851 N.W.2d 178 (N.D. 2014), 20140083, State v. Gatlin

Docket Nº20140083
Citation851 N.W.2d 178, 2014 ND 162
Opinion JudgeKapsner, Justice.
Party NameState of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Luke Adam Gatlin, Defendant and Appellant
AttorneyMeredith H. Larson, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief. Jessica J. Ahrendt, Grand Forks Public Defender Office, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.
Judge PanelCarol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice. Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J.
Case DateJuly 31, 2014
CourtSupreme Court of North Dakota

Page 178

851 N.W.2d 178 (N.D. 2014)

2014 ND 162

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee

v.

Luke Adam Gatlin, Defendant and Appellant

No. 20140083

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 31, 2014

Page 179

Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonja Clapp, Judge.

Meredith H. Larson, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

Jessica J. Ahrendt, Grand Forks Public Defender Office, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.

Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

OPINION

Page 180

Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] Luke Adam Gatlin appeals from a criminal judgment entered following a conditional plea of guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. Because we hold Gatlin cannot assert a violation of a third party's expectation of privacy in the home searched by police and because Gatlin failed to object to the search, we affirm the district court judgment.

I

[¶2] Police served an arrest warrant on Michael Sebjornson at a Grand Forks residential address. An officer knocked on the door, and Ione Sebjornson answered. The officer asked Ione Sebjornson if Michael Sebjornson was there, and Ione Sebjornson responded that he was not. The officer asked Ione Sebjornson if he could search the home, and she said " no." The officer then asked Danny Sebjornson, who was standing in the doorway, if he lived at the address. Danny Sebjornson responded that he did. The officer asked Danny Sebjornson if Michael Sebjornson was in the home, and Danny Sebjornson responded " Yes. Come get him . . . . Go get him. He's in the room." The officer then followed Danny Sebjornson into the home. While inside, the officer found Luke Gatlin hiding in a closet, and a warrants check revealed that Gatlin had an active warrant. Gatlin was arrested on the warrant, and when he was booked into the correctional center, a meth pipe was found in his pocket, so he was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

[¶3] Gatlin moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, arguing the search violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the North Dakota Constitution. The district court denied Gatlin's motion to suppress, finding Gatlin did not have standing to challenge the search and Gatlin forfeited his right to seek suppression by failing to object during the search. Gatlin conditionally pled guilty, preserving the suppression issue for appeal.

II

[¶4] On appeal, Gatlin argues he had standing to bring a motion to suppress evidence and did not lose out on this right by not objecting to the search at the time it occurred. Gatlin also argues the search violated his constitutional rights because officers executed the search over the homeowner's objection. Finally, Gatlin argues that even if officers had the authority to search common areas, their search of the room in which Gatlin was found was outside the scope of that authority. When reviewing a district court's decision on a motion to suppress:

We will defer to a trial court's findings of fact in the disposition of a motion to suppress. Conflicts in testimony will be resolved in favor of affirmance, as we recognize the trial court is in a superior position to assess credibility of witnesses and weigh the evidence. Generally, a trial court's decision to deny a motion to suppress will not be reversed if there is sufficient competent evidence capable of supporting the trial court's findings, and

Page 181

if its decision is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

State v. Genre, 2006 ND 77, 712 N.W.2d 624, ¶ 12 (citation omitted). " Questions of law are reviewed under the de novo standard of review." Id. (citation omitted).

[¶5] The district court denied the motion to suppress based on a lack of standing. Courts no longer analyze Fourth Amendment claims under the traditional " standing" doctrine, although " the term continues to be used to refer to the concept of 'reasonable expectation of privacy.'" State v. Oien, 2006 ND 138, 717 N.W.2d 593, ¶ 8 (citation omitted). An individual's capacity to challenge a search or seizure depends on " whether 'the disputed search and seizure has infringed an interest of the defendant which the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect.'" Id. (quoting Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 140, 99 S.Ct. 421, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978)). In those interests, an individual is said to have " a reasonable expectation of privacy." See id. A reasonable expectation of privacy has two elements: 1) the individual must exhibit an actual, subjective expectation of privacy, and 2) that expectation must be one that society recognizes as reasonable. State v. Nguyen, 2013 ND 252, ¶ 8, 841 N.W.2d 676.

Several factors that contribute to determining whether a legitimate expectation of privacy exists include: " [W]hether the party has a possessory interest in the things seized or the place searched; whether the party can exclude others from that place; whether the party took precautions to maintain the privacy; and whether the party had a key to the premises."

Id. at ¶ 9 (citation omitted). This Court has recognized that overnight guests have Fourth Amendment protection in the home of a third party and has extended that protection to non-overnight guests. See State v. Hayes, 2012 ND 9, 809 N.W.2d 309, ¶ 15; see also Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 96-97, 110 S.Ct. 1684, 109 L.Ed.2d 85 (1990); State v. Ackerman, 499 N.W.2d 882, 885 (N.D. 1993). The individual challenging the search has the burden of proving a reasonable expectation of privacy existed. Nguyen, at ¶ 9.

[¶6] In this case, the district court found Gatlin did not have standing to challenge the search:

[W]hile a guest may have standing to suppress evidence from a search, a defendant who...

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