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State v. Terrill

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 22, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Michael Ray Terrill, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven L. Marquart, Judge.

          Joshua J. Traiser, Assistant State's Attorney, Fargo, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Luke T. Heck, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VANDEWALLE, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Michael Ray Terrill appealed from a criminal judgment entered upon a conditional guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. Terrill argues the district court improperly denied his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] On January 25, 2017, Fargo Police Department Narcotics Detective Chris Holte applied for and was granted a search warrant "to search the persons of Levi Schumacher and Michael Schumacher and any other persons determined to reside at 4325 23 rd Ave SW room #102 Fargo, ND." Once officers arrived at room #102 of the AmericInn Hotel & Suites, they knocked, announced their presence, and waited for a response. Detective Holte could hear the room being ransacked and forcibly entered the room. Three individuals were in the room. Detective Holte followed two individuals into the bathroom as they appeared to be flushing narcotics down the toilet. Detective Mendez followed the third person, later identified as Terrill, into a bedroom. Terrill appeared to be hiding behind a bed in a room strewn with drug paraphernalia including needles/syringes and baggies. Specifically, there were syringes on the night stands on either side of the bed, on the floor beside the bed, and behind the bed where Terrill was attempting to hide. None of the syringes were within arms' reach of Terrill when Detective Mendez entered the room.

         [¶ 3] Detective Mendez instructed Terrill to crawl out from behind the bed and then placed him in handcuffs. Before conducting a pat-down search, Mendez asked Terrill if he had anything sharp in his pockets that could poke or stick him. Detective Mendez then conducted a search of Terrill's person and found a bag containing approximately one ounce of methamphetamine. Terrill was arrested and subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         [¶ 4] Terrill moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of his arrest. The district court denied the motion, finding Terrill was in constructive possession of drug paraphernalia based on the syringes found in the bedroom, and, therefore, Detective Mendez had probable cause to arrest him for possession of drug paraphernalia. The district court also found Detective Mendez was authorized to search Terrill incident to arrest.

         II

         [¶ 5] This Court reviews a district court's decision on a motion to suppress as follows:

[W]e give deference to the district court's findings of fact and we resolve conflicts in testimony in favor of affirmance. We "will not reverse a district court decision on a motion to suppress... if there is sufficient competent evidence capable of supporting the court's findings, and if the decision is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence." Questions of law are fully reviewable on appeal, and whether a finding of fact meets a legal standard is a question of law. Whether law enforcement violated constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure is a question of law.

State v. Kaul, 2017 ND 56, ¶ 5, 891 N.W.2d 352 (citations ...


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