State v. Patterson

Decision Date05 March 2020
Docket NumberNo. W2018-01799-CCA-R3-CD,W2018-01799-CCA-R3-CD
CourtCourt of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee


No. W2018-01799-CCA-R3-CD


August 6, 2019 Session
March 5, 2020

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lauderdale County
No. 10466
Joseph H. Walker III, Judge

The Defendant, Greg Patterson, was involved in dependent and neglect proceedings in juvenile court and tested positive for methamphetamine in a drug screen ordered by that court. He was, thereafter, charged with attempted aggravated child neglect for exposing his two-year-old child to methamphetamine. The trial court denied the Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress the drug screen results, and a jury ultimately convicted the Defendant as charged. On appeal, the Defendant submits that the trial court erred by denying his suppression motion because he did not voluntarily consent to a search and, moreover, because the special needs exception to the warrant requirement does not apply. Following our review, we conclude that the search was constitutionally reasonable as a special needs exception. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, P.J., and NORMA MCGEE OGLE, J., joined.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; Mark E. Davidson, District Attorney General; and Julie K. Pillow, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Jason R. Creasy, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Greg Patterson.



The Defendant was ordered by a juvenile court judge to undergo hair-follicle drug screening during dependent and neglect proceedings concerning the Defendant's two-year child. Following his positive result, the Lauderdale County Grand Jury, on October 2, 2017, charged the Defendant with attempted aggravated child neglect for exposing his

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child to methamphetamine, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -15-402.

Prior to trial, the Defendant filed a motion to suppress the "results of [the] drug screen" that was ordered in juvenile court, alleging that the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Defendant maintained that he did not voluntarily consent to the search, noting that he "was not advised of his constitutional rights[,] including self-incrimination[,] prior to" being required to submit to drug screening. The State filed a response, asserting first that the Defendant provided valid consent to search by appearing at the drug-screening center, "signing the disclosure form," and "submitting to the test." The State also indicated that the Defendant had no expectation of privacy because he "was well aware of the nature of [the juvenile] proceedings with regard to the neglect of his child" and that his drug screen results were to be provided to the juvenile court and used to determine the outcome of those proceedings. Alternatively, the State maintained that the search fell within the "special needs" exception to the warrant requirement due to the fact it was ordered by a juvenile court judge in relation to a dependent and neglect petition that had been filed against the Defendant on behalf of his two-year-old child. The State noted that the juvenile court had the "responsibility of protecting" the children of Tennessee and that in this case, "there was a legitimate suspicion that the parents were using drugs and that the child[] had been drug exposed as a result." The State concluded that under these circumstances, "the safety interests outweighed the privacy interests of the individual."

A hearing was held on January 25, 2018, where the following evidence was adduced.1 The Lauderdale County Juvenile Court Administrator, Kim Coffee, was called to testify and confirmed that Officer Dennis Hardee2 filed a dependent and neglect petition with the juvenile court on June 12, 2017, concerning the Defendant, the Defendant's two-year-old3 child ("J.P."),4 and the child's mother. The petition also

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involved an older child of the mother's, nine-year-old M.M., who lived with the couple; M.M. was fathered by another man, F.J. Specifically, with regard to Officer Hardee's employment, Ms. Coffee stated that he "work[ed] for [her]" as an investigator for the Lauderdale County Juvenile Court, though, she also agreed that he was "actually a police officer[.]"

