Patterson v. State, No. 10-19-00243-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtJOHN E. NEILL Justice
Docket NumberNo. 10-19-00243-CR
Decision Date09 December 2020


No. 10-19-00243-CR


December 9, 2020

From the 361st District Court Brazos County, Texas
Trial Court No. 17-00251-CRF-361


In two issues, appellant, Samuel Crawford Patterson, challenges his convictions for two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.1151, 481.116 (West 2017). Specifically, Patterson contends that the trial court abused its discretion by overruling his first amended motion to suppress evidence. We reverse and remand.

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In the very early morning hours of August 20, 2016, something was amiss during a fraternity party at the Signa Nu Fraternity House located on 550 Fraternity Row in College Station, Texas. Several 911 calls were made to report the possible heroin overdose of a Sigma Nu fraternity brother later identified as Anton Gridnev. The 911 calls made clear that illegal drugs were present at the fraternity house and that the fraternity brothers did not want the police involved. Nevertheless, emergency medical technicians, as well as law enforcement, soon arrived.

Sergeant Steven Taylor of the College Station Police Department was the first police officer to arrive at the house. Two paramedics were already on the scene tending to Gridnev, who was lying motionless just inside the doorway of the fraternity house. As the scene unfolded, law enforcement discovered that Gridnev was deceased. There was evidence that suggested that Gridnev's body had been moved from inside the house to the doorstep. Because law enforcement was unsure at the time as to whether Gridnev himself had overdosed or if someone else had overdosed Gridnev, the entire fraternity house was treated as a murder scene.

Police proceeded to conduct three warrantless "sweeps" of the fraternity house. First, several officers conducted what was characterized as a "protective sweep" to ensure that all of the fraternity brothers were out of their rooms and were in the common areas of the house so that law enforcement could determine if anyone else had overdosed or

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needed medical treatment and to ensure that evidence was not destroyed. This first "sweep" was not described as overly thorough. A second "sweep," which officers characterized as departmental policy, was conducted to ensure, once again, that all the fraternity brothers were accounted for and present in the common areas of the house.

During the initial two "sweeps" for the occupants in the house, law enforcement noticed illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia in plain view within the rooms. According to Officer Christopher Herring of the College Station Police Department, this included "drug paraphernalia, grinders, lots of pipes, bongs, and then also that I had seen white, powdery substance consistent with cocaine" in multiple rooms. As noted in the affidavit supporting the search warrant, Patterson, in particular, had in his room, in plain view, a "coffee table: two small plastic baggies with white colored residue, white powdery substance arranged in a line." No witness testified as to whether the door to Patterson's room was closed or locked when the drug evidence was observed.

During a third "sweep," Investigator John Reilly Garrett of the College Station Police Department was escorted through the fraternity house to observe illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia in plain view in the common areas and the rooms. He detailed this information in his affidavit to secure a search warrant of the entire premises.

Based on the evidence seized from his room at the fraternity house, Patterson was charged by indictment with one count of unlawful possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance—3,4-methylenedioxy methamphetamine—in Penalty Group 2 and

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one count of unlawful possession of a less than twenty abuse units of a controlled substance—lysergic acid diethylamide—in Penalty Group 1A. Patterson filed an original and a first amended motion to suppress evidence. The trial court conducted a hearing on Patterson's first amended motion to suppress, as well as motions to suppress from five other co-defendants. After the hearing, the trial court denied Patterson's motion to suppress.

Thereafter, Patterson entered an open plea of guilty and elected for punishment to be assessed by the trial court. In each count, the trial court assessed punishment at two years' incarceration in the State Jail but probated the sentence for five years with various conditions described in the judgments. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently. The trial court certified Patterson's right of appeal, and this appeal followed.


We review the trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence for an abuse of discretion, using a bifurcated standard. See Crain v. State, 315 S.W.3d 43, 48 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010); Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 88-89 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). We give "almost total deference" to the trial court's findings of historical fact that are supported by the record and to mixed questions of law and fact that turn on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Guzman, 955 S.W.2d at 89. We review de novo the trial court's determination of the law and its application of law to facts that do not turn upon an evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Id. When the trial court has not made a finding

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on a relevant fact, we imply the finding that supports the trial court's ruling, so long as it finds some support in the record. State v. Kelly, 204 S.W.3d 808, 818-19 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006); see Moran v. State, 213 S.W.3d 917, 922 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). We will uphold the trial court's ruling if it is reasonably supported by the record and is correct under any theory of law applicable to the case. State v. Dixon, 206 S.W.3d 587, 590 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006).

When ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, the trial judge is the sole trier of fact and judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. Wiede v. State, 214 S.W.3d 17, 24-25 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the ruling. Garcia-Cantu v. State, 253 S.W.3d 236, 241 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008).


In his second issue, Patterson contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his first amended motion to suppress because the search warrant was facially invalid, and because it did not describe, with sufficient particularity, his room within the fraternity house.

At trial and on appeal, the parties dispute whether Patterson has standing to challenge the search of his room at the fraternity house. Because it is a threshold matter, we must initially address the standing issue before addressing Patterson's particularity argument.

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To challenge a search and seizure under the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution, or the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, a party must first establish standing. Pham v. State, 324 S.W.3d 869, 874 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, pet. ref'd) (citing Villarreal v. State, 935 S.W.2d 134, 138 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996)). The defendant who challenges the search has the burden to establish standing. See State v. Betts, 397 S.W.3d 198, 203 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013); see also Villarreal, 935 S.W.2d at 138.

A defendant may establish standing through an expectation-of-privacy approach or an intrusion-upon-property approach. See State v. Bell, 366 S.W.3d 712, 713 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012) (citing United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 132 S. Ct. 945, 949-50, 181 L. Ed. 911 (2012)); Williams v. State, 502 S.W.3d 254, 258 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet. ref'd) (citing Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1414, 185 L. Ed. 495 (2013); Jones, 132 S. Ct. at 949-51; State v. Huse, 491 S.W.3d 833, 839-40 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016)). In the instant case, the focus is on whether Patterson has a legitimate expectation of privacy in his room at the fraternity house.

Regarding the search of a dormitory room, the Court of Criminal Appeals has stated:

The Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures[.]" U.S. CONST. amend. IV. The central concern underlying the Fourth Amendment has remained the same throughout the centuries; it is the concern about giving police officers unbridled discretion to rummage at will among a person's private effects. State v. Granville, 423 S.W.3d 399, 405 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). A Fourth Amendment claim may be raised on a trespass theory of search (one's own personal effects have been

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trespassed), or a privacy theory of search (one's own expectation of privacy was breached). Ford v. State, 477 S.W.3d 321, 328 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015). If the government obtains information by physically intruding on persons, houses, papers, or effects, a trespass search has occurred. United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400, 404-05, 132 S. Ct. 945, 181 L. Ed. 911 (2012). If the government obtains information by violating a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, regardless of the presence or absence of a physical intrusion into any given enclosure, a privacy search has occurred. Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1417, 185 L. Ed. 495 (2013); Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 40, 121 S. Ct. 2038, 150 L. Ed. 2d 94 (2001). A search, conducted without a warrant, is per se unreasonable, subject to certain "jealously and carefully drawn" exceptions." Georgia v. Robinson, 547 U.S. 103, 109, 126 S. Ct. 1515, 164 L. Ed. 2d 208 (2006).

The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 748, 104 S. Ct. 2091, 80 L. Ed. 732 (1984). Of

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