Mann v. State

Decision Date29 April 2004
Docket NumberNo. CR 03-1460.,CR 03-1460.
Citation161 S.W.3d 826,357 Ark. 159
PartiesJohnny W. MANN v. STATE of Arkansas.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Mike Beebe, Att'y Gen., by: Laura Shue, Ass't Att'y Gen., Little Rock, for appellee.


Appellant Johnny W. Mann was convicted in the Ashley County Circuit Court of possession of methamphetamine with intent to manufacture or deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia; he was sentenced as a habitual offender to twenty years' imprisonment. On appeal to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Appellant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and in allowing the State to refer to his criminal history during the trial. The court of appeals reversed on the suppression issue and remanded the matter to the trial court. See Mann v. State, 84 Ark.App. 225, 137 S.W.3d 411 (2003). We granted the State's petition for review of the court of appeals' decision, pursuant to Ark. Sup.Ct. R. 2-4. When we grant review following a decision by the court of appeals, we review the case as though it had been originally filed with this court. See Jones v. State, 355 Ark. 630, 144 S.W.3d 254 (2004); Zangerl v. State, 352 Ark. 278, 100 S.W.3d 695 (2003). We conclude that the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress, and we reverse.

The record reflects that on or about May 20, 2001, Mitchell Webb, a United States postal inspector in Little Rock, received information from a postal inspector in California of a suspicious package addressed to Clark Nuss, 424 Ashley 81 West, Hamburg, Arkansas. The package had a return address of Crescent City, California. Webb instructed the California office to forward the package to him, via sealed mail. Once Webb received the package, he ran a drug-detection canine by the package, and the dog alerted on it. Another postal inspector then obtained a federal search warrant for the package, which was then opened and discovered to contain approximately eighteen grams of methamphetamine. Webb contacted officers of the Arkansas State Police to see if they were interested in investigating the matter. They indicated that they were, so Webb re-wrapped the package and transported it to Hamburg the following day.

Officers from the state police discovered that Appellant lived at 424 Ashley 81 West in Hamburg. They also ran criminal histories on Appellant and Clark Nuss and discovered that both men had previously lived in Crescent City, California. Officers then decided to make a controlled delivery of the package, with Inspector Webb posing as a rural route carrier in Hamburg. Prior to the actual delivery, Appellant approached his regular mail carrier and asked if there were any packages for him. The mail carrier told Appellant that the mail route for that day was being split up and that another carrier may possibly have his mail.

At the time of the controlled delivery, officers conducted surveillance of the residence at 424 Ashley 81 West, Hamburg. They watched it from the ground, as well as from the air in a state police helicopter. The residence was a mobile home with a screened-in porch area on the front. There was some construction going on at the front of the residence, in an apparent attempt to convert the mobile home into a permanent structure. There was a screen door on the porch and a metal door on the trailer itself.

On the date of the controlled delivery, May 21, 2001, Inspector Webb drove his postal vehicle into Appellant's driveway and honked his horn. Appellant came out and approached Webb. Webb told him that he had two packages that were too big to fit into the mailbox. Webb then asked Appellant if the packages belonged there, and Appellant said that they did. The police officers remained in their surveillance positions for five to six minutes, to give Appellant time to open up the packages. They then approached the residence, entered the screened-in porch, and announced their presence. The metal door to the trailer was open. At some point, either while they were inside the porch area or in the doorway of the trailer, one of the officers heard someone running down the hallway, and he alerted the others. At least two of the officers pursued the runner toward the bathroom, where they discovered Appellant, who was fully clothed, sitting on the commode, which had just been flushed. Appellant was then taken into custody, and officers subsequently obtained his consent to search the residence. The officers then recovered the methamphetamine from the drain of the commode.

Appellant was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to manufacture or deliver, Class Y felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, Class C felony; and felon in possession of a firearm, Class D felony. Appellant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search of his residence, on the ground that the warrantless entry violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that there were exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry. Particularly, the trial court found that when the police entered the screened-in porch and announced that they were police, they heard someone running in the residence. According to the trial court: "That led to the reasonable conclusion that Mr. Mann, who they knew was in possession of these drugs at this time, was trying to do something to dispossess himself of them or destroy them."

