State v. Hamm

Decision Date21 November 2019
Docket NumberNo. W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD,W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Citation589 S.W.3d 765
Parties STATE of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton HAMM and David Lee Hamm
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Roger A. Page, J.

I. Facts and Procedural History

The Obion County Drug Task Force conducted a warrantless search of the residence of probationer Angela Hamm and her husband, David Hamm, which yielded illegal drugs and drug-related contraband. Defendant Angela Hamm had agreed, pursuant to probation conditions imposed in a prior case, to a warrantless search of her person, property, or vehicle at any time. We granted the State’s appeal in this case to consider whether the warrantless search of a probationer’s residence who is subject to a search condition requires officers to have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity prior to conducting the search. We conclude that it does not and therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment and the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision affirming the same.

In November 2013, an Obion County jury convicted defendant Angela Hamm (formerly Angela Carrie Payton) of manufacturing a controlled substance. The trial court ordered her to serve a six-year sentence. The sentence was suspended, and she was placed on supervised probation. Notably, the probation order included a warrantless search condition, which stated: "I agree to a search, without a warrant, of my person, vehicle, property, or place of residence by any Probation/Parole Officer or law enforcement officer, at any time."

Thereafter, it appears that Angela Hamm married defendant David Hamm and moved into his Obion County home. The record indicates that Clifton Hamm also resided with the defendants.

Approximately two years later, on November 16, 2015, Officer James Hall with the Obion County Sheriff’s Department/Obion County Drug Task Force received information from an informant that "heavy players" were trafficking methamphetamine in Glass, a community in Obion County. The informant, who had drug charges pending against her, volunteered information about certain drug traffickers bringing methamphetamine to Obion County from across the river. She did not indicate how she obtained the information nor would she identify the traffickers by name. However, when specifically asked about David Hamm, the informant smiled and nodded.

On November 17, 2015, drug task force agents went to the defendants’ house to conduct a warrantless "probation search" pursuant to Angela Hamm’s probation order. The agents assumed they had reasonable suspicion to conduct such a search based on the information gathered from the above-mentioned informant. When officers knocked on the door of the residence, no one answered. Clifton Hamm’s teenage son was standing in the front yard and told them that the defendants had just left but that Clifton Hamm and others were in the shop behind the house. The agents walked behind the house to the detached shop where they encountered Clifton Hamm and two other men. The group appeared to be watching security camera footage, but Clifton Hamm quickly turned off the television.

The agents then entered the house through an unlocked side door and proceeded to perform a warrantless search of the residence, including the defendants’ shared bedroom. Therein, the agents found pills, two glass pipes, methamphetamine, and scales.

The defendants were each arrested and later jointly indicted for six counts of possession of controlled substances with intent to sell or deliver and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-434(a) (possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance, methamphetamine); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance, alprazolam); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, morphine); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, amphetamine); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule IV controlled substance, clonazepam); -417(a)(4) (possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone); and -425(a) (possession of drug paraphernalia). Both defendants filed motions to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the warrantless search of their home. At the hearing on the defendants’ motions, the State presented the testimony of Officers James Hall and Ben Yates.

Officer Hall testified that he received the information in question from the informant in November 2015. He confirmed that the decision to search the defendants’ home was made based on the information provided to him by the informant. He acknowledged that the informant was a "known methamphetamine user." However, Officer Hall believed the informant to be reliable because she was not a paid informant nor was she "throw[ing] bones at somebody else to keep [ ] attention off of [herself].... She was already caught."

Officer Yates added that agents were also armed with previously obtained relevant information from two additional informants at the time of the search. He had received second-hand information from a "reliable informant" that the defendants were "doing it big in Glass." When asked about the informant’s reliability, Officer Yates replied, "This informant has been involved in numerous narcotic cases, the seizure of narcotics, [and] made numerous cases for the drug task force." He acknowledged, however, that the informant received his information from "friends that purchase methamphetamine" and that the informant had not personally observed the illegal activity.

In addition, an informant cooperating with drug task force agents had previously attempted to purchase methamphetamine—albeit unsuccessfully—from Clifton Hamm at his residence. However, agents were unaware that Clifton Hamm was residing with the defendants at the time.

Both agents testified that prior to performing the search of the defendants’ home, they confirmed with the local probation office that Angela Hamm was on probation and that the probation order subjected her to a warrantless search. Conversely, both acknowledged that David Hamm was not on probation at the time of the search. According to their testimony, the agents were unaware that the defendants shared a bedroom until they entered the home.

