United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant David William Fischer's
(“Fischer”) Motion to Suppress. Dkt. 14. Fischer
alleges that law enforcement officers violated his Fourth
Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and
seizures. He seeks to exclude “evidence seized from the
… hotel room” he was staying in. Dkt. 14-1 at
11. This evidence includes: (1) a large bundle of cash in the
amount of $3, 275, (2) two backpacks, (3) a clear shard of what
turned out to be methamphetamine recovered from the bathroom
toilet, and (4) an empty plastic baggy from the bathroom
trashcan. Additionally, Fischer seeks to exclude the contents
of the locked backpacks, including: (5) approximately
forty-four grams of methamphetamine, (6) oxycodone, (7)
marijuana, and (8) two Samsung cellular telephones. For the
following reasons, the Court DENIES Fischer's motion.
September 26, 2017, law enforcement officers converged on the
Red Lion Hotel in Boise, Idaho to arrest him on a parole
violation warrant. Dkt. 14-1 at 1. Fischer concedes that
prior to the search, “law enforcement was aware
… that … [he] was on parole for aggravated
assault … and had a history of drug offenses.”
Dkt 14-1 at 10.
they arrived on scene, the officers observed Fischer exiting
Room 208 and removing items from a 2002 Ford Taurus. After
surveilling Fischer for a period of time, the officers
approached Room 208 and initiated a “contain and call
out, ” thereby announcing themselves as law enforcement
officers. Fischer refused to open the door and subsequently
barricaded himself in the room by moving a heavy dresser in
front of the door. The officers contacted Fischer by phone.
Fischer was upset and continually disconnected the calls.
While they were on the phone with Fischer, the officers heard
movement in the room, including a toilet flushing and a
barking dog. After an hour-long standoff, Fischer surrendered
to the officers and was placed into custody at 2:35 PM.
taking Fischer into custody, Officer Joshua Thorndyke entered
Room 208 and discovered another occupant in the room,
Tymilynn Uhl. Ms. Uhl had a large dog with her. Officer
Thorndyke commanded Ms. Uhl to put her dog in the bathroom
and exit the room with her hands up. Ms. Uhl complied. With
the dog safely locked in the bathroom, law enforcement began
a protective sweep of the bedroom area. During the bedroom
sweep, the officers discovered a large bundle of cash in the
amount of $3, 275 and two locked backpacks. The officers then
turned to the bathroom. A K-9 officer on the scene retrieved
the dog from the bathroom. From the doorway of the bathroom
area, Officer Thorndyke was able to see a wet and empty clear
plastic baggy in the bathroom trashcan and a clear shard in
the toilet bowl. The shard subsequently tested positive for
the sweep, the officers secured Room 208 while Officer
Thorndyke left to obtain a warrant. Rather than remaining
outside of Room 208 while Officer Thorndyke secured the
warrant however, the officers repeatedly exited and entered
the Room. At approximately 4:09 PM, the officers on the scene
interviewed three witnesses: Ms. Uhl, who was in the hotel
room with Fischer; Juliet Summers, who rented the hotel room
for Fischer; and, Sheryll Wilson, who owned the 2002 Ford
Taurus that Fischer was borrowing at the time he was
arrested. Ms. Summers and Ms. Wilson had been called to the
scene by the officers.
her interview with the officers on scene, Ms. Summers
consented to a search of Room 208 at 4:15 PM. In doing so
however, she told the law enforcement officers that she (1)
rented the room solely for Mr. Fischer, (2) had never been in
the hotel room, (3) had no intention of going in the room,
and (4) did not have any belongings in the room. Ms. Wilson
consented to a search of her car. An officer retrieved three
sets of keys from Room 208. Ms. Wilson identified one of the
key sets as belonging to her. The officers then used the key
to open Ms. Wilson's Ford Taurus at approximately 4:21
PM. In the trunk of the car officers discovered a Charter
Arms pistol box that contained a cigarette box with thirteen
rounds of ammunition in it. Officers also discovered a pistol
holster in the trunk.
hours after Fischer was arrested, law enforcement obtained a
search warrant for Room 208. Using a key found in the Room,
law enforcement opened the two locked backpacks. The first
backpack contained two handguns and about forty-four grams of
methamphetamine. The second backpack contained 1.1 grams of
methamphetamine, along with oxycodone, marijuana, and smoking
was indicted for possession of methamphetamine with intent to
distribute under 21 U.S.C. § 841, possession of firearm
in furtherance of drug trafficking under 18 U.S.C. §
924(c), and possession of a firearm as a felon under 18
U.S.C. § 922(g). On March 20, 2018, Fischer filed his
motion to suppress. He seeks to suppress only “evidence
seized from … [the] hotel room.” Dkt. 14-1 at
11. The Court will not evaluate the search of Ms.
Wilson's car and the subsequent seizure of the pistol
holster and Charter Arms pistol box containing ammunition.
Search-Incident to Arrest, Protective Sweep, and Plain View
Fourth Amendment protects citizens from searches and seizures
that are unreasonable. United States v. Montoya de
Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 537 (1985). Reasonableness
“depends upon all of the circumstances surrounding the
search or seizure and the nature of the search or seizure
itself, ” id., and weighs the intrusion upon
individual privacy interests against the promotion of
legitimate governmental interests. See Maryland v.
Buie, 494 U.S. 325, 331 (1990). The Supreme Court has
recognized a need for law enforcement to adequately protect
themselves during searches of a home where a suspect may hide
and readily access a weapon, Buie, 494 U.S. at
333-34, thereby creating a limited exception to the warrant
requirement. See United States v. Lemus, 582 F.3d
958, 961 (9th Cir. 2009).
search incident to a lawful arrest is a well-established
exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.
This exception allows an officer to search the arrestee's
person and the area within his immediate control, defined as
the area from within which he might gain possession of a
weapon or destructible evidence.” United States v.
Cook, 797 F.3d 713, 717 (9th Cir. 2015). Concern for the
officer's safety justifies a search without probable
cause or reasonable suspicion of areas including closets and
small places where a readily accessible weapon may be hidden.
Lemus, 582 F.3d at 962. Furthermore, officers may
conduct a protective sweep of adjoining areas if there are
articulable facts that would reasonably lead “a prudent
officer in believing that the area to be swept harbor[ed] an
individual posing a danger to those on the arrest
scene.” Id. (quoting Buie, 494 U.S.
at 334). A protective sweep “may extend only to a
cursory inspection of ...