United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
L. Christensen, United States District Court Chief Judge
the Court is Defendant Monwell Dwight Booth's Motion to
Suppress (Doc. 19). Booth is charged with being a prohibited
person in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(g)(1). (Doc. 1 at 1.) Booth seeks to suppress
evidence of the firearms and ammunition that provide the
basis for his indictment on the grounds that the police
officers who recovered the evidence lacked justification to
perform the search without a warrant. (Doc. 20 at 4-6.) The
Government opposes this Motion. (Doc. 24.) For the following
reasons, the Motion will be denied.
November 10, 2018 at approximately 4:11 p.m., the Billings
Police Department received an emergency phone call reporting
a burglary at Booth's residence. Upon contact, dispatch
was told that someone had "broken into my neighbor's
home and no one is there, they kicked the door right
in." Booth's neighbor, Scott Byykkonen, had been
informed by an unknown individual that someone had been seen
breaking into Booth's home. Byykkonen informed dispatch
that the individual claimed to have seen the burglary occur
but stated that he was not "sticking around" and
drove away from the scene. Byykkonen called 911 after
confirming that someone had broken in through Booth's
back door, sticking his head inside, and yelling
"hello." Byykkonen told dispatchers that no one was
around. Byykkonen also informed dispatch that he did not know
whether the individual was responsible for the burglary.
Billings Police Officers Stovall and Adams reported to the
scene, At the scene, the officers met Byykkonen, who led them
to the rear door of Booth's residence which had been left
open with a panel missing and glass broken around it.
Byykkonen told the officers that he was "unsure if there
was anyone else inside the residence." (Doc. 20-2 at 2.)
The officers announced themselves and entered the home to see
if anyone was hiding inside. The officers began on the first
floor and proceeded upstairs after finding that it was clear.
While clearing an upper-story bedroom, Officer Stovall
reported seeing "two Glock pistols and [an] AR-15 rifle
sitting on a shelf in the closet. There were also several
AR-15 magazines sitting halfway out of a safe next to the
firearms." (Id.) Officer Adams also reported
observing "multiple one[-]dollar bills in a dresser
drawer and [on the] floor of the bed room." (Doc. 20-3
establishing that no one was in the home, the officers
successfully made phone contact with Booth, who was
"not... very concerned" about the burglary and not
interested in pursuing any charges. (Docs. 20-2 at 2; 20-3 at
2.) Outside, the officers met Sarnie Nava, Booth's
friend, who stated that she was going to watch Booth's
house until he could come home. Nava confirmed that the
officers had checked to make sure no one was in the home
before going inside herself. (Doc. 20-2 at 2.)
Adams found Booth's reactions odd, so he checked into
Booth and discovered that he was on state supervision for a
violent felony. Based on this information, Officer Stovall
contacted Probation and Parole Officer Baxter, who was
supervising Booth and advised that he was a prohibited
person. Officer Baxter requested that the firearms be
confiscated and that the officers perform a search of the
residence. During the search, the officers found illegal
substances, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, and several
holsters. In total, the officers confiscated the following
firearms and ammunition;
[A] Glock, model 22, .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, ... a
Glock, model 19, 9mm caliber semi-automatic pistol, ... a
Ruger, model AR556, 5.56 caliber semi-automatic rifle, .. .
magazines for each firearm. . . . 850 rounds of .223 caliber
[ammunition], 49 rounds of .40 caliber [ammunition, ] and 50
rounds of 9mm caliber [ammunition].
(Doc. 20-4 at 3.)
asserts that all evidence of firearms and ammunition must be
suppressed because Officers Stovall and Adams entered and
searched his home without a warrant and without the necessary
probable cause and exigent circumstances to justify doing so.
Additionally, Booth claims that, once in his home, the
officers went beyond the scope of any permissible search when
they looked inside the upstairs closet.
searches "are per se unreasonable under the Fourth
Amendment-subject only to a few specifically established and
well-delineated exceptions." Katz v. United
States, 389 U.S. 347, 357(1967). Accordingly, "the
government bears the burden of showing that a warrantless
search . . . falls within an exception to the Fourth
Amendment's warrant requirement." United States
v. Cervantes, 703 F.3d 1135, 1141 (9th Cir. 2012). The
government must meet its burden by a preponderance of the
evidence. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164,
178 n.14 (1974).
such exception is for the existence of exigent circumstances.
When, as here, the government relies upon the exigent
circumstances exception, it "must satisfy two
requirements: first, the government must prove that the
officer had probable cause to search the house; and second,
the government must prove that exigent circumstances
justified the warrantless intrusion." Hopkins v.
Bonvicino, 573 F.3d 752, 766-67 (9th Cir. 2009)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court
addresses these requirements in turn.
search is supported by probable cause when "the known
facts and circumstances are sufficient to warrant a man of
reasonable prudence in the belief that contraband or evidence
of a crime will be found." Id., at 767
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "An
action is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, regardless
of the individual officer's state of mind, as long as the
circumstances, viewed objectively, justify the
action." Brigham City, ...