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State of Idaho v. Howard W. Linenberger

September 1, 2011

STATE OF IDAHO,
PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HOWARD W. LINENBERGER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Lansing L. Haynes, District Judge.

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

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

2011 Opinion No. 54

Judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, affirmed.

Howard W. Linenberger appeals from his judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Specifically, Linenberger asserts that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

On October 10, 2008, a police detective received a report of suspected drug activity on a boat docked in a marina. The reporting party stated that the boat had docked several times in the past week, and he had observed several people come and go to the boat, each staying only a few minutes and one leaving that day barely able to walk. The citizen informant described the male he suspected of selling drugs from the boat and provided boat identification. The detective determined the boat belonged to Linenberger.

Based on this information, the detective and two police officers went to the marina. The detective stepped onto the boat, knocked on the door, and announced who he was. When Linenberger answered, the detective smelled an odor he associated with methamphetamine coming from the cabin. The detective asked Linenberger to step to the dock so they could talk. The detective asked if he could conduct a pat-down search for weapons and Linenberger consented. Linenberger admitted he had a knife in his right pocket. Upon searching that pocket, the detective found a cylinder that he believed might contain methamphetamine. The detective removed the cylinder and placed it on the ground. Linenberger thereafter admitted there was methamphetamine on the boat and gave consent to search the boat. Linenberger also told the detective that the cylinder contained methamphetamine. The detective searched the boat and found methamphetamine along with numerous items associated with the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. The detective arrested Linenberger for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. I.C. § 37-2732(a)(1)(A).

Linenberger filed a motion to suppress evidence, and the district court denied the motion. Linenberger entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and reserved his right to appeal the denial of the motion to suppress. The district court accepted Linenberger's guilty plea and sentenced him to a unified term of twelve years, with a minimum period of confinement of four years, and retained jurisdiction. Linenberger appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

Linenberger argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress. Specifically, Linenberger asserts that all evidence should be suppressed because the detective entered Linenberger's boat, detained him, conducted a pat-down search for weapons and searched his boat, all in violation of Linenberger's 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 that 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). For instance, the reasonableness of a given search or seizure is a question of law over which we exercise independent review. State v. Morris, 131 Idaho 562, 565, 961 P.2d 653, 656 (Ct. App. 1998). 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).

Linenberger asserts that the detective illegally entered Linenberger's boat when the detective boarded the boat without permission and knocked on the door. The 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. The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 585 (1980).

Courts have extended Fourth Amendment protection to the curtilage, which is the area or buildings immediately adjacent to a home which a reasonable person may expect to remain private even though it is accessible to the public. State v. Rigoulot, 123 Idaho 267, 272, 846 P.2d 918, 923 (Ct. App. 1992). However, the presence of a police officer within the curtilage does not, by itself, result in an unconstitutional intrusion. State v. Clark, 124 Idaho 308, 313, 859 P.2d 344, 349 (Ct. App. 1993). Just as there is an implied invitation for citizens to access a house by using driveways or pathways to the entry, police with legitimate business are entitled to enter areas of the curtilage that are impliedly open to public use. Id. A criminal investigation is as legitimate a societal purpose as any other undertaking that would normally take a person to another's front door. Rigoulot, 123 Idaho at 272, 846 P.2d at 923. Therefore, when the police come onto private ...


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