State v. Reid, A-1-CA-38720

CitationA-1-CA-38720
Case DateNovember 21, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.

KYLE REID, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-1-CA-38720

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

November 21, 2022


Corrections to this opinion/decision not affecting the outcome, at the Court's discretion, can occur up to the time of publication with NM Compilation Commission. The Court will ensure that the electronic version of this opinion/decision is updated accordingly in Odyssey.

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SIERRA COUNTY Matthew G. Reynolds, District Judge

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Van Snow, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

Almanza Abrams, P.A. Steven L. Almanza Las Cruces, NM for Appellant

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAQUELINE R. MEDINA, JUDGE

{¶1} Defendant Kyle Reid appeals his convictions for one count of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-23(E) (2011, amended 2021); one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-25.1(A) (2001, amended 2022); and one

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count of possession of marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids (one ounce or less), contrary to Section 30-31-23(B)(1). Defendant argues on appeal that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress contending that (1) the warrantless entry into his residence violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution; and (2) the officers violated his Fifth Amendment rights by failing to advise him of his Miranda warnings prior to questioning him about the smell of marijuana. We hold that the district court properly concluded that the warrantless entry of Defendant's home was justified by exigent circumstances, and that Defendant was not in custody at the time the officers questioned him about the marijuana. Therefore, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

{¶2} In October 2017, officers arrived at Defendant's home searching for a known acquaintance of Defendant's (Robert Barrett) who violated his parole. As the officers approached Defendant's driveway, they smelled a heavy odor of burning marijuana. One officer entered the gate to Defendant's fenced yard, walked to the porch, and knocked on the door several times. Receiving no response, the officer walked back outside of Defendant's yard and stood in front of Defendant's house where another officer was standing. After a short delay, Defendant opened the door and stepped into his yard to speak with the officers near the fence. Defendant asked the officers why they were there. The officers told Defendant they had a warrant for Barrett's

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arrest and were looking for him. Defendant told the officers that Barrett had left earlier in the day. The officers asked Defendant if they could enter the home and search for Barrett, to which Defendant responded that the officers would need a warrant.

{¶3} One of the officers then asked Defendant who was smoking marijuana. Defendant stated that he had. The officer asked Defendant if he had a medical marijuana card, and Defendant responded that he did not. The officers asked Defendant who else was in the residence. Defendant stated his girlfriend was in the residence, and that she also did not have a medical marijuana card.

{¶4} The officers told Defendant that they intended to enter and secure the residence for a search warrant because of the smell of burning marijuana. The officers walked from the street side of Defendant's residence to the carport in order to enter Defendant's yard. Defendant told the officers they did not have permission to enter his property and stepped in front of the gate. Because Defendant refused to move, officers handcuffed him. The officers knocked on the door and announced their presence and their intent to enter the home to secure it. When no one responded, the officers forcibly entered the residence.

{¶5} Inside the residence, the officers found Defendant's girlfriend, another individual, marijuana in plain view, and Barrett. After a judge approved a search warrant, officers found marijuana, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. A

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jury convicted Defendant of the three possession charges. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

I. Exigent Circumstances Justified the Warrantless Entry Into Defendant's Home Under the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Section 10

{¶6} Defendant argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the officers violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution by conducting a warrantless search on his home not justified by exigent circumstances.[1] "Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. We review factual determinations for substantial evidence and legal determinations de novo." State v. Paananen, 2015-NMSC-031, ¶ 10, 357 P.3d 958 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). We affirm the district court's finding of exigent circumstances and explain.

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A. Defendant's Right Under the Fourth Amendment

{7} "The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects the right of the people to be secure in their persons and effects by prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures." State v. Trudelle, 2007-NMCA-066, ¶ 14, 142 N.M. 18, 162 P.3d 173 (text only). The legality of a search turns on reasonableness. State v. Ryon, 2005-NMSC-005, ¶ 11, 137 N.M. 174, 108 P.3d 1032. "A warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable unless it falls within an exception to the warrant requirement." State v. Allen, 2011-NMCA-019, ¶ 13, 149 N.M. 267, 247 P.3d 1152 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The exception relevant to this appeal is the presence of exigent circumstances. See id.

{¶8} "Exigent circumstances are defined as those situations where immediate action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence." State v. Moore, 2008-NMCA-056, ¶ 10, 144 N.M. 14, 183 P.3d 158 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "The standard for determining exigency is an objective one; the question is whether in a given situation a prudent, cautious, and trained officer, based on facts known, could reasonably conclude that swift action was necessary." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "A warrantless entry into a residence under the exigent circumstances rule requires probable cause plus

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exigent circumstances." Trudelle, 2007-NMCA-066, ¶ 28 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Whether the district court correctly determined that an exigency existed is a mixed question of fact and law that we review de novo." Id.

{¶9} The district court found that (1) the officer "could smell the strong odor of burning marijuana coming from the residence"; (2) when asked, "Defendant stated that he was smoking marijuana inside the residence" and "did not have a medical marijuana card"; (3) "Defendant stated only his girlfriend" was inside the home and she also "did not have a medical marijuana card"; and (4) no one answered when the officers approached the home and knocked on the front door, leading to the officers' "forced entry into the residence in order to secure it, its occupants, and any potential evidence while [one officer] applied for a search warrant." Therefore, the district court concluded "there is substantial evidence of exigent circumstances justifying the [officers] entry into Defendant's home without a warrant or consent of . . . Defendant."

{¶10} Defendant does not challenge the district court's underlying factual findings on appeal. Instead, Defendant argues that these facts do not rise to the level of exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry of the home because possession of marijuana at the time was a misdemeanor. Defendant also argues that the officers used his statements concerning marijuana as a pretext to enter his

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residence in search of a criminal suspect. Because Defendant does not argue that the officers lacked probable cause, we turn to the question of exigent circumstances.

{¶11} Defendant's argument relies on this Court's analysis of exigent circumstances in State v. Wagoner, 1998-NMCA-124, 126 N.M. 9, 966 P.2d 176. In Wagoner, officers arrived at a trailer home to investigate possible drug activity based on a tip. Id. ¶ 3. The officers smelled burning marijuana as they approached the trailer. Id. ¶ 4. The defendant and his son opened the door after a short delay when the officer's knocked on the door and announced their presence. Id. The officers informed the defendant of the tip regarding drugs and repeatedly requested consent to enter the trailer. Id. ¶ 5...

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