State v. Eady

Decision Date21 July 1998
Citation733 A.2d 95,245 Conn. 464
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties(Conn. 1998) STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. PATRICK S. EADY 15858

Christopher T. Godialis, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were James E. Thomas, state's attorney, and John H. Malone, assistant state's attorney, for the appellant (state). Richard Condon, Jr., deputy assistant public defender, for the appellee (defendant).

Callahan, C. J., and Borden, Berdon, Norcott and Katz, Js.

Berdon, J.

The defendant, Patrick S. Eady, was arrested and charged with illegal possession of narcotics in violation of General Statutes § 21a-279 (a), 1 illegal possession of narcotics with intent to sell in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (b), 2 illegal possession of marijuana in violation of § 21a-279 (c), 3 and illegal possession of marijuana with intent to sell in violation of § 21a-277 (a). 4 Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the marijuana and cocaine seized from a cigar box located in his bedroom, claiming that the state's warrantless entry into his house and the seizure of the evidence was unreasonable and, therefore, in violation of his reasonable expectation of privacy guaranteed by the fourth and fourteenth amendments of the United States constitution. 5 Following a suppression hearing, the trial court, Graham, J., granted the defendant's motion, concluding that the state had failed to prove that the warrantless search and seizure fell within one of the claimed exceptions to the warrant requirement. 6 Thereafter, the trial court, Mullarkey, J., granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the charges pursuant to General Statutes § 54-56 7 on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to continue with the prosecution as a result of the trial court's suppression of the evidence. The state, on the granting of permission from the trial court, 8 appealed the judgment of dismissal to the Appellate Court, on the ground that the seizure of the contraband came within the "plain view" exception to the warrant requirement. We transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to Practice Book § 4023, now Practice Book (1998 Rev.) § 65-1, and General Statutes § 51-199 (c). We affirm the decision of the trial court.

The following facts are not in dispute. Shortly after 3 p.m. on August 12, 1995, firefighters from the Windsor volunteer fire department responded to a fire at a single-family house at 19 Songonosk Street in Windsor. Fire Captain Angel L. Marrero was one of the volunteer firefighters who responded to the fire.

Pursuant to standard procedure, Marrero and two other firefighters entered the front door of the house to suppress the fire to a point where they could search the house for individuals who might need assistance. Once the fire was sufficiently suppressed, Marrero and another firefighter commenced searching the residence for potential victims. At the same time, they opened windows and doors for ventilation and to allow heat from the fire to escape. When Marrero encountered a locked interior door, he forced his way into the room, which turned out to be the defendant's bedroom. Finding no one in the room, Marrero proceeded to pull the screens from the room's windows. While doing so, he observed an open cigar box and a closed cigar box on a dresser adjacent to the window. In the open box, Marrero saw a plastic bag containing what he described as "a green leafy substance," which he believed might be marijuana. Marrero testified at the suppression hearing that he had no training in identifying drugs. Moreover, there was no evidence to indicate that Marrero had any familiarity with the appearance or physical characteristics of marijuana or other drugs. After observing the substance in the cigar box, Marrero notified Fire Chief William Lewis.

Lewis apprised Sergeant Thomas Lepore of the Windsor police department, who was outside performing traffic control duties, of Marrero's suspicions. Lepore and Officer Casher Holt then made a warrantless entry into the defendant's house, and Marrero led them to the defendant's bedroom. After observing a plastic bag filled with a green leafy substance in the open cigar box, Lepore seized the box. Lepore examined the contents of the box and discovered that it contained marijuana, cocaine in both powder and rock form, a photograph of the defendant and a store shopping card with the defendant's name on it. 9

It is a "basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a [person's] house without warrant are per se unreasonable in the absence of some one of a number of well defined `exigent circumstances.'" 10 Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 477-78, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564 (1971); see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S. Ct. 507, 19 L. Ed. 2d 576 (1967); State v. Longo, 243 Conn. 732, 737, 708 A.2d 1354 (1998); State v. Badgett, 200 Conn. 412, 423, 512 A.2d 160, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 940, 107 S. Ct. 423, 93 L. Ed. 2d 373 (1986). In Coolidge v. New Hampshire, supra, 443, "the United States Supreme Court held that in certain circumstances a warrantless seizure by police of an item that comes within plain view during their lawful search of a private area may be reasonable under the fourth amendment." State v. Ruscoe, 212 Conn. 223, 237, 563 A.2d 267 (1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1084, 110 S. Ct. 1144, 107 L. Ed. 2d 1049 (1990). The plain view exception to the warrant requirement "is based upon the premise that the police need not ignore incriminating evidence in plain view while they are . . . entitled to be in a position to view the items seized." State v. Ruth, 181 Conn. 187, 193, 435 A.2d 3 (1980); see Harris v. United States, 390 U.S. 234, 236, 88 S. Ct. 992, 19 L. Ed. 2d 1067 (1968). Three requirements must be met to invoke the plain view doctrine: First, the items seized must be in the plain view of the police, second "the initial intrusion that enabled the police to view the items seized must have been lawful; and [third] the police must have had probable cause to believe that these items were contraband or stolen goods." State v. Ruscoe, supra, 237-38; Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 326-27, 107 S. Ct. 1149, 94 L. Ed. 2d 347 (1987).

