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State v. Taylor

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 28, 2015

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Evan Joseph Taylor, Defendant and Appellee

Page 802

Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lawrence E. Jahnke, Judge.

Carmell F. Mattison, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.

Tyler J. Morrow, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellee.

Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J.

OPINION

Page 803

Lisa Fair McEvers, Justice.

[¶1] The State appeals from a district court order granting Evan Joseph Taylor's motion to suppress evidence. We reverse the district court's order granting Taylor's motion to suppress evidence found inside his bedroom and remand for further action consistent with this opinion.

I

[¶2] A law enforcement officer with the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force sought and obtained a search warrant to search a residence. In his affidavit in support of the warrant, the officer stated he received information from a University of North Dakota college student that Nathe and unknown counterparts were part of a drug trafficking organization in the Grand Forks area that distributed marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ecstacy, MDMA, DMT and other types of research chemicals. The Task Force had previously conducted an investigation and discovered Nathe resided at a single family dwelling, located at 1817 1st Avenue North in Grand Forks. As part of the investigation, the Task Force conducted a garbage pull at the residence. During the garbage pull, the Task Force found a paystub containing identifying information for Nathe and a receipt from Jimmy Johns with the name and phone number of another individual, along with items containing marijuana residue. These items included a small zip lock baggie, two screens, and two large plastic bags. Finding probable cause existed, the magistrate issued a search warrant providing:

You are hereby commanded to conduct this search of the residence of 1817 1st Ave North in Grand Forks, and that such search shall be for the purposes of looking for and seizing all controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, and any funds derived from the sale of controlled substances, fruits of the crime and cellphones utilized in the initiation and conduction of illegal activities.

On October 24, 2013, the Task Force executed the search warrant. The Task Force found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the common areas and in bedrooms, including Taylor's bedroom. Specifically, the Task Force found a handgun and marijuana in Taylor's bedroom. The Task Force also found checks, a passport, and a title to a vehicle all belonging to Taylor in his bedroom. Taylor did not grant the Task Force permission to search his bedroom. Taylor was arrested.

[¶3] Taylor was initially charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. The information was later amended, to charge Taylor with possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Taylor moved to suppress the evidence found in his bedroom, arguing law enforcement violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Particularly, he asserted law enforcement violated his reasonable expectation of privacy by searching his private bedroom without a separate warrant. Taylor did not dispute that the search warrant executed was validly obtained; rather, he argued he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bedroom requiring a separate search warrant.

[¶4] The district court held two hearings on the motion to suppress. At the hearings, testimony revealed the residence included common areas, including a kitchen and living room, along with four separate bedrooms. Nathe's bedroom was on the first floor and Taylor's bedroom was in the basement. Nathe did not own the residence. Three out of four of the individuals who resided at the single family

Page 804

dwelling were present during the search, including Taylor. All three individuals were detained in a common living area. Law enforcement did not know four unrelated individuals resided in the home prior to the day the search warrant was executed.

[¶5] The district court entered a memorandum decision and order granting Taylor's motion to suppress evidence, concluding the evidence found in Taylor's bedroom was not lawfully seized under the search warrant because Taylor was entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bedroom and no exigent circumstances existed which would have ...


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