U.S. v. Sparks, No. 01-7097.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBriscoe
Citation291 F.3d 683
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Joe Wayne SPARKS, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 01-7097.
Decision Date24 May 2002
291 F.3d 683
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Joe Wayne SPARKS, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 01-7097.
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
May 24, 2002.

Page 684

Jonathan L. Marcus, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. (Sheldon J. Sperling, United States Attorney, and D. Michael Littlefield, Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Oklahoma, with him on the briefs), for the appellant.

Page 685

Donn F. Baker, Baker & Baker, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for the appellee.

Before SEYMOUR, Circuit Judge, BALDOCK, Senior Circuit Judge, and BRISCOE, Circuit Judge.

BRISCOE, Circuit Judge.


The United States appeals from the district court's order granting defendant Joe Sparks' motion to suppress evidence obtained during searches of his vehicle and residence. We exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, reverse the district court's suppression order, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

On the morning of June 2, 1999, dispatchers at the Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Police Department received a 911 call from a resident who reported seeing a plastic bag containing a white powdery substance on the side of a road just outside the city limits of Sallisaw. The caller had not touched the bag. Detective John Owens went to the reported location and found a large plastic bag containing "a large amount of a white powder ... wrapped in Saran Wrap." Aplt.App. at 50. According to Owens, the bag was on the edge of the road beside a tinhorn and was in plain view as he approached. Owens took the bag to the Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office, where he performed a field test and concluded that it contained approximately one pound of methamphetamine. Based upon the field test results, the decision was made to prepare a decoy bag, filled primarily with rice flour instead of methamphetamine, that looked identical to the one retrieved by Owens. Owens placed the decoy bag in the location where he found the original bag, and set up surveillance "to see who, if anyone, would come back and pick it up." Id. at 51-52.

Approximately two hours later, Owens observed a Dodge truck approach the area from the south, make a left turn heading west, and stop in the middle of the turn near the bag. The driver, defendant Sparks, got out of the truck, retrieved the decoy bag, and returned to his truck. Owens stopped Sparks as he began to drive away and arrested him. Sparks' truck was impounded and inventoried by law enforcement officials. During the inventory search, officials found a loaded 9 millimeter handgun in plain view on the driver's side floorboard, a roll of "Saran Wrap type wrapping" similar to the wrapping in the original bag, a green leafy substance, and a smoking pipe. Id. at 136.

Following Sparks' arrest, Owens prepared an affidavit for a search warrant of Sparks' residence. As probable cause for believing relevant evidence would be found there, Owens described the events leading to the arrest of Sparks. Owens further noted that, from the location where the bag was found and Sparks was arrested, Owens "could see ... Sparks' residence, as indicated by his drivers license, as well as... Sparks' place of business." Id. at 12. Owens alleged that, based upon his experiences with drug investigations, it was common for drug dealers to maintain in their residences paraphernalia and "records and ledgers evidencing their trafficking activities." Id. at 13. Based upon Owens' affidavit, a search warrant was issued for Sparks' residence. Officers from the Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office executed the warrant that same day (June 2, 1999) and seized a variety of evidence, including a plastic bag containing an off-white powder substance, stainless steel scales, plastic bags, a revolver and two shotguns, and papers containing "number figures." Id. at 18.

On May 9, 2001, a federal grand jury indicted Sparks based upon his activities

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on June 2, 1999. Specifically, the indictment charged Sparks with one count of possession with intent to distribute in excess of 400 grams of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B), and one count of using and carrying a firearm (the 9 millimeter handgun found in his truck) during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Aplt.App. at 9-10. Sparks was arrested in connection with the federal indictment on May 16, 2001.

Immediately prior to his arrest, Sparks was driving north on a highway that ran through Sallisaw. Detective Owens and Clint Johnson, a member of a local drug task force, followed Sparks' truck and turned on their overhead lights. Sparks parked his truck in the parking lot of a convenience store owned by his family, got out of his truck, and took two or three steps toward the rear of the truck. Johnson got out of his vehicle, approached Sparks, and informed Sparks he was under arrest. Johnson handcuffed Sparks and turned him over to Drug Enforcement Administration agents. After doing so, Johnson, in accordance with Sparks' wishes, removed the keys from the truck and took them inside the convenience store.

Shortly after Sparks was handcuffed, Detective Owens looked into the open driver's door of Sparks' truck and observed some small (2 × 2-inch) plastic bags in the center of the truck's front seat. Johnson, after returning from taking the keys inside the convenience store, also observed the bags. Based upon their observation of the small bags, Owens and Johnson proceeded to search the cab of the truck. They found a wooden marijuana pipe on the floorboard, and more small plastic bags in the ashtray. Owens also searched the bed of the truck and found, inside a brown bag in a bucket, two "eight balls" of methamphetamine packaged in small plastic bags. The brown bag also contained a small plastic bag with approximately four grams of marijuana. The three bags containing drugs were identical to the empty bags found inside the cab of the truck.

