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State v. Garnett

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 20, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MARK TRAVIS GARNETT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

         The judgment of conviction is affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Jason C. Pintler argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Mark W. Olson argued.

          BRODY, Justice.

         This appeal arises from the district court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence found in a backpack during a probation search of a residence. Mark Garnett was an overnight guest in the residence of an absconded felony probationer. Probation officers searched the residence, including an attached storage room, and found Garnett's locked backpack containing a stolen firearm. Garnett, a felon, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought to suppress the evidence found in the backpack, but the district court denied his motion because it determined that while he had standing to challenge the search of the backpack, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the absconded probationer owned, possessed, or controlled the backpack. Following a jury trial, Garnett was found guilty. Garnett appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court should have applied a reasonable belief standard and that had it done so the motion to suppress would have been granted. We affirm the district court's decision and the judgment of conviction.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Tamara Brunko, a woman on felony probation, drew the attention of her probation officer when she became non-compliant with the terms and conditions of her release on probation. Because one of the terms of her probation was consenting to searches of her residence, Brunko's probation officer, Jason Hines, decided to conduct a welfare check and perform a search of her residence.

         Bringing along other officers, Hines arrived at Brunko's single-wide trailer where she reportedly resided. Andrew Soy, Brunko's boyfriend who also resided at the residence, answered the door of the trailer. When asked, Soy told Hines that Brunko was still living at the residence but that he had not recently seen her. Soy stepped aside and allowed the officers into the residence. Another individual by the name of Mark Garnett was found lying on a sofa in the living room. Garnett was known by one of the probation officers who had supervised him during a recent parole stint. Garnett and Soy both silently waited on the couch while the officers searched the residence for any signs of Brunko.

         After failing to find Brunko in the residence, Hines began to search for evidence of Brunko's parole violations that could include drug-related items or a urinalysis-tampering kit. He made his way to a ramshackle storage room built onto the side of the trailer. The make-shift storage room featured an assortment of miscellaneous items in bags and in plastic drawers that appeared to be used by various members of the residence. Hines moved a large empty box off a shelf and found a hidden camouflage backpack with a lock on it. Believing that the backpack belonged to Brunko-probationers sometimes conceal contraband by using locks and safes in an attempt to dissuade officers from searching-Hines bypassed the lock and found a Glock 19 pistol, two magazines, and ammunition. Mail addressed to Garnett was also found inside of the backpack.

         It was soon determined that the pistol was stolen and Garnett was arrested. He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and grand theft. Before his trial, Garnett filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his backpack, arguing that the search violated his reasonable expectation of privacy. The district court held a motion hearing and ultimately denied Garnett's motion to suppress evidence, finding that while Garnett had a legitimate expectation of privacy in his backpack as an overnight guest, Hines had the requisite reasonable suspicion to believe that the backpack was owned, possessed, or controlled by Brunko. The basis for this decision rested upon the officer's reasonable grounds to believe that Brunko had violated the terms of her probation by "walking away from treatment at the [drug rehabilitation] Center, being dishonest with her probation officer of her failure to complete treatment, missing drug tests, submitting an altered [urine] sample, testing positive for heroin, and her child not showing up for school." Additionally, the locked backpack, lacking any indicia of ownership and found concealed in a shared storage room, could have contained evidence of Brunko's violations.

         Thereafter, a jury found Garnett guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and he was sentenced to a fixed term of five years of incarceration. Garnett now appeals, arguing that the district court employed the wrong standard in denying his motion to suppress evidence.

         II. ISSUE ON APPEAL

         A. Whether the district court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence using a ...


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