466 F.3d 1090 (7th Cir. 2006), 05-3106, United States v. Elder

Docket Nº:05-3106.
Citation:466 F.3d 1090
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mark A. ELDER, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:November 01, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 1090

466 F.3d 1090 (7th Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Mark A. ELDER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 05-3106.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

November 1, 2006

Argued September 12, 2006

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Dec. 5, 2006.[*]

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 04-CR-20049—Michael P. McCuskey, Chief Judge.

Eugene L. Miller (argued), Office of the United States Attorney Urbana Division, Urbana, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Hannah V. Garst (argued), Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before Posner, Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

Easterbrook, Circuit Judge.

The only question presented in this appeal is whether the district court should have suppressed evidence found in a shed that Mark Elder used to make methamphetamine. Like the district court, we conclude that the search and seizure were not unreasonable under the fourth amendment.

A 911 call led to the dispatch of two officers to a farm in Humbolt, Illinois. A caller had told the dispatcher "I think we got meth out here" and added that "suspicious" people were "flying like quails." The caller hung up, and when the dispatcher called the originating number no one answered. One obvious possibility was that the caller had been injured. Officers saw lights and heard a TV within the farm house, but no one answered knocks on the front or rear doors. The door of a nearby outbuilding was open. (Whether it was open was disputed in the district court; the judge found that it was open and did not commit clear error in doing so.)

Looking through the doorway, the officers saw what appeared to be a laboratory. They entered in search of the caller and did not find him. But what they saw from outside (and both saw and smelled from inside) provided evidence against Elder, the property's owner. The caller turned out to have been Elder's father, who had not been abducted or injured—though the officers could not have known that without checking, because even if (as Elder maintains) they knew or should have known that the proprietors of the meth lab were fleeing during the 911 call, the officers could not have known whether they took a

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hostage (or a life) in the process, or whether some third party was refusing to acknowledge his or her presence, and what...

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