916 F.2d 757 (1st Cir. 1990), 89-2115, United States v. Daoust

Docket Nº:89-2115.
Citation:916 F.2d 757
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Appellee, v. Rodney J. DAOUST, Defendant, Appellant.
Case Date:October 18, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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Page 757

916 F.2d 757 (1st Cir. 1990)

UNITED STATES, Appellee,

v.

Rodney J. DAOUST, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 89-2115.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 18, 1990

        Heard Sept. 5, 1990.

        Leonard I. Sharon, by appointment of the Court, for defendant, appellant.

        F. Mark Terison, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Richard S. Cohen, U.S. Atty., was on brief, for appellee.

        Before BREYER, Chief Judge, VAN GRAAFEILAND, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

        BREYER, Chief Judge.

        Rodney Daoust appeals his conviction for unlawful possession of firearms by a convicted felon pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Secs. 922(a)(6), (g)(1) and (h)(1). He argues that the district court should have suppressed the firearms as evidence at his trial, because, in his view, the police seized them in violation of the fourth amendment. We disagree with Daoust, and we affirm his conviction.

        Daoust makes two arguments. First, he claims that the search warrant which authorized the police to seize a weapon from his house was invalid. The warrant permitted the officers to seize a "semi-automatic handgun, blue steel in color." The police obtained the warrant, in part, by telling the issuing judge that they had "observed" the gun "hanging from the ceiling over the kitchen sink" in Daoust's house. The police officers first saw the gun on August 21, 1987, when they looked through a back window in Daoust's house.

Page 758

        Daoust agrees that officers have a right to observe (and, a fortiori, to apply for a warrant to seize) an object that falls in their "plain view" so long as they have "a right to be in the position to have that view." Harris v. United States, 390 U.S. 234, 236, 88 S.Ct. 992, 993, 19 L.Ed.2d 1067 (1968) ("It has long been settled that objects falling in the plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be introduced in evidence."). But, Daoust says, the officers had no right to be at the back of his house looking through the window and consequently the observation, the warrant, and ultimately the seizure of the gun, violated the Constitution. The legal question is whether the police had a right to be at the back of the house where they saw the gun, or whether they were simply snooping.

        The record reveals that Maine police officers, while investigating illegal drug activities, learned that Daoust might have useful information. On August 11, they went to his home, an isolated log house dug into the side of a hill, apparently without electricity or telephone, down a driveway off a dirt road. They found the front door inaccessible, as it was five feet above ground and had no steps. They saw no car, but they noticed toys in the driveway. They knocked on a glass cellar door, got no answer, and left. They returned on August 24. They knocked again on the glass cellar door and got no reply. They then walked up the slope (apparently a four to seven foot unlandscaped bank) to the back of the house and continued all the way around it. While they were at the back, one of the officers looked up through a kitchen window, the bottom of which was just at or just above his head, and saw the gun hanging above the sink.

        A policeman may lawfully...

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