In its May 2, 2016 order, the trial court granted the motions to suppress, stating that it could "find nothing by way of articulable facts to support the reasonable suspicion of the officer to justify a search pursuant to the probation order...." The trial court reviewed the factors upon which the State relied to establish reasonable suspicion and addressed each in turn:

1) Officer James Hall received a tip from a person he had pulled over on a traffic stop that generally said there were some "heavy players" in the Obion County Glass Community.
2) This person however never mentioned a name or how she knew this information.
3) Officer Hall suggested the name of Defendant David Hamm, to the person who winked and smiled, but never mentioned the Defendant Angela Hamm.
4) Officer Ben Yates testified he received information from a reliable informant that there were some people in Glass "doing it big."
5) The informant was not identified, nor was there any indication as to why the informant was reliable.
6) The informant’s information was second-hand information from another informant who had attempted unsuccessfully to purchase drugs from another resident (Clifton Hamm) at the location.

(emphasis removed).

The State appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant the motions to suppress in a plurality opinion authored by Judge Camille McMullen. State v. Hamm , No. W2016-01282-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 3447914, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 11, 2017). It concluded that the State was required to have reasonable suspicion to support the probation search and that the State lacked such suspicion in the case at hand. Id. at *9. Judge John Everett Williams filed a separate concurring opinion agreeing that the State lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct the search and further concluding that Angela Hamm’s signature on the probation order did not constitute a valid consent to search. Id. at *10-16 (Williams, J., concurring). Finally, Judge Alan Glenn filed a separate dissenting opinion concluding that the agents had reasonable suspicion to search Angela Hamm’s house and that the search was also lawful as to David Hamm under the doctrine of common authority. Id. at *17-18 (Glenn, J., dissenting).

We granted the State’s application for permission to appeal in this case to consider "[w]hether law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion of a probationer’s criminal wrongdoing to support a search of the probationer’s residence under an agreed-to warrantless-search condition of probation."

II. Standard of Review

On appeal from a ruling on a motion to suppress, we will uphold the trial court’s findings of fact unless the evidence preponderates against those findings. State v. Stanfield , 554 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tenn. 2018) (citing State v. Hawkins , 519 S.W.3d 1, 32 (Tenn. 2017) ; State v. Bell , 429 S.W.3d 524, 528 (Tenn. 2014) ; State v. Climer , 400 S.W.3d 537, 556 (Tenn. 2013) ; State v. Turner , 297 S.W.3d 155, 160 (Tenn. 2009) ; State v. Day , 263 S.W.3d 891, 900 (Tenn. 2008) ; State v. Odom , 928 S.W.2d 18, 23 (Tenn. 1996) ). " ‘Questions of credibility of the witnesses, the weight and value of the evidence, and resolution of conflicts in the evidence are matters entrusted to the trial judge as the trier of fact.’ " Id. (quoting Hawkins , 519 S.W.3d at 32 ; Odom , 928 S.W.2d at 23 ). "The party prevailing in the trial court on a motion to suppress ‘is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing as well as all reasonable and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from that evidence.’ " Id...

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5 cases
  • State v. Robinson
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
    • March 17, 2021
    ...are presumptively unreasonable regardless of whether law enforcement actually had probable cause to conduct a search." State v. Hamm, 589 S.W.3d 765, 771 (Tenn. 2019) (citing McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678-79). This is merely a presumption, however, and there are several exceptions to the pro......
  • State v. McLawhorn
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
    • October 20, 2020
    ...of the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 7 related to search and seizure are "identical in intent and purpose." State v. Hamm , 589 S.W.3d 765, 771 (Tenn. 2019) (internal quotations omitted); see State v. Christensen , 517 S.W.3d 60, 68 (Tenn. 2017). In Tennessee, a search warrant mus......
  • State v. Patterson
    • United States
    • Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
    • March 5, 2020
    ...are presumptively unreasonable regardless of whether law enforcement actually had probable cause to conduct a search." State v. Hamm, 589 S.W.3d 765, 771 (Tenn. 2019) (citing McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678-79). This is merely a presumption, however, and there are several exceptions to the pro......
  • United States v. Ewing
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee
    • July 14, 2022
    ...recidivism and promoting reintegration of probationers.” (ECF No. 37 at PageID 68.) (citing Tessier, 814 F.3d at 433-34; State v. Hamm, 589 S.W.3d 765, 777 (Tenn. 2019).) Defendant also does not dispute that this provision authorizes a suspicionless search of the enumerated property. (See i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 71 No. 1, September 2020
    • September 22, 2020
    ...(Kan. 2018); State v. Stenhoff, 925 N.W.2d 429, 432-34 (N.D. 2019); State v. Kottman, 707 N.W.2d 114, 118-21 (S.D. 2005); State v. Hamm, 589 S.W.3d 765, 773-77 (Tenn. 2019); State ex rel. A.C.C., 44 P.3d 708, 711-14 (Utah 2002); State v. Kane, 169 A.3d 762, 772-74 (Vt. 2017); State v. Purte......

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