U.S. v. Meindl, 99-40075-01-SAC.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
Writing for the CourtCrow
Citation83 F.Supp.2d 1207
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Daniel Joseph MEINDL, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 99-40075-01-SAC.,99-40075-01-SAC.
Decision Date17 December 1999
83 F.Supp.2d 1207
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
Daniel Joseph MEINDL, Defendant.
No. 99-40075-01-SAC.
United States District Court, D. Kansas.
December 17, 1999.

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Gregory G. Hough, Office of United States Attorney, Topeka, KS, for plaintiff.

David J. Phillips, Office of Federal Public Defender, Topeka, KS, for defendant.


CROW, Senior District Judge.

The case comes before the court on the defendant's motion to suppress (Dk.19) to which the government has filed its opposing response (Dk.21). The defendant seeks to suppress evidence seized from the search of his residence on December 29, 1998, and from the search of his car on February 3, 1999. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing on November 30, 1999, during which the government presented the testimony of four law enforcement officers. Following the testimony, counsel agreed to waive oral argument and submit the matter on the memoranda already filed with the court. Having reviewed the parties' filings, weighed the evidence, and researched the relevant issues, the court is ready to rule.


On August 4, 1999, the grand jury returned a six-count indictment against the defendant Daniel Joseph Meindl. The first two counts (1 & 2) relate to criminal conduct evidenced by items discovered during a search of the defendant's residence on December 29, 1998. The defendant's motion to suppress challenges this search. The second two counts (3 & 4) relate to criminal conduct evidenced by items discovered following an investigatory stop of the defendant's vehicle on February 3, 1999. The defendant's motion to suppress challenges this stop. Counts 1, 3

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and 5 charge that the defendant on different dates, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, attempted to manufacture methamphetamine or a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). Counts 2, 4 and 6 charge that the defendant on the same dates alleged in counts 1, 3 and 5 possessed a firearm during and in relation to the corresponding drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) and (2).


Findings of Fact

On December 28, 1998, two uniformed deputies with the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office, went to the defendant's residence at 2511 S.E. Michigan, Topeka, Kansas, to arrest him on a misdemeanor warrant issued by the District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas, in case No. 98TR004483, for driving while his license was suspended. The warrant showed that the district court had set a $2,500 personal surety bond. Unable to locate the defendant, the deputies did not execute the warrant, and they observed no evidence of the defendant being home.

The next day, December 29, 1998, around 10:05 a.m., three uniformed deputies driving marked patrol cars returned to the defendant's residence. As they walked up to the house, the deputies noticed that unlike the prior day their movement triggered some outdoor security lights. They knocked several times on the front door, but no one answered it. The deputies saw a television set operating in the living room. Their check of the electric meter showed it was moving at a much faster rate than the previous day.

Deputy Darrin Johnson testified that two weeks earlier they had attempted to serve a warrant on the defendant at this same house. They knocked on the door repeatedly, but the defendant did not answer. Johnson maintained surveillance of the home, as the other deputies drove off in their patrol cars. Within minutes, Johnson observed the defendant move around inside and look out a window. Johnson radioed for the others to return. The deputies again knocked and then warned that they would forcibly enter if the defendant did not answer the door. The defendant eventually answered the door.

Based on the security lights, operating television, rapidly moving electric meter and their prior experience in serving warrants on the defendant, the deputies believed the defendant was inside the house on December 29, 1998. The deputies found an unlocked window, opened it, and announced themselves several times. Receiving no response, they crawled through the window to look for the defendant whom they believed to be hiding inside. The officers saw near the window in plain view an SKS assault rifle with a collapsible stock and a thirty round banana clip on the floor next to it. The officers cleared the lower level without finding the defendant. Believing he could be armed and hiding on the second floor and having safety concerns about the narrow stairway leading to the upper floor, deputies called for a canine unit to assist in searching for the defendant upstairs.

