United States v. Lyles, No. 17-4787

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtWILKINSON, Circuit Judge
Citation910 F.3d 787
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff – Appellant, v. Tyrone Ignaciou LYLES, a/k/a Tryone Ignacious Lyles, a/k/a Tyrone Ignatious Lyles, Defendant – Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 17-4787
Decision Date14 December 2018

910 F.3d 787

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff – Appellant,
v.
Tyrone Ignaciou LYLES, a/k/a Tryone Ignacious Lyles, a/k/a Tyrone Ignatious Lyles, Defendant – Appellee.

No. 17-4787

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: November 1, 2018
Decided: December 14, 2018


ARGUED: Jason Daniel Medinger, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Cullen Oakes Macbeth, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Stephen M. Schenning, Acting United States Attorney, Ray D. McKenzie, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland, Meghan Skelton, Appellate Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, WYNN, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wynn and Judge Diaz joined.

WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

910 F.3d 790

A grand jury indicted defendant-appellee Tyrone Lyles for possessing firearms as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The firearms were found in his home, which police searched after obtaining a warrant based on finding three marijuana stems in a trash pull. Lyles filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his home—including the firearms, ammunition, and marijuana—arguing that the trash pull did not provide probable cause for the search. The district court granted defendant’s motion, and the government now appeals. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court.

I.

Prince George’s County Police, during an investigation unrelated to the present case, saw Lyles’s phone number in a homicide victim’s cell phone. They suspected that defendant might be relevant to that investigation. But it was only a hunch. So the police searched four trash bags found at a curb near Lyles’s home and applied for a warrant to search Lyles’s home based on what they found. The application’s factual basis is quoted below:

During the month of January, 2015, members of the Prince George’s County Police Department became involved in an investigation of the residence located at 9010 Ridgewood Dr., Ft. Washington, Prince George’s County Maryland 20744. Investigators had become aware of possible connections between the residence, its occupants and unlawful activities.

Pursuant to this investigation, on January 5th, 2014 [sic] Your Affiant along with Sergeant Logan #2528 observed four large green plastic bags were abandoned on the curb side of 9010 Ridgewood Dr., Ft. Washington, Prince George’s County Maryland 20744. Your Affiant along with Sergeant Logan #2528 removed the four green plastic bags from the curb and upon inspection your Affiant found three unknown type plant stems, three empty packs of rolling papers and one document addressed to 9010 Ridgewood Dr., Ft. Washington, Prince George’s County Maryland 20744. The stems were taken to the Prince George’s County Drug Lab where they tested positive for marijuana by a forensic chemist.

That upon the above described information and your Affiant’s knowledge, training and experience, your Affiant believes that there are controlled dangerous substances, Marijuana, and handguns
910 F.3d 791
being stored, used and/or sold at 9010 Ridgewood Dr., Ft. Washington, Prince George’s County Maryland 20744.

J.A. 24-25 (emphasis omitted). The affidavit included only these limited facts and general averments that marijuana is often stored in secure locations and disposed of nearby. It sought to search the home for evidence of possession of controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and money laundering. See Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law §§ 5-601, 5-602, and 5-623 (West 2018). The application provided the magistrate with no facts about the earlier, unrelated investigation involving the recovered phone. It did not identify a homeowner or name the defendant.

The magistrate judge, however, granted a warrant to search defendant’s home in toto . The warrant provided broad permissions to search the home and "any and all persons suspected to be involved in said illegal activities." J.A. 28. It authorized the police to seize essentially anything in the home, including cell phones, jewelry, records, diaries, and firearms. The police subsequently found four handguns, ammunition, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia in defendant’s house.

A federal grand jury indicted Lyles under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) for possession of firearms as a convicted felon. Defendant asked the district court to suppress the evidence recovered from his home, arguing that the search warrant was issued without probable cause. The district court held two hearings and requested supplemental briefing on that issue. It ultimately suppressed the evidence, finding "that the presence of only three marijuana stems and rolling paper ... does not establish a fair probability that additional marijuana will be found within the home." United States v. Lyles , Crim. No. TDC-17-0039, 2017 WL 5633093, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 20, 2017). The court did not apply the good faith exception because the warrant was not supported by probable cause and was plainly overbroad. Id. at *5-7. The government now appeals.

II.

The Fourth Amendment shields the people from unreasonable searches and seizures. A home search, as here, ordinarily requires a warrant. Fernandez v. California , 571 U.S. 292, 298, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 188 L.Ed.2d 25 (2014). "[N]o Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." U.S. Const. amend. IV. Probable cause determinations require a "practical, common-sense decision," based on sworn facts, whether "there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place." Illinois v. Gates , 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983). As always, "the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness." Fernandez , 571 U.S. at 298, 134 S.Ct. 1126 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Since a state magistrate judge issued the challenged warrant, we ask whether the magistrate judge had a "substantial basis" for finding probable cause. Gates , 462 U.S. at 238-39, 103 S.Ct. 2317. When evaluating whether the magistrate had a substantial basis to find probable cause, we "may not go beyond the information actually presented to the magistrate during the warrant application process." Owens ex rel. Owens v. Lott , 372 F.3d 267, 277 (4th Cir. 2004). Because "we confine our review to the facts that were before the magistrate judge," our "review of the magistrate judge’s probable cause determination is identical to that of the district

910 F.3d 792

court." United States v. Jones , 994 F.2d 1051, 1055 (3d Cir. 1993).

