State v. Brooks, 07-0691.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation760 N.W.2d 197
Docket NumberNo. 07-0691.,07-0691.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Brandon Montrese BROOKS, Appellant.
Decision Date30 January 2009
760 N.W.2d 197
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Brandon Montrese BROOKS, Appellant.
No. 07-0691.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
January 30, 2009.

[760 N.W.2d 200]

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Jason B. Shaw, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Jean C. Pettinger, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, Kelly G. Cunningham and Robert E. Weinberg, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice.

Brandon Brooks appeals his convictions for drug-related offenses. He argues that the district court improperly failed to suppress evidence obtained after law enforcement officers conducted a warrantless entry into a motel room. For the reasons expressed below, we affirm the ruling of the district court.

I. Factual and Procedural Background.

On March 18, 2006, the manager of the Motel 6 in Davenport, Iowa contacted Scott County Sheriff's Deputy Gina Lieferman. The manager requested that Lieferman investigate a complaint from a motel guest that another guest was selling drugs. According to the manager, the complaint was that an African-American male had approached the guest and asked him if he wanted to "buy some stuff."

Lieferman arrived at the Motel 6, which is L-shaped with room doors on the outside facing the parking lot. After speaking to the manager, Lieferman learned that the room in question, number 136, was rented to a female by the name of Easter Kelly and had been paid for in cash on a day-to-day basis.

Deputy Lieferman called Special Agent Curtis Carter to assist her at the scene. They set up surveillance in room 134, two doors from room 136. Eventually, a van and car pulled into the parking lot. An African-American male got out of the van and entered room 136. A female got out of the car, entered room 136 briefly, and then left. After the female's departure, Deputy Lieferman observed individuals enter room 136 and leave shortly thereafter.

At this point, Deputy Lieferman, who was dressed in civilian clothes, decided to conduct a "knock and talk." She asked Agent Carter to stand at the door of room 134 to observe. When Lieferman knocked on the door to room 136, a male voice asked, "Who is it?" Lieferman responded, "Me."

About thirty seconds later, Brooks, an African-American male, opened the door, which swung inside the motel room, and put his head and shoulders outside the door. When Brooks opened the door, Deputy Lieferman immediately detected the odor of raw cannabis. She could also smell a fragrance that she described as a "masking" smell.

At this point, Deputy Lieferman told Brooks, "I heard you have the hook up," phraseology that Lieferman testified was commonly used by drug dealers. After Brooks twice denied knowing what she meant, Lieferman showed him her badge and identified herself as a law enforcement officer. Lieferman then asked whether Brooks would talk with her and he responded negatively. When Lieferman stated that she knew Brooks had marijuana in the room, the defendant replied, "No you don't, I'm not burning it."

After this remark, Deputy Lieferman decided to arrest the defendant, put her foot in the door, and grabbed for Brooks'

760 N.W.2d 201

wrist, which was on the outside door knob. Brooks pulled back and attempted to get inside the room. Deputy Lieferman then pushed open the door and took two steps inside as she continued to struggle with Brooks. When she entered the room, she observed a large quantity of marijuana, two digital scales, and plastic baggies. Deputy Lieferman placed Brooks under arrest and called an on-duty sheriff's deputy to transport Brooks to the county jail.

Lieferman next called the county attorney and discussed the situation. She obtained permission to seek a search warrant. Lieferman then exited the room and waited in her vehicle in the parking lot, observing the area until she was informed that the search warrant had been obtained.

Thereafter, Lieferman entered the room again and conducted a full search. As a result of the search, the police seized a green box cutter, multiple grams of cannabis, two digital scales, packaging materials, two cell phones, and mail addressed to Easter Kelly.

