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State v. Gatlin

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 31, 2014

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Luke Adam Gatlin, Defendant and Appellant

Page 179

Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonja Clapp, Judge.

Meredith H. Larson, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

Jessica J. Ahrendt, Grand Forks Public Defender Office, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.

Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

OPINION

Page 180

Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] Luke Adam Gatlin appeals from a criminal judgment entered following a conditional plea of guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. Because we hold Gatlin cannot assert a violation of a third party's expectation of privacy in the home searched by police and because Gatlin failed to object to the search, we affirm the district court judgment.

I

[¶2] Police served an arrest warrant on Michael Sebjornson at a Grand Forks residential address. An officer knocked on the door, and Ione Sebjornson answered. The officer asked Ione Sebjornson if Michael Sebjornson was there, and Ione Sebjornson responded that he was not. The officer asked Ione Sebjornson if he could search the home, and she said " no." The officer then asked Danny Sebjornson, who was standing in the doorway, if he lived at the address. Danny Sebjornson responded that he did. The officer asked Danny Sebjornson if Michael Sebjornson was in the home, and Danny Sebjornson responded " Yes. Come get him . . . . Go get him. He's in the room." The officer then followed Danny Sebjornson into the home. While inside, the officer found Luke Gatlin hiding in a closet, and a warrants check revealed that Gatlin had an active warrant. Gatlin was arrested on the warrant, and when he was booked into the correctional center, a meth pipe was found in his pocket, so he was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

[¶3] Gatlin moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, arguing the search violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the North Dakota Constitution. The district court denied Gatlin's motion to suppress, finding Gatlin did not have standing to challenge the search and Gatlin forfeited his right to seek suppression by failing to object during the search. Gatlin conditionally pled guilty, preserving the suppression issue for appeal.

II

[¶4] On appeal, Gatlin argues he had standing to bring a motion to suppress evidence and did not lose out on this right by not objecting to the search at the time it occurred. Gatlin also argues the search violated his constitutional rights because officers executed the search over the homeowner's objection. Finally, Gatlin argues that even if officers had the authority to search common areas, their search of the room in which Gatlin was found was outside the scope of that authority. When reviewing a district court's decision on a motion to suppress:

We will defer to a trial court's findings of fact in the disposition of a motion to suppress. Conflicts in testimony will be resolved in favor of affirmance, as we recognize the trial court is in a superior position to assess credibility of witnesses and weigh the evidence. Generally, a trial court's decision to deny a motion to suppress will not be reversed if ...

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