United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Wheeling
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DENYING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO SUPPRESS
PRESTON BAILEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before this Court is the Report and Recommendation [Doc. 51]
issued by Magistrate Judge James P. Mazzone on July 8, 2019.
This Court, having reviewed Defendant Beazel's Motion to
Suppress Evidence [Doc. 22], the Report and Recommendation,
defendant Beazel's Objections to the Report and
Recommendation [Doc. 61], the United States' Response to
Objections [Doc. 64], and the transcript of the evidentiary
hearings before Magistrate Judge Mazzone, does adopt the
Report and Recommendation for the following reasons:
Beazel's Motion to Suppress Evidence emanates from an
arrest and subsequent search occurring on June 4, 2017. On
that day, law enforcement officers arrived at his home
located at 1066 Battle Run Road, Triadelphia, West Virginia,
seeking to serve a DMV Notice to Secure for revocation of a
license plate. The two officers, West Virginia State Trooper
First Class C.W. Heckler ("Trooper Heckler") and
Ohio County Sheriffs Deputy Dean Motta ("Deputy
Motta"), soon came to realize that the individual to be
served no longer resided at that address. Trooper Heckler,
however, could see two males inside the residence, who exited
the home and engaged the trooper. The two men were defendant
Beazel and Michael Edward McCardle, Jr. The two officers
detected the strong odor of marijuana coming from the
residence. The defendant admitted that both men had been
smoking marijuana in the residence. Mr. McCardle told the
officers that his girlfriend might be home, and that she
might be asleep.
entered the residence through the basement door while Deputy
Motta remained outside with the defendant and McCardle. Upon
entrance, Trooper Heckler observed a clear plastic bag which
he believed to be marijuana. In the same general area, he
observed a firearm in a holster. He then conducted a sweep of
the basement. Without looking in any containers, drawers,
closets, etc., he observed a marijuana grow room.
Heckler then went back outside, detained both of the men,
notified dispatch of the situation, and requested backup. He
then returned to the basement to secure it. He did not pursue
the other person or persons inside, and instead waited for
backup to arrive. Once they arrived on scene, law enforcement
cleared and secured the residence in anticipation of
obtaining a search warrant. The girlfriend, Amy Beaver, was
in a bedroom on the first floor. The R&R notes that
neither defendant nor McCardle were violent or non-compliant
with each other or with the officers. Once a search warrant
was obtained, officers discovered eighty-eight (88) marijuana
plants, drug paraphernalia, suspected methamphetamine,
suspected methamphetamine-manufacturing supplies, and the
firearms which for the basis of the unlawful possession of a
firearm count as charged in the Indictment.
defendant argues that the search of his residence was
unconstitutional and therefore, all evidence from the same
should be suppressed. It is in fact undisputed that Trooper
Heckler did not have a warrant orconsentto enter
defendant's apartment. Exigent circumstances, however,
did exist to justify the warrantless entry. The Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Moses
explained that "where police officers (1) have probable
cause to believe that evidence of illegal activity is present
and (2) reasonably believe that evidence may be destroyed or
removed before they could obtain a warrant," exigent
circumstances exist. 540 F.3d 263, 270 (4th Cir.
2008)(quoting United States v. Cephas, 254 F.3d 488,
494-95 (4th Cir. 2001)).
Objections, the defendant acknowledges that the R&R found
that "exigency was present at the time of Trooper
Heckler's warrantless entry into defendant's home
because evidence existed that (1) contraband was in the home,
(2) another person was inside the home, and (3) the
contraband could have been easily destroyed." [Doc. 61
at 5, citing Doc. 51 at 7]. Despite what the defendant wants
the standard to be, this finding is legally sufficient.
there was contraband inside the home as admitted by the
defendant and McCardle; i.e., a marijuana smoking
"bowl." Thus, the first element of
exigency-probable cause-was present. Next, this Court finds
the officers reasonably believed that evidence may have been
destroyed before they could obtain a warrant. See United
States v. Grissett, 925 F.2d 776, 778 (4th Cir.
1991)("|T|he proper inquiry focuses on what an objective
officer could reasonably believe."). Here, as indicated
in the R&R this reasonable belief was established by the
defendant and McCardle's candid account of having smoked
illegal drugs inside the house and indicating a third person
was in the house, who could have easily destroyed what they
believed to be marijuana before a warrant could be obtained.
Court is unpersuaded by defendant's argument that because
Amy Beaver ultimately was found sleeping in the upstairs
apartment that this "mere fact... is legally
insufficient to support a reasonable belief that destruction
of contraband in the downstairs apartment was
'imminent.'" [Doc. 61 at 12]. Just as defendant
and Mr. McCardle knew the officers were outside the house, so
too would it have been reasonable to believe the third person
inside the house knew the officers were outside. Thus, it
would be perfectly reasonable to believe that third person
remained inside to destroy the evidence.
Court finds the cursory search after the arrest to be proper.
Upon locating the firearm and marijuana grow room, the
officers obtained a search warrant, which was properly issued
reasons stated above and for the reasons more fully stated in
the R&R, this Court ADOPTS the Report
and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge [Doc.
51]. Accordingly, this Court
OVERRULES Defendant BeazePs Objections
[Doc. 61] and DENIES his
Motion to Suppress Evidence [Doc. 22].