United States v. Adams, 082019 FED7, 18-2932

Docket Nº:18-2932
Opinion Judge:Hamilton, Circuit Judge
Party Name:United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Steven A. Adams, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before Bauer, Hamilton, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 20, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Steven A. Adams, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 18-2932

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 20, 2019

Argued May 16, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 4:17-CR-40062 - James E. Shadid, Judge.

Before Bauer, Hamilton, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.

Hamilton, Circuit Judge

Defendant Steven Adams pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. In this appeal, he challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress and its application of the Sentencing Guidelines to his case. We affirm. Probable cause supported the search warrant for Adams' house, and in any event the officers could rely on the warrant in good faith. Further, the district court properly calculated Adams' guideline range, taking into account his prior drug conspiracy conviction.

I. Factual & Procedural Background

On March 22, 2016, Adams, his girlfriend, and a third person were pulled over for speeding. The car was registered to Adams' girlfriend, Leanna Brandon. Law enforcement officers were familiar with Adams because he was the subject of anonymous tips regarding drug activity at his house in Keithsburg, Illinois. They also knew that Adams had a previous conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The third person in the car was also the subject of anonymous tips regarding drug activity and had outstanding arrest warrants.

During the traffic stop, the sheriff's deputy smelled marijuana from the car. The car was searched, and deputies found a meth pipe, paraphernalia used with marijuana, and marijuana. The three occupants were arrested and taken back to the station, where Brandon-after receiving Miranda warnings- told the arresting deputy that additional items of drug paraphernalia, a gun, and a safe containing methamphetamine pipes were at Adams' house. Brandon told the deputy that she also stayed in the house and that she had been there earlier that same day. She described the layout of the house and provided descriptions of Adams' bedroom and the gun and paraphernalia.

In his application for a search warrant, the deputy wrote: Brandon disclosed that at Adam's residence, at [street address], there is often meth and cannabis used. Brandon stays at the residence, and is familiar with the goings on there. She said that there is drug paraphernalia for ingestion of cannabis and methamphetamine in the house.

Brandon went into great detail of Adams bedroom where she sleeps when she stays. She said she was last there at around 0430 hours this morning (03/22/2016). She described Adams' room as being in the northwest corner of the house and drew a floor plan of the house. She drew an enlargement of Adams' room. She described a dresser with a mirror on the west wall of the bedroom. She said that on that dresser, there is always a clear glass bong. She has seen it used to ingest cannabis. She said the bowl part of it is not on it, but it does have residue in it. She also said that there is a colorful swirled designed "bowl" that looks like an elephant; this is used for ingestion of cannabis on a nightstand next to the bed. She said that her .45 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol is in the house. It has a cable lock in it and she has the only keys. She said the pistol is black and is in the blue plastic case. She said there is a gray/black colored safe in the bedroom. Inside that safe is meth pipes, and maybe some meth and cannabis.

Brandon said Adams' bedroom is locked with a deadbolt. She said that only she and Adams have keys. She said that only Adams and she have the keys for the safe in the bedroom, and she provided me one from her purse.

She said that there may be other paraphernalia in the house. She said that [Female] and [Male] stay in a bedroom next to Adams. She said that [Female] frequently "huffs" hair spray and has expressed her displeasure of the aerosol odor in the house to [Female]. This agency has also received recent information about [Male] being at the residence. [Male] had a history for possession of narcotics through Iowa.

Based on the results of the traffic stop search, Adams' prior conviction, the anonymous tips, and the information from Brandon, the police obtained a search warrant for Adams' house from a state-court judge. They executed the warrant the same day as the traffic stop. In Adams' room, they found a locked plastic gun case that Brandon had described. A .45 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and two loaded magazines were inside the case. Adams later admitted that he had Brandon buy the gun for him because he was a felon.

A federal grand jury charged Adams with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Adams moved to suppress the evidence discovered pursuant to the state search warrant, contending that the affidavit in support of the application did not establish probable cause. He also argued that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule should not apply because the affidavit was so lacking in probable cause that a reasonable officer could not have relied on the warrant.

The district court ruled from the bench and denied Adams' motion to suppress. The court explained that the issuing judge had a "substantial basis for determining the existence of probable cause" because Brandon had "provided firsthand detail," the information was "fresh" as it "was within a day" since she had been at the house, and the information was "in some form corroborated by the number of tips." The court noted that the tips were anonymous and that standing alone they would not establish probable cause. But the court explained that the tips provided some corroboration in conjunction with the other information. The court also highlighted the traffic stop of the "vehicle that involved drugs" and noted that, "to some degree/' Brandon's statements to the deputy were "against her penal interest." The court concluded: "So, I believe that all of this provides plenty of information...

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