Shortly after Sparks' arrest, Johnson prepared an affidavit for a search warrant of Sparks' residence (the same residence that was searched by authorities on June 2, 1999). As probable cause for the search, Johnson outlined the details of Sparks' arrest earlier that day and the evidence that was found in Sparks' truck. Johnson further alleged he had been advised that Sparks, following his arrest, had "admitted to being in possession of approximately one pound of methamphetamine" on June 2, 1999. Aplt.App. at 21. Johnson also alleged he had been advised that, during an interview with a DEA agent on May 5, 2001, Sparks admitted he had in his residence a set of scales of the type "commonly used to weigh controlled dangerous substances." Id. Johnson outlined the results of the search of Sparks' residence on June 2, 1999, noting items of incriminating evidence that had been recovered by law enforcement officials. Based upon all of this information, as well as his training and experience, Johnson opined "that Sparks [wa]s actively involved in the distribution of controlled dangerous substances," and likely was keeping paraphernalia and records of drug transactions at his residence. Id. A search warrant was issued and executed that same day (May 16, 2001). The items recovered from the residence included cash, numerous small bags, two sets of digital scales, plastic containers with a white powdery residue, a pair of night vision binoculars, and two firearms. Id. at 26.

Sparks moved to suppress items seized in (1) the June 2, 1999, search of his residence, (2) the May 16, 2001, search of his truck, and (3) the May 16, 2001, search of

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his residence.1 After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted Sparks' motion in its entirety. The government has since filed a timely notice of appeal from the district court's suppression order. See 18 U.S.C. § 3731 (allowing for a government appeal "from a decision or order of a district court suppressing or excluding evidence").

II.

The government challenges the district court's suppression order in its entirety. In reviewing the district court's suppression order, we accept the district court's factual findings unless clearly erroneous, review questions of law de novo, and view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. See United States v. Holt, 264 F.3d 1215, 1228 (10th Cir.2001) (en banc).

June 1999 search of Sparks' residence

The district court suppressed evidence found during the June 2, 1999, search of Sparks' residence based on its conclusion that the underlying search warrant was not supported by probable cause. The district court also concluded that the "good faith exception [did] not save the search in question." Aplt.App. at 232.

The Fourth Amendment states that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation." U.S. Const. amend. IV. "In determining whether a search warrant is supported by probable cause, this court reviews the sufficiency of the affidavit upon which a warrant is issued by looking at the totality of the circumstances and ensuring `that the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.'" United States v. Basham, 268 F.3d 1199, 1203 (10th Cir.2001) (quoting United States v. Tisdale, 248 F.3d 964, 970 (10th Cir.2001), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 122 S.Ct. 1120, 151 L.Ed.2d 1013 (2002)), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 122 S.Ct. 1336, 152 L.Ed.2d 241 (2002). "Probable cause to issue a search warrant exists only when the supporting affidavit sets forth facts that would lead a prudent person to believe there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Id. at 1203.

In concluding that the search warrant for Sparks' residence was not supported by probable cause, the district court focused on the affidavit submitted by Detective Owens in support of the warrant. The district court noted that Detective Owens' own probable...

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63 practice notes
  • United States v. McGehee, No. 11–3068.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • February 22, 2012
    ...even if it was not present before, there was probable cause to search the vehicle for controlled substances. See United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690 (10th Cir.2002) (“[I]f an officer has lawfully observed an object of incriminating character in plain view in a vehicle, that observati......
  • Vassar v. State, No. 03-99.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 29, 2004
    ...an automobile in its entirety based on the presence of marijuana, even in small quantities. See, for example, United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690-92 (10th Cir.2002); United States v. Parker, 72 F.3d 1444, 1450 (10th Cir.1995) (probable cause to search entire automobile where officers......
  • U.S. v. Biglow, No. 08-3155.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 20, 2009
    ...experience, drug dealers often keep evidence related to 562 F.3d 1280 their unlawful activities at home); United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 685 (10th Cir.2002) (same); $149,442.43, 965 F.2d at 874 (same). But an affiant officer need not draw an explicit connection between a suspect's a......
  • U.S. v. Howe, No. 1:02-CR-64-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • December 19, 2003
    ...pursuant to the Carroll doctrine "does not vanish simply because the vehicle has been immobilized." United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690 (10th Cir.2002) (citing United States v. Vasquez-Castillo, 258 F.3d 1207, 1212 (10th Cir.2001)); see also United States v. Mercado, 307 F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
63 cases
  • United States v. McGehee, No. 11–3068.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • February 22, 2012
    ...even if it was not present before, there was probable cause to search the vehicle for controlled substances. See United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690 (10th Cir.2002) (“[I]f an officer has lawfully observed an object of incriminating character in plain view in a vehicle, that observati......
  • Vassar v. State, No. 03-99.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 29, 2004
    ...an automobile in its entirety based on the presence of marijuana, even in small quantities. See, for example, United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690-92 (10th Cir.2002); United States v. Parker, 72 F.3d 1444, 1450 (10th Cir.1995) (probable cause to search entire automobile where officers......
  • U.S. v. Biglow, No. 08-3155.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 20, 2009
    ...experience, drug dealers often keep evidence related to 562 F.3d 1280 their unlawful activities at home); United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 685 (10th Cir.2002) (same); $149,442.43, 965 F.2d at 874 (same). But an affiant officer need not draw an explicit connection between a suspect's a......
  • U.S. v. Howe, No. 1:02-CR-64-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • December 19, 2003
    ...pursuant to the Carroll doctrine "does not vanish simply because the vehicle has been immobilized." United States v. Sparks, 291 F.3d 683, 690 (10th Cir.2002) (citing United States v. Vasquez-Castillo, 258 F.3d 1207, 1212 (10th Cir.2001)); see also United States v. Mercado, 307 F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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