State v. Rodriguez, NO. PD-1391-15

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
Citation521 S.W.3d 1
Decision Date07 June 2017
Parties The STATE of Texas, Appellant v. Mikenzie Renee RODRIGUEZ, Appellee
Docket NumberNO. PD-1391-15

521 S.W.3d 1

The STATE of Texas, Appellant
v.
Mikenzie Renee RODRIGUEZ, Appellee

NO. PD-1391-15

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.

Filed: June 7, 2017


ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Matthew Wright, DLW Law, PLLC, PO Box 522, Rosebud, TX 76570, Sharon Lanell Diaz, DLW Law, 406 W Main St, Rosebud, TX 76570.

ATTORNEYS FOR THE STATE: Elisha Bird, Assistant District Attorney, 35th District Attorney's Office, 200 S. Broadway, Brownwood, TX 76801.

OPINION

Newell, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which Hervey, Alcala, Richardson, Yeary, Keel, and Walker, JJ., joined.

Resident assistants searched the dorm room of Mikenzie Renee Rodriguez, found drugs, and called their director, who in turn called the police. The police then entered the room and seized the drugs. Rodriguez was indicted for possession of a controlled substance. The trial court granted Rodriguez's motion to suppress and, on the State's appeal, the court of appeals affirmed—holding there is no college dorm room exception to the Fourth Amendment. State v. Rodriguez , ––– S.W.3d ––––, 2015 WL 5714548 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2015). We granted review because this is an issue of first impression to this Court. We agree with the court of appeals that the officers' physical intrusion into a constitutionally protected area was a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And because it was done without a warrant, consent, or special needs, the fruits of that search were rightly suppressed. We affirm.

I. Motion to Suppress

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the only issue before the trial court was whether the police search was lawful; Appellee did not challenge the search by the civilians. Witnesses testified that Appellee and Adrienne Sanchez, freshman students at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, shared a dorm room on campus. A housing agreement permitted routine inspections by authorized personnel.1 Pursuant to this agreement, resident assistants ("RAs") Miriam Mackey and Catherine Mullaney performed room checks for items that residents were not supposed to have such as candles, microwave ovens, and more obviously prohibited items such as drugs or alcohol. They performed the checks as a matter of course, not at the behest of any law enforcement agency.

When the RAs performed their normal room check on the room shared by Appellee and Sanchez, there was no one in the

521 S.W.3d 6

room. They found marijuana in the first trunk they looked through. The RAs contacted Nancy Pryor, the resident director, who told them to do a more thorough search. The RAs subsequently found a matchbox containing what they believed to be ecstacy pills in the bottom of a basket full of fingernail polish and a pipe inside a sock that had tape wrapped around it. The RAs laid the pill box and the pipe on the floor and took cell phone pictures of the items.

The resident director contacted the Howard Payne Police. Howard Payne Officer Robert Pacatte, in plain clothes but with a badge, responded, and Pryor took him up to the room. Officer Pacatte entered the room and looked around.

Q. When you got to the room, were you able to see anything out in plain view that you would identify as contraband?

A. Yes, ma'am. On the floor were several items that the ladies had found and had placed on the floor. One would be a—do you mind if I look at my notes for a second?

Q. That's fine.

A. One was a glass pipe, a cigarette lighter, a box of wooden matches that was open and it had two pills laying on top of them, on top of the matches that were in the box, and I don't—I said a cigarette lighter was there also. And then I was shown across the room to a foot locker that was open and empty with the exception of a cigarette lighter and a small package that I believed to be—have in it what I believed to be marijuana.

He took some photos and contacted the Brownwood Police. Officer Pacatte acknowledged that he did not have a warrant and that "[i]t would have been easy enough to obtain a warrant." He also stated that there were no exigent circumstances, and that he did not ask for consent before entering the room to investigate and photograph the contraband.

Meanwhile, Adrienne Sanchez returned to the dorm room. When she opened the door she saw the two RAs, the resident director, and the campus police officer. At first, they told her to wait in the hall, but then allowed her in so that she could change clothes. Officer Pacatte "checked" her clothes. He never asked her for consent to search the room. The group did let her leave to go eat. She came back with her coach and, by then, the Brownwood detectives had arrived. Again, she wasn't asked for consent to search the room. As Sanchez explained, "[T]he detectives talked to me, asked me what objects in the room, if they were mine or if they were Mikenzie's, and that was about it." Then they let her out.

Sanchez told the officers that the items belonged to her roommate, Appellee. Officer Pacatte handed Brownwood Detective Joe Aaron Taylor a plastic sack that had the items in it. Appellee then arrived. After she was read her rights, she admitted that the contraband was hers and said that the pills were Ecstasy. Detective Taylor said the items were not "in plain view" in the traditional sense because a civilian had moved the items from their original place. Detective Taylor also said it would not have been difficult to obtain a warrant, and that the items seized were not in danger of destruction. The defense argued that the police conduct constituted a search.

We have never said that the RAs were State actors. That's not an issue. The issue is that once the police became involved and this became a prosecutorial search, which is what the law, the case law, stipulates, then, it becomes—you have to follow the Fourth Amendment and Article 1 guarantees.
521 S.W.3d 7

According to the defense, the entry was a search, and no exception applied. The State countered that this "is a classic situation where someone who is not a state actor found drugs, notified law enforcement, and when law enforcement got there, it's obvious and plain the minute they are on the scene what it is." But if it were a search "Ms. Pryor, as an official at the university, would have had apparent authority to invite the officer in."

