CRIMINAL:  Search and Seizure (child protective investigator)

DATE RENDERED: 3/23/2007

CA affirmed TC’s order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress based upon illegal search and seizure. Here, a a child protective services investigator received a referral indicating that Defendant’s home was dirty, the floors were rotten, the house smelled unpleasant, his children were unsupervised and hungry, and both of the children’s parents were using methamphetamine and marijuana. The investigator brought Sheriff’s deputies with her for her protection while she inspected the home. Once inside, the government officials found evidence of methamphetamine production along with other suspicious items. Following this discovery, the deputies secured a warrant and seized evidence that led to the Defendant’s drug charges.

CA found law enforcement’s actions to be reasonable under the circumstances. Specifically, when the child protective investigator entered the closed bedroom to investigate the referral she had received, it was not unreasonable for the detective to enter the room because the visit was not criminal in nature. Thus, the detective did not need to receive Defendant’s consent to enter the bedroom. Moreover, once the investigator told Defendant that she was required to look in the bedroom, Defendant told her to go ahead and do so. He did not tell the detective that he could not go into the room with her. Even with the assumption that it was unreasonable for the detective to enter the bedroom and that he did so without Defendant’s consent, exigent circumstances were present, so the entry was nevertheless proper. In the present case, the deputies were invited into Defendant’s house, so they did not violate the Fourth Amendment by entering the house. Detective Bean went to the kitchen to get a drink for the child, so he was lawfully in the kitchen where the bag could be plainly seen. Finally, the fact that the bag was a corner bag renders its incriminating character immediately apparent. Consequently, Detective Bean properly seized the corner bag because it was in plain view, and the trial court properly admitted this evidence at trial. Therefore, because Detective Bean acted reasonably when he entered the bedroom, the search warrant obtained by the deputies based on what was seen in the bedroom was not void. Thus, the evidence against Defendant that was seized in this case was not “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and the trial court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress.

By Scott Byrd 

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