees, reasonableness is 'the
ultimate touchstone.'" Stanfield, 554
S.W.3d at 9 (citing Brigham City, Utah v. Stuart,
547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006); McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at
679). Determining whether a particular search is
"unreasonable" and therefore a violation of the
rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment "'depends
upon all of the circumstances surrounding the search . . .
and the nature of the search . . . itself.'"
Turner, 297 S.W.3d at 160 (quoting United States
v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 537 (1985)).
While a search is presumptively reasonable when conducted on
the basis of probable cause and with a warrant, warrantless
searches and seizures are presumptively unreasonable
regardless of whether law enforcement actually had probable
cause to conduct a search. See McCormick, 494 S.W.3d
at 678-79 (citations omitted). However, there are
circumstances where the reasonableness standard of the Fourth
Amendment and article I, section 7 requires neither probable
cause nor a warrant. See Samson v. California, 547
U.S. 843, 846-47 (2006); Turner, 297 S.W.3d at 157.
Warrantless and Suspicionless Search of Angela Hamm's
State v. Stanfield, this Court recently considered
whether reasonable suspicion must support a warrantless
search of a parolee's residence. Stanfield, 554
S.W.3d at 4. Relying on Samson v. California and
State v. Turner, we held that the search of
defendant Winsett's residence was constitutionally
reasonable based solely upon Winsett's status as a
parolee, even though officers neither had a search warrant
nor sought to obtain a warrant prior to searching the residence.
Id. at 11.
initially at issue in Stanfield was the relative
expectation of privacy attending co-defendant Stanfield, who
was on probation at the time of the search. Id. at
8. However, it was not necessary for us to reach the issue of
whether reasonable suspicion was required to conduct a
warrantless search of a probationer's residence because
the search of defendant Stanfield's belongings fell
within the purview of common authority. Id. at 15.
We now address whether, under Tennessee law, reasonable
suspicion is required for law enforcement officers to conduct
a warrantless search of a probationer's residence.
State v. Stanfield
reaching our decision in Stanfield, this Court
undertook a thorough review of Samson v. California
and State v. Turner,  both of which addressed parole
searches conducted without reasonable suspicion pursuant to a
search condition. We noted that in Tur ...