Justia.com Opinion Summary:
Defendant pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, conditioned on his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained through the execution of a search warrant of his home. Defendant challenged the constitutionality of a warrantless search of his garbage, or "trash pull," as well as the accuracy of an affidavit later used to procure a search warrant. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing where defendant offered no affidavit or other evidence indicating that the trash was not at the curb. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying the motion to suppress where there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash left at the curb in an area accessible to the public for pick-up by a trash company.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
Criminal case - Criminal law. Where defendant did not offer any evidence indicating the trash seized by police was not at the curb at the time of the seizure, the district court did not err in denying his request for an evidentiary hearing; it is well settled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash left at the curb in an area accessible to the public for pickup by the trash collectors.
United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
United States of America,
Kody R. Williams,
Appeal from the United States
District Court for the
Western District of Missouri.
Submitted: November 17, 2011
Filed: February 28, 2012
Before SMITH, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Kody R. Williams pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon,
conditioned on his right to appeal the district courtâ€™s1 denial of his motion to suppress
evidence obtained through the execution of a search warrant at his home. We affirm.
The Honorable Howard F. Sachs, United States District Judge for the Western
District of Missouri, adopting the report and recommendation of the Honorable John
T. Maughmer, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Missouri.
Williams challenges the constitutionality of a warrantless search of his garbage,
or â€śtrash pull,â€ť as well as the accuracy of an affidavit later used to procure a search
warrant. In the affidavit, Detective Matthew Miller of the Leeâ€™s Summit, Missouri
Police Department averred that he received a tip on October 27, 2008 that Williams
was selling drugs at an identified address. The tip also stated that Williams had prior
convictions for drug trafficking and other felonies, and that the house at the identified
address might also be occupied by an individual named Sherry Mitchell. The
affidavit stated nothing regarding the reliability of any information previously
provided to law enforcement by the source.
The affidavit further stated that the water utilities account for the identified
address showed an active account in the name of Sherry Mitchell. It also noted that
Detective Miller had â€śretrieved three bags of trash that had been left at the curb for
pick-up by a trash companyâ€ť at the identified address. Within that trash were two
torn pieces of a plastic bag coated with cocaine residue, several pieces of mail
addressed to Sherry Mitchell at that address, and a blank card of a type for use by
individuals on probation or parole with the Missouri Department of Corrections.
After discovering that Sherry Mitchell had no criminal history, Detective Miller
averred his belief that someone on probation or parole, such as Williams, likely also
resided at the identified address. Finally, Detective Miller stated that Williams had
given the identified address as his home address during at least six interactions with
police. A search executed pursuant to the ensuing search warrant yielded the
handgun and ammunition that served as the predicate for the charges and Williamsâ€™s
subsequent conditional guilty plea.
On appeal, Williams first argues that the district court should have held an
evidentiary hearing on his motion to suppress evidence in order to determine the
precise location from which his trash was pulled. â€śWe review a district courtâ€™s
decision whether to hold an evidentiary hearing for an abuse of discretion.â€ť United
States v. Yielding, 657 F.3d 688, 705 (8th Cir. 2011). The only evidence presented
to the district court regarding the location of the trash was Detective Millerâ€™s
statement in his affidavit that he â€śretrieved three bags of trash that had been left at the
curb for pick-up by a trash companyâ€ť (emphasis added). Nevertheless, in the brief
in support of the motion to suppress, Williamsâ€™s counsel contended that â€śthe officers
illegally retrieved three trash bags from the driveway of the residenceâ€ť (emphasis
added). To the extent Williams contends that the trash actually was not at the curb
as stated in the affidavit, he is challenging the factual accuracy of the affidavit. The
standard for obtaining an evidentiary hearing under these circumstances is the wellknown Franks standard:
There is, of course, a presumption of validity with respect to the
affidavit supporting the search warrant. To mandate an evidentiary
hearing, the challengerâ€™s attack must be more than conclusory and must
be supported by more than a mere desire to cross-examine. There must
be allegations of deliberate falsehood or of reckless disregard for the
truth, and those allegations must be accompanied by an offer of proof.
United States v. Mims, 812 F.2d 1068, 1074 (8th Cir. 1987) (quoting Franks v.
Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 171 (1978)). Here, Williams proffered no affidavit or other
evidence indicating that the trash was not at the curb. As a result, the district court
did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing.
Williams also argues that the district court erred in denying the motion to
suppress because the trash was pulled from a location in which Williams retained
some expectation of privacy. We review â€śthe district courtâ€™s factual determinations
in support of its denial of a motion to suppress for clear error and its legal conclusions
de novo.â€ť United States v. Hogan, 539 F.3d 916, 921 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting United
States v. Harper, 466 F.3d 634, 643 (8th Cir. 2006)). The constitutionality of a trash
pull depends upon â€śwhether the garbage was readily accessible to the public so as to
render any expectation of privacy objectively unreasonable.â€ť United States v.
Comeaux, 955 F.2d 586, 589 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. Hedrick, 922
F.2d 396, 400 (7th Cir. 1991)). Once again, the only evidence in the record as to the
location from which the trash was pulled is Detective Millerâ€™s statement in the
affidavit that he â€śretrieved three bags of trash that had been left at the curb for pickup by a trash companyâ€ť (emphasis added). It is well settled that there is no
reasonable expectation of privacy in trash left at the curb in an area accessible to the
public for pick-up by a trash company. See, e.g., United States v. Trice, 864 F.2d
1421, 1423 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 40-41
(1988)). Therefore, the district court did not err in denying the motion to suppress.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the denial of Williamsâ€™s motion to