774 F.2d 436 (11th Cir. 1985), 84-8853, United States v. Ladson

Docket Nº:84-8853.
Citation:774 F.2d 436
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. John Nathaniel LADSON and Eunice Mae Oliver, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 18, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 436

774 F.2d 436 (11th Cir. 1985)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,


John Nathaniel LADSON and Eunice Mae Oliver, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 84-8853.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

October 18, 1985

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 438

Mary Jane Stewart, Asst. U.S. Atty., Atlanta, Ga., for plaintiff-appellant.

Herbert Shafer, Atlanta, Ga., and David H. Remes, Washington, D.C., for Ladson.

Eugene A. Medori, Jr. (Court-appointed), Decatur, Ga., for Oliver.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Before VANCE and HATCHETT, Circuit Judges, and LYNNE [*], District Judge.

VANCE, Circuit Judge:

The question presented in this case is whether the government's lawful seizure of a house in connection with pending civil forfeiture proceedings entitles the government to conduct an inventory search of the house's contents over the objection of a tenant occupying the home. We conclude that it does not and thus affirm the decision of the district court.


Defendants John Nathaniel Ladson and Eunice Mae Oliver lived in a rented house at 5864 Deerfield Trail in College Park, Georgia. The owner of the house was Rowland Allen. In March of 1984, the government commenced civil forfeiture proceedings against the house, charging that the property was traceable to drug profits obtained by Allen and hence subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881(a)(6). Soon thereafter, at the government's request, Judge Robert J. Hall of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued an order entitled "seizure warrant/writ of entry." The warrant ordered seizure of Allen's real property and directed the executing federal agent to "prepare a written inventory of the real estate and property thereon seized."

The executing agent turned out to be Special Agent Paul Markonni of the Drug Enforcement Administration. 2 Markonni arrived at the property along with three police officers and found Oliver at home. Over her protest, two of the officers began to conduct a "walk-through" inventory of the home's contents. Minutes later, the officers called Markonni into the bedroom. There, Markonni saw in plain view what he believed to be drugs and drug paraphernalia. A field test indicated the presence of cocaine. Markonni arrested Oliver, obtained a search warrant, and in the ensuing search discovered further suspected contraband.

After Oliver and Ladson were indicted on several drug charges, they moved to suppress the evidence discovered in their home. The district court held the evidence inadmissible under the fourth amendment exclusionary rule. A week later, the government moved for reconsideration on the basis of the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule. The district court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. We have jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3731. 3

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A. The Plain View Exception

Agent Markonni had no warrant entitling him to search for or seize the evidence originally discovered, and the warrant under which the additional evidence was found was obtained on the basis of the original evidence. Thus, the exclusionary rule and the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine require us to affirm the district court's decision to suppress all the evidence unless Agent Markonni's original discovery falls within an exception to the fourth amendment's warrant requirement. The government contends that the evidence is admissible under the "plain view" exception, which is applicable if three conditions are met. First, the initial intrusion which made the discovery possible must have been lawful...

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