Submitted: April 10, 2018
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Joplin
GRUENDER, MELLOY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Houck was indicted on one count of receipt and distribution
of child pornography. See 18 U.S.C. §
2252(a)(2). Before trial, the district court granted
Houck's motion to suppress, finding that the search of
his recreational vehicle ("RV") exceeded the scope
of an otherwise valid search warrant. Because the officers
were not objectively unreasonable in their belief that the RV
fell within the warrant's authorization to search
"any vehicles, " we reverse.
of his work with a Pennsylvania computer-crimes task force,
Detective Gregory Wahl located a computer that was sharing
child pornography on the Ares peer-to-peer network. Wahl was
able to establish the IP address of the computer, which he
traced to the residence of Houck's mother in Manheim,
Pennsylvania. This information led another member of the task
force, Detective Keith Kreider, to conduct "basic
surveillance" of the property, where he observed a
pickup truck and a fifth-wheel trailer-style RV in the
driveway. Kreider then applied for and obtained a search
warrant. The warrant application included a request to search
"any vehicles . . . present at the time of execution . .
. due to the size and portability of many of today's
media storage devices." Kreider later testified that he
did not specifically identify the RV in the warrant
application or seek a separate warrant to search the RV based
on his belief that it fell within the scope of the
warrant's authorization to search "any
vehicles." He further testified that, had the warrant
not expressly covered vehicles, he would have applied for a
second warrant to search the RV.
executed the search warrant on July 2, 2015. Upon arriving at
the residence, the officers saw Houck's RV and pickup
truck parked in the driveway. The truck had a trailer
attachment, but the RV was not connected to it. The RV itself
had Missouri license plates, a valid inspection tag, and a
vehicle identification number. It had fully inflated tires
and no permanent attachments to the ground. However, it was
connected to water and electric lines, and there was a
satellite dish attached to the roof. Kreider estimated that
it would have taken approximately thirty minutes to prepare
the RV for travel.
officers proceeded to the door of the RV and requested that
Houck and his girlfriend join them inside the residence.
Kreider then read the execution portion of the warrant to the
couple and Houck's mother, explaining that they were
looking for computers with Ares software. Houck was the only
one familiar with Ares, and he admitted to owning a laptop
with the software installed on it. He further advised Kreider
that his laptop was in the RV and even offered to retrieve
it, but Kreider declined his proposal.
there, the investigation proceeded on two fronts. Two
detectives at the scene asked if Houck would accompany them
to a nearby police station for an interview, and he agreed.
Throughout the process, the detectives repeatedly advised
Houck that his participation was voluntary and that he could
terminate the interview at any time. He eventually admitted
to downloading, viewing, and deleting numerous videos
containing child pornography. Meanwhile, the officers at the
residence executed the search and seized Houck's laptop,
Apple iPhone 6, and Olympus XD picture card from the RV. They
then conducted a forensic preview of the devices and located
files that appeared to contain child pornography. A
subsequent forensic examination revealed that external
data-storage devices had been connected to the laptop.
Because these devices were not located during the initial
search, Kreider applied for a second warrant, which
specifically identified Houck's RV as a location to be
searched. The second search led to the seizure of two digital
his indictment, Houck moved to suppress the evidence seized
during the initial search of his RV. He also sought to
suppress as fruits of the poisonous tree his statements to
officers at the residence, his admissions during the
stationhouse interview, and the evidence seized during the
second search. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371
U.S. 471, 484-88 (1963). The district court referred the
motion to a magistrate judge, who issued a report and
recommendation ("R&R") finding that nearly all
of the challenged evidence should be excluded. This
conclusion was based primarily on an analysis of the Supreme
Court's application of the "automobile
exception" to the warrantless search of a motor home in
California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386 (1985). Despite
recognizing that the officers here had a valid search
warrant, the magistrate judge applied Carney and
determined that, while Houck's RV was "readily
mobile, " it qualified as a residence rather than a
vehicle. The district court adopted the R&R in its
entirety and granted Houck's motion to suppress all
evidence obtained after he left his mother's property.
The Government now appeals, arguing that the warrant's
authorization to search "any vehicles" included the
RV and that, even if mistaken, the officers' reading of
the warrant was reasonable.
Fourth Amendment protects the "right of the people to be
secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend.
IV. "Ordinarily, evidence obtained in violation of the
Fourth Amendment is subject to the exclusionary rule and,
therefore, cannot be used in a criminal proceeding against
the victim of the illegal search and seizure."
United States v. Cannon, 703 F.3d 407, 412 (8th Cir.
2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). However,
"suppression is not an automatic consequence of a Fourth
Amendment violation. Instead, the question turns on the
culpability of the police and the potential of exclusion to
deter wrongful police conduct." Herring v. United
States, 555 U.S. 135, 137 (2009). Indeed, the Supreme
Court has described the exclusionary rule as an "extreme
sanction, " United States v. Leon, 468 U.S.
897, 916 (1984), "calculated to prevent, not repair. Its
purpose is to deter-to compel respect for the constitutional
guaranty in the only effectively available way-by removing
the incentive to disregard it, " Elkins v. United
States, 364 U.S. 206, 217 (1960). With these principles
in mind, when considering challenges to the suppression of
evidence, we review a district court's "factual
findings for clear error and application of law de
novo." United States v. Rodriguez, 834 F.3d
937, 940 (8th Cir. 2016).
appeal, the Government renews its argument that the plain
language of the warrant authorized the search of the RV, as
it was a vehicle located on the premises at the time of the
original search. The Government notes that an RV is a
"vehicle" under the common meaning of the word.
See Vehicle, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed.
2014) (defining "vehicle" as "[a]n instrument
of transportation or conveyance"). It also claims that
Missouri, Pennsylvania, and federal statutory definitions
recognize fifth-wheel trailers like Houck's RV as
vehicles. See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 301.010(62)
(defining "trailer" as "any vehicle without
motive power designed for carrying property or passengers on
its own structure and for being drawn by a self-propelled
vehicle"); 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 102 (defining
"trailer" as "[a] vehicle designed to be ...