III.

The search warrant application here alleged drug possession, drug trafficking, and money laundering offenses as justifications for the search. The government, however, does not argue that the affidavit supplied probable cause to search for evidence of drug trafficking or money laundering.

The government instead contends that the trash pull evidence provided probable cause to search the home for marijuana possession. If so, the officers were lawfully inside Lyles’s home, and the essential firearm and ammunition evidence might be saved under the plain view doctrine. See, e.g. , United States v. Green , 599 F.3d 360, 376 (4th Cir. 2010). We hold, however, that the trash pull evidence did not adequately support the warrant to search defendant’s home for marijuana possession.

A.

We have no doubt that trash pulls are a valid and important investigatory tactic. The Supreme Court held in California v. Greenwood that law enforcement may search trash left at the curb without a search warrant. 486 U.S. 35, 39-43, 108 S.Ct. 1625, 100 L.Ed.2d 30 (1988). The Court found that people had no reasonable expectation of privacy in curbside trash. Id. at 40, 108 S.Ct. 1625. Without such an expectation, individuals had no Fourth Amendment right to contest trash searches. Id. This circuit has accordingly recognized that evidence from trash pulls can be used to support a search warrant. See, e.g. , United States v. Montieth , 662 F.3d 660, 664-65 (4th Cir. 2011) ; United States v. Gary , 528 F.3d 324, 328-29 (4th Cir. 2008).

We also recognize, however, that homeowners do not sever all connections to their trash. The trash from a home often will contain a variety of private items and effects. The fact that someone wishes to dispose of something does not mean he intends all others to have access to it. One need only imagine the discomfort of watching a neighbor or stranger sift through trash bags recently left at the curb. Indeed, the relevance of items discovered in a trash pull is predicated on a connection between trash and the home. But the rationale for allowing warrantless trash searches is, ironically, predicated on the lack of a connection between trash and the privacy expectations in the home.

Precisely because curbside trash is so readily accessible, trash pulls can be subject to abuse....

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40 practice notes
  • United States v. Muhtorov, 18-1366
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • December 8, 2021
    ...The Fourth Amendment question turns, "as so often in Fourth Amendment cases, [on] what precisely the facts show." United States v. Lyles, 910 F.3d 787, 793 (4th Cir. 2018). Here, the record shows that Mr. Muhtorov's communications were incidentally collected under Section 702 and were used ......
  • United States v. Bosyk, No. 18-4302
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2019
    ...internal quotation marks omitted). In doing so, we consider only the facts presented in the warrant application. United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 791 (4th Cir. 2018).A. Bosyk and his amicus (the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or "EFF") argue that the facts recounted in Agent Eyler’s ......
  • United States v. Cobb, No. 19-4172
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 11, 2020
    ...Blakeney , 949 F.3d at 862."As always, ‘the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness.’ " United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 791 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting Fernandez v. California , 571 U.S. 292, 298, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 188 L.Ed.2d 25 (2014) ). "When it comes to particula......
  • Marshall v. Marshall, Civil No. 3:20cv442 (DJN)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • March 1, 2021
    ...Indeed, "police may sometimes run afoul of the Fourth Amendment despite their best efforts not to do so." United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 796 (4th Cir. 2018). In the context of search warrants, the Supreme Court has observed that although searches authorized by a warrant "will rarely......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • United States v. Muhtorov, 18-1366
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • December 8, 2021
    ...The Fourth Amendment question turns, "as so often in Fourth Amendment cases, [on] what precisely the facts show." United States v. Lyles, 910 F.3d 787, 793 (4th Cir. 2018). Here, the record shows that Mr. Muhtorov's communications were incidentally collected under Section 702 and were used ......
  • United States v. Bosyk, No. 18-4302
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 1, 2019
    ...internal quotation marks omitted). In doing so, we consider only the facts presented in the warrant application. United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 791 (4th Cir. 2018).A. Bosyk and his amicus (the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or "EFF") argue that the facts recounted in Agent Eyler’s ......
  • United States v. Cobb, No. 19-4172
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 11, 2020
    ...Blakeney , 949 F.3d at 862."As always, ‘the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness.’ " United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 791 (4th Cir. 2018) (quoting Fernandez v. California , 571 U.S. 292, 298, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 188 L.Ed.2d 25 (2014) ). "When it comes to particula......
  • Marshall v. Marshall, Civil No. 3:20cv442 (DJN)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • March 1, 2021
    ...Indeed, "police may sometimes run afoul of the Fourth Amendment despite their best efforts not to do so." United States v. Lyles , 910 F.3d 787, 796 (4th Cir. 2018). In the context of search warrants, the Supreme Court has observed that although searches authorized by a warrant "will rarely......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE ORIGINS AND LEGACY OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT REASONABLENESS-BALANCING MODEL.
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 71 Nbr. 1, September 2020
    • September 22, 2020
    ...text. (306.) See, e.g., United States v. Richmond, 915 F.3d 352, 359-60 (5th Cir. 2019) (automobile exception); United States v. Lyles, 910 F.3d 787, 796 (4th Cir. 2018) (overly broad warrant); United States v. Lichtenberger, 786 F.3d 478, 487-88 (6th Cir. 2015) (private search doctrine); U......

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