State v. Munson

Decision Date05 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. 05-725.,05-725.
Citation339 Mont. 68,169 P.3d 364,2007 MT 222
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Julia MUNSON, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

For Appellant: Keithi M. Worthington, Worthington Law Office, PLLC, Hamilton, Montana.

For Respondent: Hon. Mike McGrath, Montana Attorney General, Jim Wheelis, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, George Corn, Ravalli County Attorney, William Fulbright, Deputy County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana.

Justice JAMES C. NELSON delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Julia Munson ("Munson") appeals from the order of the District Court for the Twenty-First Judicial District, Ravalli County, denying her motion to suppress statements and evidence related to her prosecution for criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal endangerment, and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. We reverse.

¶ 2 The issues on appeal are as follows:

1. Did the District Court err in denying Munson's motion to suppress statements she made to law enforcement officers?

2. Did the District Court err in denying Munson's motion to suppress evidence seized from her apartment and vehicle?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On the evening of March 14, 2005, law enforcement officers responded to a report of underage drinking at Munson's apartment in Corvallis, Montana. Outside Munson's apartment, the officers encountered George Snell, who appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine. They discovered that Snell was on probation, interviewed him, and placed him under arrest. During an interview following his arrest, Snell alleged that he had seen evidence of methamphetamine use in Munson's apartment.

¶ 4 At approximately 3:00 p.m. the following day (March 15, 2005), Detectives Jason Basnaw and Perry Johnson of the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office (collectively, "the Officers") went to Munson's apartment building to follow up on Snell's allegation. The ensuing events were tape-recorded by the Officers, and a transcript of that recording is part of the record on appeal.

¶ 5 The Officers knocked on Munson's door. Munson's five-year-old son, Chase, opened the door and left it open while he went to get Munson. Standing at the doorway, Basnaw saw what he thought might be paraphernalia for the packaging of methamphetamine or small amounts of dangerous drugs in the living room. When Munson came to the door, Basnaw told her that he would "[l]ike to visit with ya' for a minute if we could" "about uh, that situation last night with Geroge Snell over here." Johnson asked Munson if he and Basnaw could come in, but Munson responded that "actually my daughter's, I'm just puttin' her down for a nap can you come back?" Basnaw declined, stating: "Well actually I don't have time. Um, I need to visit with ya' right now." Munson then let the Officers into the apartment.

¶ 6 Basnaw asked Munson if she had had any methamphetamine in the apartment the previous night and if she had any drugs in the apartment at present. Munson replied "No" to both questions. Basnaw then asked if Munson would consent to a search of the apartment. Munson twice replied, "No." Next, Johnson asked Munson if she would consent to a search of her body. Munson again said, "No." Johnson asked Munson why she wouldn't give the Officers a urine sample and why she wouldn't allow them to search her home, and Munson explained, "Because George [Snell] doesn't hang out here or nothin', you know, I don't even hardly know him," and because "I just don't fell [sic] that it's right."

¶ 7 At this point, Johnson, who knew Munson when she was a young girl and also knew Munson's father in his (Johnson's) "professional capacity," began questioning Munson about her lifestyle. He stated that he was "really proud" of her father because "once he got his arms around whatever problems he had he got on with the rest of his life." Johnson told Munson that "I want you to get on with the rest o' your life and I don't want ya' to do what you're doin'." He opined that she was at "a fork in the road" and stated that he wanted her to "choose wisely." Johnson also stated, "I know that, that you're worried about what we're gonna' find if we shake your house down"; thus, he told Munson that he and Basnaw were not there "to threaten ya' or to beat ya' up or any o' that."

¶ 8 Johnson asked Munson, "How do you suggest that we resolve this? Are you lookin' for some help? You wanta' get on with it or do you wanta' keep goin' the way you been goin'?" Munson replied, "No I don't." Johnson inquired, "If you wanted to uh, if you wanted to quit right now the, the way you've been livin' and change your life how would you do that?" Munson replied, "I don't know." Johnson asked whether Munson thought she needed rehab and whether her parents might help her, at which point the transcript reflects that Munson was crying. The following dialogue then ensued:

Detective Johnson: Here's what I, I want you to know this. Here's what we didn't come here and do. We didn't come here and take that Miranda card out and tell you this. You have the right to remain silent and all o' that stuff. Right? And we didn't come here to threaten ya' or talk mean to ya'. We came here because we're both dads and neither one of us guys is perfect I'll tell ya' that. And, and you know, we don't live right next door to ya' but this community's so small Julia we're still neighbors.