The trial court granted the motion to suppress, finding that the warrantless search of Appellee's residence, without the existence of an applicable exception, violated the Fourth Amendment. On direct appeal, the State, relying in part on Medlock v. Trustees of Ind. Univ. , No. 1:11-CV-00977-TWP-DKL, 2011 WL 4068453 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 13, 2011), argued that, under the "private search" doctrine, the officers' entry into Appellee's dorm room did not constitute a search: At the time of their entry, Appellee no longer possessed a subjective expectation of privacy that society would be willing to recognize as reasonable. In Medlock , Zachary Medlock had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of his one-year suspension from Indiana University, the result of the discovery of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his university dormitory room. Id. at *1. Medlock alleged that the search of his room by state school officials (and later the campus police) violated the Fourth Amendment. Id. at *4. In denying the preliminary injunction, the Southern District Court of Indiana noted that Medlock was unlikely to succeed in his claim because once resident advisors were lawfully inside his room to perform a health and safety inspection and discovered marijuana, they were justified in giving access to law enforcement officers. Medlock , 2011 WL 4068453, at *5-6.2

II. Appeal

The court of appeals rejected the State's argument, noting that (1) the physical entry of the home is a search; (2) Appellee's dorm room is her home; and therefore, (3) the officers' physical entry into Appellee's dorm room constituted a search. Rodriguez , ––– S.W.3d at ––––, 2015 WL 5714548, at *4-6. The court found Medlock distinguishable because (1) it involved an administrative proceeding with Indiana University rather than a criminal prosecution; (2) the officer in Medlock observed the marijuana in plain view prior to entering the dorm room; and (3) the officer in Medlock actually obtained a search warrant. Id. at ––––, 2015 WL 5714548, at *5. The appellate court also agreed with the trial court's conclusion that the State failed to prove that the resident director had the authority, actual or apparent, to permit the officers to enter Appellee's dorm room without a search warrant. Id. at ––––, 2015 WL 5714548, at *6-7.

The court of appeals distinguished the search here from the dorm room search upheld in Grubbs v. State , 177 S.W.3d 313 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet. ref'd). Grubbs had argued that the RA who had entered to investigate the odor of marijuana opened the door for the police, but the record showed that the officers waited in the hall and only entered after Grubbs or his roommate invited the officers in. Rodriguez , ––– S.W.3d at –––– – ––––, 2015 WL 5714548, at *5-6 ; Grubbs, 177 S.W.3d at 316-18. Here, though, it was dorm personnel who led the officers to Appellee's dorm room. "Despite the authority given to the dorm personnel to

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84 practice notes
  • Rios v. State, 14-18-00886-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 3 Agosto 2021
    ...search of its contents that were not visible to the police). [25] See Ramos, 934 S.W.2d at 365 (citations omitted); State v. Rodriguez, 521 S.W.3d 1, 18 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) (citing State v. Dobbs, 323 S.W.3d 184, 187 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010)); see also Dickerson, 508 U.S. at 375 (citing Ho......
  • Tilghman v. State, NO. 03-17-00803-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 7 Junio 2019
    ...light most favorable to the ruling and uphold those fact findings so long as they are supported by the record." State v. Rodriguez , 521 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) (citing Valtierra v. State , 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) ). "The appellate court then proceeds......
  • Commonwealth v. Dunkins, 45 MAP 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 17 Noviembre 2021
    ...proceeding, not at a criminal trial. For that reason alone, at least one other court has distinguished Medlock . See State v. Rodriguez , 521 S.W.3d 1, 17 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). Finally, in neither Medlock nor Adkinson did the Seventh Circuit contemplate the validity of the purported waive......
  • Patterson v. State, No. 10-19-00243-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 9 Diciembre 2020
    ...rented to a customer. Maxwell, id. (citing Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 84 S. Ct. 889, 11 L. Ed. 2d 856 (1964)).Rodriguez v. State, 521 S.W.3d 1, 8-9 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). The Rodriguez Court then concluded,And, as a general matter, "'[a] dormitory room is analogous to an apar......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
83 cases
  • Rios v. State, 14-18-00886-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 3 Agosto 2021
    ...search of its contents that were not visible to the police). [25] See Ramos, 934 S.W.2d at 365 (citations omitted); State v. Rodriguez, 521 S.W.3d 1, 18 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) (citing State v. Dobbs, 323 S.W.3d 184, 187 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010)); see also Dickerson, 508 U.S. at 375 (citing Ho......
  • Tilghman v. State, NO. 03-17-00803-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 7 Junio 2019
    ...the light most favorable to the ruling and uphold those fact findings so long as they are supported by the record." State v. Rodriguez , 521 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) (citing Valtierra v. State , 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) ). "The appellate court then proceeds to a ......
  • Commonwealth v. Dunkins, 45 MAP 2020
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 17 Noviembre 2021
    ...proceeding, not at a criminal trial. For that reason alone, at least one other court has distinguished Medlock . See State v. Rodriguez , 521 S.W.3d 1, 17 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). Finally, in neither Medlock nor Adkinson did the Seventh Circuit contemplate the validity of the purported waive......
  • Patterson v. State, No. 10-19-00243-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 9 Diciembre 2020
    ...rented to a customer. Maxwell, id. (citing Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 84 S. Ct. 889, 11 L. Ed. 2d 856 (1964)).Rodriguez v. State, 521 S.W.3d 1, 8-9 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). The Rodriguez Court then concluded,And, as a general matter, "'[a] dormitory room is analogous to an apartment......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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