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United States v. Roehr

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

November 29, 2018

JEREMY ROEHR, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Defendant Jeremy Roehr's Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 16.) The motion is granted in part, and the evidence found pursuant to a search of a black backpack discovered during an unconsented-to warrantless search of a third party's residence is suppressed. The motion is denied as to the evidence found during the course of searching Roehr's vehicle.

         Factual Background

         The State of Montana issued a warrant for the arrest of Defendant Jeremy Roehr prior to August 25, 2017. On that date, law enforcement officers fielded a phone call stating that Roehr could be found at a trailer in Lockwood, Montana and that Roehr's car, a black Nissan Sentra, was parked outside the trailer. (Doc. 18 at 2.) Allena Junkert owned the trailer, and she lived there with her adult daughter, Krista Junkert.

         Approximately six law enforcement offers effected Roehr's arrest on August 25 at the Junkerts' residence. (Doc. 17-1 at 1.) After taking Roehr into custody, officers searched Roehr's car, where they found cash, plastic baggies, and a small digital scale and weights. (Doc. 17-1.) Officers also searched a black backpack, which they had found in Krista Junkert's bedroom, located in the back section of the trailer. Inside the backpack, searching officers found illegal drugs and cash. (Doc. 17-1.)

         Beyond these few facts, the details are somewhat murky. Here, there are six different stories of the event told by four different participants over the course of two documents and three evidentiary hearings.[1] Given the disparities between these accounts, the Court briefly summarizes each rather than attempting a synthesis.

         1. Evans's report

         Officer Chris Evans, Roehr's state probation officer, was present for the search of the Lockwood trailer home. Following Roehr's arrest and the search of Roehr's vehicle and the black backpack, Evans typed and signed his statement. (Doc. 17-1.)

         Evans wrote that, following five minutes of knocking, Krista Junkert answered the door of the trailer, which opens into the living room of the residence. Although she was initially evasive and dishonest regarding Roehr's whereabouts, Junkert eventually told Officer Jayson Baxter, "you can come in and look." The officers ultimately found Roehr in the back bedroom of the trailer, and they called him into the living room, where he was placed in restraints. At this time, officers summoned Allena Junkert, who had thus far remained in her bedroom, into the living room.

         According to Evans's written account, Evans asked Krista for the keys to Roehr's car. He walked with her to the back bedroom, "where Roehr had been located," and she gave him the keys on a lanyard. Evans then asked Krista "who the backpack in the room belonged to. She confirmed it was Roehr's and stated, 'you can take it.'" (Doc. 17-1 at 2.) Evans verified with Roehr that the backpack was Roehr's and began to search the bag. Upon finding cash and what appeared to be illegal drugs, Evans consulted with other law enforcement officers in person and over the phone, and the officers determined that the City County Special Investigations Unit would apply for a warrant before the bag was searched further. Officers than proceeded to search the car, where additional contraband was found.

         2. Evans's testimony

         Evans testified at the first hearing on the motion to suppress, held October 9, 2018. He stated that Krista answered the door following a prolonged period of knocking, stepped to the side of the threshold, and invited the officers to come inside to look for Roehr. Evans testified that Roehr appeared in the living room within seconds of the officers' entry, just after an officer called for him down the hallway. Evans was not sure what room Roehr had been in when the officers entered the residence. Roehr was arrested and taken outside.

         After asking Krista where he could find Roehr's car keys, Evans accompanied Krista to her bedroom, where he saw the black backpack near the keys. He asked Krista to whom it belonged, and she said it was Roehr's. Evans then asked if Krista would like to keep the backpack in the trailer while the officers took Roehr into custody. Krista replied that she preferred for the officers to take the bag with them, saying, "You can take it."

         Evans confirmed with Roehr that the backpack belonged to him and initiated a probationary search. Upon finding what appeared to be evidence of a new crime, Evans and his fellow officers reached out to the City County Special Investigations Unit, which asked that the officers turn the bag over to the unit so that the unit could then apply for a search warrant. The officers proceeded to search Roehr's car.

         3. ...

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