"[T]he burden is on those seeking [an] exemption [to the warrant requirement] to show the need for it . . . ." (Citation omitted.) United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 51, 72 S. Ct. 93, 96 L. Ed. 59 (1951). "We cannot . . . excuse the absence of a search warrant without a showing by those who seek exemption . . . that the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative." McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456, 69 S. Ct. 191, 93 L. Ed. 153 (1948); see State v. Zindros, 189 Conn. 228, 237-38, 456 A.2d 288 (1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1012, 104 S. Ct. 1014, 79 L. Ed. 2d 244 (1984). The United States Supreme Court explained in Jeffers that by placing this burden on the state, the fourth amendment "does not place an unduly oppressive weight on law enforcement officers but merely interposes an orderly procedure under the aegis of judicial impartiality that is necessary to attain the beneficent purposes intended." United States v. Jeffers, supra, 51.

The trial court concluded that the warrantless seizure of the defendant's cigar box did not fall within the plain view exception to the warrant requirement because "the police had no lawful basis for being in [the] defendant's bedroom without a warrant . . . ." The state argues that the trial court incorrectly applied the plain view exception to the facts of this case. According to the state, the police officers' entry of the house was a mere continuation of the firefighter's initial lawful entry, 11 and it was permissible for the officers to seize evidence in the plain view of the firefighter. 12 The defendant responds that the officers' warrantless entry was not lawful because it clearly was detached from the firefighter's initial emergency entry into the house to extinguish the fire, and, even if the officers' entry was lawful, the firefighter did not have probable cause to believe that the cigar box contained contraband. 13 The state concedes that the firefighter was required to have probable cause in order to support its claim that the police officers' entry into the house was a continuation of the firefighter's lawful entry, 14 but argues that the underlying facts support the legal Conclusion that the firefighter had probable cause.

"[P]robable cause is a fluid concept -- turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts -- not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Zarick, 227 Conn. 207, 222, 630 A.2d 565, cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1025, 114 S. Ct. 637, 126 L. Ed. 2d 595 (1993); see State v. Vincent, 229 Conn. 164, 171-72, 640 A.2d 94 (1994). "The quantum of evidence necessary to establish probable cause exceeds mere suspicion, but is substantially less than that required for conviction. Our cases have made clear that [t]here is often a fine line between mere suspicion and probable cause, and [t]hat line necessarily must be drawn by an act of judgment formed in light of the particular situation and with account taken of all the circumstances. Brinegar v. United States, [338 U.S. 160, 176, 69 S. Ct. 1302, 93 L. Ed. 1879 (1949)]. State v. Penland, 174 Conn. 153, 155-56, 384 A.2d 356, cert. denied, 436 U.S. 906, 98 S. Ct. 2237, 56 L. Ed. 2d 404 (1978)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Dennis, 189 Conn. 429, 431-32, 456 A.2d 333 (1983). Consequently, "[t]here must be facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge, and of which he has trustworthy information, sufficient to justify the belief of a reasonable person that an offense has been or is being committed. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S. Ct. 223, 13 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1964) . . . ." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Velez, 215...

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4 cases
  • State v. Eady
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 6, 1999
    ...Practice Book § 65-1 and General Statutes § 51-199 (c). The appeal originally was argued before a five judge court. See State v. Eady, 245 Conn. 464, 733 A.2d 95 (1998). Thereafter, we granted the state's motion for en banc reconsideration pursuant to Practice Book § 71-5. See, e.g., State ......
  • State v. Sweedland
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 16, 2006
    ...by the anonymous informant other than that the defendant lived at the address given by the caller. Id. [¶ 72.] State v. Eady, 245 Conn. 464, 733 A.2d 95 (1998) (Eady I), also provides no support for the special writing's proposition, as it was superseded on reconsideration by State v. Eady,......
  • State v. Holmes
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • December 8, 1998
    ...`Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 477-78, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564 (1971)...." (Citations omitted.) State v. Eady, 245 Conn. 464, 469, 733 A.2d 95 (1998). Because a warrantless search is presumptively invalid, the state has the burden of affirmatively demonstrating a recogni......
  • State v. Eady, 15858
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 21, 1998
1 books & journal articles
  • Significant Developments in Criminal Law: 1999-2000
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 74, 1999
    • Invalid date
    ...Id. at 256. 92 252 Conn. 950, 748 A.2d 299 (2000). 93 249 Conn. 431, 733 A.2d 112, cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1030 (1999). 94 State v. Eady, 245 Conn. 464, 733 A.2d 95 (1998). 95 Eady, 249 Conn. at 444-45. 96 Id. at 472 (Berdon, J., dissenting). 97 Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). 98 25......

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