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State v. Adams

Supreme Court of North Dakota

January 22, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Casey Olson Adams, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lolita G. Hartl Romanick, Judge.

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

          Samuel A. Gereszek, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Casey Adams appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia. We affirm, concluding Adams' argument that the evidence at the preliminary hearing did not support the district court's probable cause finding is moot. We further conclude the district court did not err in denying Adams' motion to suppress evidence because Adams failed to show he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the backpacks.

         I

         [¶ 2] On June 24, 2016, police received a report of suspicious activity in a Grand Forks parking lot. The caller reported individuals moving backpacks from a Nissan into a Cadillac, among other suspicious behavior. Three officers responded to the scene. The officers testified they observed the individuals displaying odd behavior, consistent with drug use. One officer observed a blue container he believed to be drug paraphernalia inside the Cadillac, indicating he saw a crystal or powder substance on it and it was similar to a container used in a separate drug related call less than 24 hours prior. Three individuals were in the Cadillac and Adams was in the Nissan. No consent was given to search either vehicle. Based on the observation of the blue container in plain view, the officers searched the Cadillac and seized more than 80 items relating to drug use.

         [¶ 3] Adams moved to suppress the evidence seized from the Cadillac. Adams argued his Fourth Amendment rights were violated on the basis that the search of the vehicle was a warrantless search for which no valid exceptions applied. The district court concluded Adams did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the Cadillac or the containers within the vehicle and therefore lacked "standing" to challenge the search and seizure of evidence from those areas. The court denied Adams' motion to suppress evidence.

         [¶ 4] In March 2017, the district court held a trial and the jury returned verdicts of not guilty to possession of heroin and guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia.

         II

         [¶ 5] Adams argues the district court erred by finding probable cause he possessed the drugs and drug paraphernalia at the preliminary hearing. It is unnecessary to decide whether the district court erred when it found probable cause existed to bind Adams over for trial, because that issue became moot when the charges were tried.

         [¶ 6] In State v. Montplaisir, 2015 ND 237, ¶ 16, 869 N.W.2d 435, this Court held:

[A] district court's decision at a preliminary hearing that probable cause existed to bind a defendant over for trial is rendered moot once the trial is held. A defendant who is found guilty at trial may not, on appeal, challenge the district court's decision on probable cause at the preliminary hearing.

         Therefore, we need not address Adams' argument alleging the district court erred in finding probable cause ...


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