Appellant was subsequently tried by a jury and convicted of all but the firearms charge. He was sentenced as a habitual offender to twenty years' imprisonment. Thereafter, Appellant appealed to the court of appeals, which found merit to Appellant's suppression argument and reversed his convictions. See Mann, 84 Ark.App. 225, 137 S.W.3d 411. In doing so, the court of appeals concluded that police officers themselves had created the exigent circumstances, and that under the Eighth Circuit's holding in United States v. Duchi, 906 F.2d 1278 (8th Cir.1990), those exigent circumstances could not be relied upon to justify the warrantless entry.

In its petition for review, the State asserts that the court of appeals was wrong to rely on Duchi, 906 F.2d 1278. The State also takes issue with the court of appeals' conclusion that the investigative strategy of the officers created a sense of urgency. Instead, the State urges that the dissent was correct in concluding that the exigent circumstances were created by Appellant when he chose to run down the hallway to the bathroom and flush the evidence down the commode. The State asserts that the court of appeals' holding is tantamount to a requirement that the police must seek an anticipatory search warrant in every case in which an illegal substance is found in a parcel of mail.

In reviewing the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we conduct a de novo review based on the totality of the circumstances, reviewing findings of historical fact for clear error and determining whether those facts give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause, giving due weight to inferences drawn by the trial court and proper deference to the trial court's findings. See Romes v. State, 356 Ark. 26, 144 S.W.3d 750 (February 5, 2004); Davis v. State, 351 Ark. 406, 94 S.W.3d 892 (2003). After reviewing the record in this case, as well as relevant case law, we conclude that the court of appeals was correct in holding that the warrantless entry into Appellant's residence violated the Fourth Amendment.

We begin our analysis by acknowledging the boilerplate principle that a warrantless entry into a private residence is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. See Welsh v Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 104 S.Ct. 2091, 80 L.Ed.2d 732 (1984); Love v. State, 355 Ark. 334, 138 S.W.3d 676 (2003); Latta v. State, 350 Ark. 488, 88 S.W.3d 833 (2002); Norris v. State, 338 Ark. 397, 993 S.W.2d 918 (1999). An exception to the warrant requirement is where, at the time of entry, there exists probable cause and exigent circumstances. See Humphrey v. State, 327 Ark. 753, 940 S.W.2d 860 (1997); Butler v. State, 309 Ark. 211, 829 S.W.2d 412, cert. denied, 506 U.S. 998, 113 S.Ct. 597, 121 L.Ed.2d 534 (1992); Mitchell v. State, 294 Ark. 264, 742 S.W.2d 895 (1988). "Exigent circumstances are those requiring immediate aid or action, and, while there is no definite list of what constitutes exigent circumstances, several established examples include the risk of removal or destruction of evidence, danger to the lives of police officers or others, and the hot pursuit of a suspect." Humphrey, 327 Ark. at 766, 940 S.W.2d at 867 (citing Butler, 309 Ark. 211, 829 S.W.2d 412). The burden is on the State to prove that the warrantless activity was reasonable. Latta, 350 Ark. 488, 88 S.W.3d 833; Norris, 338 Ark. 397, 993 S.W.2d 918. As will be demonstrated below, the State did not meet its burden in this case.

The testimony of the officers during the suppression hearing was inconclusive as to when the exigent circumstances arose. The record reflects that six officers testified at the suppression hearing; however, only two officers, Dennis Roberts, of the Arkansas State Police, and Deputy Jim Culp, of the Ashley County Sheriff's Department, testified that they entered Appellant's residence before he was taken into custody. Roberts initially testified that he was inside the residence when he heard someone running down the hallway. He explained:

We went into the house, and I was one of the first into the house. I heard running down the wooden floor. I announced, "State Police." Continued to hear the running. We pursued the running down the hallway and found Mr. Mann inside of the bathroom.

Roberts also stated:

[U]pon entry of the house, just as I was standing, or just as I was hearing the running down the hallway, I saw our package that had been torn open...

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