United States v Coleman 8thCIR 27NOV2018

United States v Coleman 8thCIR 27NOV2018

A woman makes a 911 call and states her boyfriend who lives with her punched her in the mouth and he had a gun.  Police responded to the 911call and the woman met police outside the residence and they could clearly see she had injuries consistent with her claim. Police entered the house with the woman and they found the defendant (Coleman) in the kitchen. Upon being questioned, Coleman ran down the stairs behind him. Police ordered him to stop and he came back up the stairs where police attempted to arrest him but he struggled resulting in the use of a Tazer.  The subsequent search incident to arrest yielded drugs and a firearm. The Sergeant at the scene ordered a protective sweep of the area in which he was arrested including an adjacent locked room that they opened using a key provided by the girlfriend.  Upon conducting the sweep of the adjacent room, the officers saw marijuana in plain sight on the bed in the room. They did not seize the marijuana, but they obtained a search warrant based on the observation.  When they executed the warrant, they seized drugs, distribution tools, and firearms as several cellphones.

Coleman sought to have the evidence excluded claiming the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights in four ways. First, they did not have consent to enter the house. Second, the protective sweep of the locked adjacent room was unlawful because he had been physically removed when the sweep took place. Third, the warrant did not describe the items to be seized with sufficient particularity. And lastly, the search of the automobile in the driveway was unlawful because it was not identified in the warrant and the automobile exception did not apply.

The District Court denied the motion to suppress on all arguments and the Eighth Circuit affirmed holding:

1- The consent of the girlfriend was not nullified by the complaints of the defendant because the rule in Randolph does not apply when police are investigating domestic abuse.

2 – The presence of drugs in the area of arrest gave police reasonable belief the place swept harbored an individual who posed a danger to them.

3 – Although not specifically listed as an item to be seized, the warrant’s language authorizing seizure of “instrumentalities of the crime” encompassed the cellphones that were found.

4 – The police were lawfully present in the driveway executing the warrant and therefore the automobile exception could be applied to the warrantless search of the car.

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