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State of Idaho v. Matthew T. Harper

July 18, 2011

STATE OF IDAHO,
PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MATTHEW T. HARPER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Nez Perce County. Hon. Carl B. Kerrick, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gutierrez, Judge

2011 Opinion No. 41

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Judgment of conviction for trafficking in amphetamine and/or methamphetamine by manufacturing and manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance where children are present, affirmed.

Matthew T. Harper appeals from the district court's entry of a judgment of conviction upon jury verdicts finding him guilty of trafficking in amphetamine and/or methamphetamine by manufacturing and for manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance where children are present. Specifically, he asserts that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the affidavit in support of the search warrant did not establish the requisite probable cause and because the search warrant was constitutionally defective. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

After receiving information from pharmacy employees that Harper, Bradley Stinson, and Ashley Wolff had been purchasing precursors for manufacturing methamphetamine, Detective Bryce Scrimsher and other law enforcement officers conducted an investigation between August 2008 and March 2009. During the investigation, officers conducted surveillance on a residence located at 1536 Airway Avenue in Lewiston, Idaho, a single-family house owned by Bradley Stinson, where officers believed that Harper also resided. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement received reports from employees of various pharmacies in town, and in several instances confirmed the information themselves, that Harper, Stinson, and Wolff had collectively purchased, each to varying degrees, over 7,000 pseudoephedrine tablets and other methamphetamine precursors.

Based on information provided by Detective Scrimsher in an affidavit, a magistrate issued a warrant authorizing the search of: (1) the residence located at 1536 Airway Avenue; (2) Harper's and Stinson's vehicles and any other vehicles found at the residence when the warrant was executed; (3) a storage unit where officers had observed Harper and Stinson frequenting; and (4) the "persons" of Harper, Stinson, Wolff, and "any and all other persons at the residence" when the warrant was executed. The warrant also specified items that could be seized, including, but not limited to, ledgers, methamphetamine precursors, equipment used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, and documents demonstrating ownership and residence.

When officers executed the warrant, they encountered the four residents of the house, Stinson, Harper, Wolff, and Wolff's two-year-old son. Stinson and Wolff resided in a bedroom upstairs and Harper resided in a bedroom on the main level. Harper and Stinson both testified at the hearing on Harper's motion to suppress that Harper had objected to the search of his room, telling the officers that he paid rent and had a separate lock on his door, and therefore they needed a separate warrant to conduct the search. Officers proceeded to search Harper's room and found a number of items used to manufacture methamphetamine, along with methamphetamine and other drug paraphernalia. Harper subsequently admitted he had been "cooking meth" at the 1536 Airway Avenue residence for approximately a year and a half.

Harper was charged by information with trafficking in amphetamine and/or methamphetamine by manufacturing, Idaho Code § 37-2732B(a)(3), and manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance where children are present, I.C. § 37-2737A. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search, alleging the affidavit which formed the basis of the warrant failed to establish probable cause and that the search warrant was constitutionally defective because it lacked the requisite particularity. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion to suppress. Harper filed a motion to reconsider, which the district court also denied. The case proceeded to a jury trial where a jury subsequently found him guilty as charged. Harper now appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

II.

ANALYSIS

Harper contends that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence found as a result of the execution of the search warrant on two bases: (1) the affidavit for the search warrant failed to establish the requisite probable cause because it was vague, lacking in detail, contained hearsay, and failed to provide a sufficient nexus between any alleged wrongdoing and the premises and persons subject to the search; and (2) the search warrant was constitutionally defective in that it was overly broad in allowing a search of the entire residence when the officers knew that it was a multi-unit residence. Thus, Harper contends that, because the warrant was invalid, the search and seizure of evidence violated his federal and state Fourth Amendment rights.

The standard of review of a suppression motion is bifurcated. When a decision on a motion to suppress is challenged, we accept the trial court's findings of fact which are supported by substantial evidence, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Atkinson, 128 Idaho 559, 561, 916 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ct. App. 1996). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess the credibility of witnesses, resolve factual conflicts, weigh evidence, and draw factual inferences is vested in the trial court. State v. Valdez-Molina, 127 Idaho 102, 106, 897 P.2d 993, 997 (1995); State v. Schevers, 132 Idaho 786, 789, 979 P.2d 659, 662 (Ct. App. 1999).

A. Probable Cause

Harper first argues that the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence found during the officers' search of his room because the affidavit supporting the request for a search warrant failed to establish the requisite probable cause. Specifically, he contends the affidavit contained insufficient detail as it consisted of "unsubstantiated and conclusory statements" rooted in "unreliable hearsay" and it failed to establish the requisite nexus between any criminal activity, the things to be seized, and the place and persons to be searched.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly ...


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