Julia Munson: I know hhh.

Detective Johnson: And what affects you affects us and that's why the Sherrif's were [sic] last night `cause that affected us. So is there some way that, that we can help you?

Julia Munson: I'm sure there is but I don't know . . . . . . . . hhh.

Detective Johnson: `Kay. Well let's talk about your kids then for a minute. You wanta' raise 'em?

Julia Munson: Yes.

Detective Johnson: Do you think this is the way to do it?

Julia Munson: Um, hmm. (Affirmative)

Detective Johnson: Well then how ya' gonna', how ya' gonna' manage that?

Julia Munson: . . . . . . . . . .

Detective Johnson: `Kay. Well I agree with ya'. I don't think this is the way to raise `em either. You know, worried about who's knockin' at the door, havin' `em spend their time over at the neighbor's place. I'd sure rather see `em bein' held by their mom and her getting `em to kindergarten and stuff like that. Chase go to kindergarten yet?

Julia Munson: Yeah.

Detective Johnson: Yeah? Goes in the morning or what?

Julia Munson: Yeah in the morning.

Detective Johnson: Yeah? You take him or does he just walk down there himself?

Julia Munson: I take him.

Detective Johnson: Do ya'? `Kay. So have you got crank in this house?

Julia Munson: No.

Detective Johnson: How come we can't search it then?

Julia Munson: `Cause.

Detective Johnson: `Cause why?

Julia Munson: I have paraphernalia . . . .

Munson also admitted that she had used methamphetamine during the previous twenty-four hours. Thereafter, Johnson stated that "we want that stuff and that's why we came"; however, Munson insisted, again, that she didn't have any. Significantly, the Officers did not advise Munson of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), before or at any point during this exchange.

¶ 9 Despite the fact that Munson had neither consented to a search of her home nor been informed of her right to refuse to consent to a search of her home, Basnaw then presented Munson with a Consent to Search form. Basnaw explained that the form "just says that your, you're uh, having been informed of your right to refuse a search of your um, of your house," you "authorize the above member of Ravalli County Sheriff's Office to remove any letters, documents, papers, materials or other property which are considered pertinent to the investigation." In this regard, Basnaw stated that he was "concerned about meth and meth paraphernalia. Um, anything having to do with meth." Lastly, Basnaw indicated that by signing the form, Munson would be "knowingly and voluntarily giv[ing] [her] consent to search."

¶ 10 Munson asked whether signing the Consent to Search form gave the Officers permission to search her whole apartment. Johnson answered affirmatively. Munson then indicated that she would retrieve the paraphernalia for them, and she reiterated that there was no methamphetamine in the apartment for them to find. Therefore, Munson asked, "I have to sign this?" to which Johnson replied, "Yeah. But here's why." Johnson then stated:

Detective Johnson: Is because you have the right to refuse and what Jase [Basnaw] just told ya' I believe but I need to make sure that you believe it. We're not gonna' go and open your refrigerator. We're not gonna' look at your underwear. We're not gonna' do that stuff. But here's what we will do. When you leave this room Julia Munson: Um, hmm. (Affirmative)

Detective Johnson: . . . we'll follow you.

Julia Munson: Um, hmm. (Affirmative)

Detective Johnson: `Kay? And, and that's because we do have a family.

Julia Munson: Right.

Detective Johnson: And because some people wanta' hurt us. `Kay? So that's what the deal is. We're not gonna' toss your house.

Julia Munson: Okay. Hhhh.

Detective Johnson: But we still need to, to know that you understand that you don't have to sign that. And if you sign it you're doing it voluntarily.

Julia Munson: And so if I don't sign it I can't even take you to the paraphernalia?

Detective Johnson: Right, right. If you don't sign it here's what happens. We're gonna' get up and we're gonna' go out that door. We're gonna' leave.

Julia Munson: (Cough)

Detective Johnson: And this is the deal Julia. This is the fork in the road. And today you're gonna' decide where you're gonna' be tomorrow and, and to be real honest with ya' today is March 15th. The decision you make today is gonna' determine where your children are raised.

Julia Munson: (Sniff)

Munson then signed the form.

¶ 11...

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