Prior to trial, Brooks filed several motions in limine to suppress evidence. Brooks claimed that the initial search was conducted without probable cause and without consent. The State resisted, claiming that the initial entry into the motel room and Brooks' arrest were based on exigent circumstances.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the State presented testimony from Lieferman regarding the facts and circumstances leading to Brooks' arrest, her observation of marijuana in the course of making the arrest, and the subsequent search of the motel room after a warrant had been secured. With regard to the motel room, Lieferman testified that room 136 was not rented in Brooks' name and that paying for motel rooms on a day-to-day basis in cash was a common practice of individuals engaged in the sale of controlled substances. The deputy further testified to the course of her surveillance and her belief that controlled substances were being sold from the room. The defendant did not put on evidence at the hearing.

After the close of evidence, the State argued that after Lieferman smelled raw cannabis and the defendant told her that she could not smell the cannabis because he was not burning it, probable cause existed to search the room given the exigent circumstances. The State argued, in the alternative, that Lieferman certainly had probable cause to make the arrest.

The defendant countered that there were no exigent circumstances to support Lieferman's warrantless entry into the motel room. According to the defense, once Lieferman smelled the cannabis and obtained the statement from the defendant, the officer should have simply left and obtained a search warrant.

The district court denied the motion to suppress. The district court declared that it was a "close call" as to whether exigent circumstances existed to allow a warrantless search. The district court, however, noted that there was no evidence regarding the defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy within the motel room. The room was not rented in Brooks' name, the defendant had not offered any evidence as to his relationship with Easter Kelly, there was no evidence that he was an overnight guest, and there was no evidence that he was more than a mere "social" or "commercial" guest in someone else's motel room. According to the district court, the only evidence presented at the hearing indicated that Brooks was in the room for a relatively short period of time. As a result, the district court found that the defendant did not have an expectation of

760 N.W.2d 202

privacy in the motel room and the motion to suppress was denied.

At trial, the State offered evidence found as a result of the execution of the search warrant in its case in chief. After the State rested, Brooks took the stand in his own defense. The defendant testified that he lived at the Motel 6 at the time of his arrest. He asserted that Kelly was his girlfriend and that the room was in her name because he did not have identification. Brooks testified that prior to coming to the Motel 6, he stayed at the Exel Inn, but moved to the Motel 6 because it was cheaper. Before that he lived at his cousin's house. He testified that he left his cousin's house because he and his girlfriend did not have privacy and went to the motel to do "adult type of things." Brooks further testified that he had a business breeding pit bull puppies and maintained a website associated with the business. Brooks stated that while he was living at the Motel 6, he left his dogs in his cousin's basement.

Brooks was convicted of possession with intent to deliver, possession of marijuana, and failure to affix a drug-tax stamp. Brooks appealed, asserting that the district court erred in not granting the motion to suppress.

II. Issue of Preservation.

At the outset, Brooks contends that the State waived the issue of whether he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the motel room. Citing Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 101 S.Ct. 1642, 68 L.Ed.2d 38 (1981), Brooks maintains that the State had the initial burden of showing that he lacked a privacy interest. By failing to raise the issue at the suppression hearing, Brooks claims that the State waived the matter.

Brooks further claims that he has been prejudiced by the State's failure to raise the issue of his reasonable expectation of privacy. The defendant asserts that if the State had raised the issue in a timely fashion, he would have responded by offering evidence at the suppression hearing. Because the State did not raise the issue, Brooks claims he did not need to make an evidentiary showing regarding his expectation of privacy.

The State disagrees. The State distinguishes Steagald, noting that in that case the trial court did not enter a ruling on the privacy issue. The State further contends that in Steagald, the government not only did not raise the issue, but in fact took the position in the trial court that the premise being searched was the defendant's residence. The State contends that under our cases where an issue has been tacitly considered and ruled upon by the district court, error has been preserved. See State v. Yaw, 398 N.W.2d 803, 805 (Iowa 1987).

Our review of the record indicates that neither party explicitly raised the privacy issue, either in the written filings or at the suppression hearing. Nonetheless, after hearing the evidence, the district court squarely ruled on the issue, finding that Brooks failed to show an expectation of privacy in the motel room.

We agree with the State that Steagald is not controlling. In Steagald, the government acquiesced in the determination that the premises searched was the defendant's home and further argued that as a result, the defendant was in...

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