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United States v. Lyles

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 14, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TYRONE IGNACIOU LYLES, a/k/a Tryone Ignacious Lyles, a/k/a Tyrone Ignatious Lyles, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: November 1, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Theodore D. Chuang, District Judge. (8:17-cr-00039-TDC-1)

         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.

          WILKINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         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 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 ...


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