Ms. Coffee indicated that Officer Hardee's affidavit in the petition was "pretty lengthy." Officer Hardee's affidavit reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

[S]aid children are dependent and neglected in that the children's mother . . . admitted that she and the [Defendant] have drug addictions including methamphetamine and have used methamphetamine in a bathroom of the home and the shop behind the home of [the Defendant]. The [Defendant] has punched the mother in the face, breaking her jaw, and knocking her to the ground while she was holding [J.P.] The mother states that she lied when she received medical treatment and stated that she fell. On September 15, 2016, the mother reports that [the Defendant] blacked her eye and left bruises all over her body. She states that she has been slapped, bitten and spit on by [the Defendant]. The mother has filed two Orders of Protection against the [Defendant] in the past but has dropped both. The [Defendant] is currently on parole5 on drug charges and the mother reports that he was fired from MidSouth Suppliers after wrecking a work vehicle and failing a drug screen. The mother was fired from her job at O'Reilly's recently for refusing to take a drug screen. The [paternal] grandmother, [T.P.], resides in the home with the parents and the [children], and she has been incarcerated in the Lauderdale County Jail for Vandalism and Resisting Arrest involving the mother . . . . [The Defendant] insists that [T.P] is too mentally unstable to live on her o[w]n. [The Defendant and T.P.] fight each other, and [T.P.] has threatened the mother in front of [M.M.] [The Defendant] has hit himself in the face repeatedly, outraged because he thought the mother was lying to him. The mother reports that she has seen the [Defendant] sell drugs outside their home and also done drugs with people at their shop. [T.P.] has also threatened to kill herself on multiple occasions. [The Defendant and T.P.] both have threatened to kill the mother. There are voice recorders hidden around the home and cameras on the outside of the home. The mother contacted [M.M.'s] father, [F.J.],

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on Saturday, stating that she needed help for her drug addiction and she wanted [M.M.] to stay with him. The mother stated that she was going to be admitted into Lakeside. However, she feared for the safety of her youngest child, [J.P.,] and therefore, only agreed to do outpatient treatment three days per week. Today, the mother is going to check herself into Lakeside for inpatient treatment and stated the [Defendant] needs to do the same.

Ms. Coffee explained that, generally, after a dependent and neglect petition was filed with the juvenile court, the juvenile court judge reviewed the petition and decided whether emergency removal of the child(ren) was necessary. In this case, the juvenile court judge entered an order on the same day the petition was filed, June 12, 2017, and placed the minor children in protective custody. Specifically, the juvenile court judge determined that there was probable cause to believe the children were dependent and neglected within the meaning of the law; that the children were subjected to an immediate threat to their health and safety to the extent that delay for a hearing would likely result in severe or irreparable harm; that there was no less drastic alternative to removal available that would reasonably and adequately protect the children's health and safety pending a preliminary hearing; and that it was contrary to the children's welfare at that time to remain in the care, custody, or control of the Defendant and their mother. In so concluding, the juvenile court judge cited to the detailed facts set forth in Officer Hardee's affidavit.

Following a June 15, 2017 hearing, the juvenile court judge issued a written "Order on Preliminary Hearing." Ms. Coffee acknowledged that this was not "a consent" order. Initially, it was stated in the order that all concerned parties had agreed "to pass" the preliminary hearing until July 6, 2017, although the hearing was originally scheduled for that day, June 15, 2017. Ms. Coffee affirmed that a preliminary hearing was the proceeding where the juvenile court judge would determine if there was probable cause to move forward on the dependent and neglect petition; accordingly, Ms. Coffee agreed that no probable cause determination had been made at the time the June 19, 2017 order was entered. The juvenile court order further reflected that the Defendant, the children's mother, and both children were to "have a hair-follicle test[,] or in the case of [the Defendant] a nail clipping if insufficient hair[,] within four hours after court" adjourned. Ms. Coffee recalled that the Defendant requested F.J. also be tested, so the juvenile court judge ordered that F.J. submit to a hair-follicle drug screen if paid for by the Defendant by 2 p.m. that day.

Ms. Coffee then reviewed two documents signed by the Defendant when he presented at the drug-screening center, RapidCare. The first one was a document signed by the Defendant authorizing RapidCare to disclose "protected health information to [his]

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employer." On this form, RapidCare was self-described as a twenty-four-hour "occupational healthcare service" or "primary/urgent care clinic." The second document was a form signed by the Defendant at 2:45 p.m. on June 15, 2017,6 confirming that a hair-follicle sample would be collected and that the sample would be screened by a "...

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