from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Elmore County. Nancy A. Baskin, District
order of the district court is affirmed.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for
appellant State of Idaho. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.
D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for
respondent Coleton Myers Sessions. Maya P. Waldron argued.
the apparent belief that Coleton Sessions was selling tainted
marijuana that had caused adverse medical symptoms to its
users, police officers arrived at and entered Sessions'
house, and seized illegal substances and paraphernalia.
Sessions was arrested and charged with multiple criminal
offenses. He moved to suppress the evidence seized by the
officers because it was procured without a warrant in
violation of his constitutional rights. Based on the
information that the officers had at the time they entered
the home, the district court determined it was not reasonable
for officers to believe that anyone inside the home was in
need of immediate medical assistance and granted
Sessions' motion to suppress. The State appeals, arguing
that the warrantless entry and search were justified as a
result of exigent circumstances. Because the district
court's conclusions are supported by substantial and
competent evidence, we affirm the district court's order
granting the motion to suppress.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
August 19, 2016, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Patrol Sergeant
Scott Smith of the Mountain Home Police Department responded
to an emergency call to find Steven Miller lying on a lawn.
Smith observed that Miller could talk and move his head, but
was unable to move the rest of his body. Miller told Smith
that he had recently consumed some alcohol and marijuana.
Smith believed the cause of Miller's paralysis was
tainted marijuana. When Smith asked where Miller obtained the
marijuana, he said he bought it from Sessions.
ambulance arrived and transported Miller and Smith to St.
Luke's Elmore Medical Center. Smith began to ask other
officers, including Detective Kent Ogaard and Officer Hurly,
whether there had been other reports similar to Miller's.
Ogaard testified that he was informed that a couple of people
had ended up at the hospital.
midnight, Smith, Ogaard, and Hurly drove to Sessions'
residence, the location where Miller said he had purchased
the marijuana. The officers never attempted to obtain a
warrant to search Sessions' home. Smith and Hurly were in
police uniforms; Ogaard was in plain clothes. Ogaard knocked
on the door. A woman answered the knock. After the woman
opened the door, officers testified that they detected a
strong odor of marijuana.
officers testified that this was not a normal marijuana
investigation, due to reports that a few people in the
community had possibly been affected by tainted drugs.
Officers testified that they were operating under the belief
that Sessions was selling tainted marijuana that could harm
the user. After officers detected the odor of marijuana, they
believed it possible that someone in the house might have
consumed the marijuana and therefore needed help. The
officers entered the home without obtaining permission or a
search warrant. The woman who answered the door did not
consent to the officers entering the home.
entering the home, the officers noticed drug paraphernalia in
the living room. Ogaard's questioning of the woman led
him to believe that weapons might be inside the home.
However, there was no evidence that the officers conducted a
protective sweep to see if anyone was in medical distress.
Nevertheless, the officers testified that had they not been
concerned for the physical safety of the inhabitants, they
would not have entered the home.
asked the woman if the homeowner, Sessions, was available.
Sessions came from down a hallway and spoke with the
officers. Only after the conversation with Sessions did the
officers search the residence. The officers located
marijuana. No one at the home was found to be in any medical
State charged Sessions with manufacturing marijuana, delivery
of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sessions
moved to suppress the evidence based on the officers'
warrantless entry into his home. The State responded to the
motion to suppress, acknowledging that the officers entered
Sessions' home without a warrant, but arguing that the
warrantless entry was justified by exigent circumstances. The
district court granted Sessions' motion to suppress
because exigent ...