William Heady with the Kansas Highway Patrol arrived at the defendant's residence around 11:00 a.m. with his dog, Targo. Told that officers believed the subject of an arrest warrant was hiding upstairs and was possibly armed, Trooper Heady took Targo inside. He shouted in the direction of the upstairs three times that anyone up there should sound off or a police dog would be released. Receiving no response, Heady then sent Targo after giving only the one command to search for and apprehend a person. Heady testified that from his downstairs position he heard Targo going back and forth above in a normal search pattern without barking. Heady concluded that Targo had not located any suspect. Upon hearing Targo bumping or knocking something around, troopers Heady and Moomaw headed up the stairs. When he reached the second

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floor landing, Heady saw Targo pawing an opaque plastic bowl that was laying on its side with the lid off and a white powder on the floor next to the bowl. Concerned over the danger of the dog ingesting drugs, Heady immediately called off Targo and took him downstairs. Heady testified that Targo gave a positive alert to the bowl.

Because he was downstairs when Targo found the bowl, Heady said he was uncertain how the bowl came to be on the floor laying on its side with the lid off. Trooper Heady also testified that based on the noise coming from upstairs that he believed Targo had knocked the bowl around the floor. Heady recorded in his written report that Targo had removed the bowl's lid. Heady testified that this was his conclusion at the time because the bowl was on its side, the contents had spilled, and the lid was laying nearby.

Because the white powder appeared to be a drug, the Shawnee County Sheriff's narcotics officers were called to the scene. The officers on the scene stopped their search for the defendant and secured the house. A narcotics officer performed a field test of the powder that was positive for cocaine. Officers then telephoned deputy Akim Reynolds with this information, and he prepared an affidavit and warrant application. Shawnee County District Court Judge Eric Rosen granted the search warrant on December 29, 1998, at 1:15 p.m., and Reynolds delivered the warrant to the defendant's house.

Officers at Meindl's house remained inside to keep it secure and to stay warm. While waiting for the search warrant they recognized the defendant Meindl as the driver of a red LeMans that went down the alley behind the home. The warrant officers gave chase but lost the defendant. Other officers in the area located a red LeMans in the 1700 block of southeast Sage. The warrant officers went to that house and found Meindl's car parked behind it. They spoke with the resident who said that Meindl worked for him but that he did not know where Meindl was. The resident said Meindl was not inside but gave the officers permission to search the house. Finding Meindl crouched behind a dresser in a dark bedroom with a television operating, the officers arrested him and took him to his house where other officers had begun executing the search warrant.

Sometime after officers began searching for the cocaine and drug paraphernalia, deputy Reynolds realized that the warrant mistakenly directed officers to seize marijuana, instead of cocaine. Reynolds testified that he believed the officers knew of the field test results and understood they were looking for cocaine. Reynolds also explained that he had prepared the affidavit and warrant from some form documents found on his computer and had changed all references from marijuana to cocaine but simply overlooked this one reference. When he returned to his office following the search, Reynolds prepared a written report that same day identifying and explaining this mistaken reference to marijuana. Reynolds characterized this oversight as a mere typographical error.


The defendant argues that the deputies executing the arrest warrant unlawfully entered his dwelling, that the police dog and officers inside the home exceeded the lawful scope of the arrest warrant, and that the subsequent search warrant does not validate the improper search and seizure. The government counters that the officers relied in good faith on the arrest warrant and did not act unlawfully in entering Meindl's home and looking for him. The government further responds that the search warrant was supported by probable cause, that the issuing judge did not abandon his judicial role in issuing it, and that the warrant did not lack particularity.

Entry Into Home in Execution of Arrest Warrant

Consistently, the Supreme Court has emphasized "the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded

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in our traditions since the origins of the Republic," because unlike other locations the home "provide[s] the setting for those most intimate activities that the Amendment is intended to shelter from government interference or surveillance." Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 178-79, 104 S.Ct. 1735, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984) (citations omitted). "It is axiomatic that the `physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment...

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