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United States v. Harrison

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 12, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUCE A HARRISON, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion to suppress (DE 192) filed by Bruce A. Harrison. The Court has conducted a hearing on the motion and the parties have submitted briefs. For the following reasons, the motion will be DENIED.

I. Introduction

Harrison is charged with various crimes regarding the distribution of oxycodone, growing marijuana, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He moves to suppress certain evidence seized by FBI agents from a portion of his residence located at 1501 Ford Road, Winchester, KY. Harrison argues that the portion of the residence from which the items were seized was a separate apartment with the address of 1501A Ford Road which he leased to an individual named Michael West.

The search warrant authorized officers to search "1501 Ford Road, Winchester, KY" which was described in the warrant as "a single family residence... owned by Bruce Allen Harrison." (DE 192-1, Warrant.) Harrison argues that the officers acted unreasonably when they also searched the alleged apartment.

The FBI seized various items from the alleged apartment area including prescription pill bottles bearing Bruce Harrison's name for several kinds of medication including oxycodone. Some of the bottles were empty and others contained pills. (DE 218, Hr'g Tr. at 22; Hr'g, Def. Ex. 22.) The FBI also seized various firearms from the alleged apartment area.

II. Analysis

A. Validity of the Warrant

A challenge such as this generally presents two separate constitutional issues: 1) the validity of the warrant; and 2) the reasonableness of the manner in which it was executed. Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 84 (1997).

In Garrison, the police obtained a warrant to search "2036 Park Avenue third floor apartment." Id. At the time the police obtained the warrant and at the time they conducted the search, the officers "reasonably believed there was only one apartment on the premises" but, in fact, the third floor was divided into two apartments, one of which was occupied by the target of the search, the other of which was occupied by Garrison. Id.

Before the officers knew they were in Garrison's apartment, they discovered the contraband that formed the basis for Garrison's state drug charges. It was only some time after they entered Garrison's apartment and discovered drugs and cash that any of the officers realized that the third floor contained two apartments. At that point, they ceased the search.

As to the first issue - the validity of the warrant - the Court noted that the Fourth Amendment prohibits courts from issuing a warrant unless it "particularly describ[es] the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." Id. This was intended "to prevent general searches" and "the wide-ranging exploratory searches the Framers intended to prohibit." Id.

The Court determined that the validity of the warrant had to be determined based on the information available to the officers at the time they obtained it. Information that emerges "after the warrant is issued ha[s] no bearing on whether or not a warrant was validly issued." Id. at 85. "[T]he discovery of facts demonstrating that a valid warrant was unnecessarily broad does not retroactively invalidate the warrant." Id. The Court concluded that the officers reasonably believed that the target was the only tenant on the third floor and, thus, the warrant was valid when issued. Id. at 85-86 & n. 10.

Harrison explicitly states in both his response and his reply that he does not challenge the validity of the warrant. (DE 192, Mot. at 2-3; DE 249, Reply at 3.) Furthermore, the evidence demonstrates that the agents conducted a reasonable investigation of the premises prior to applying for the search warrant and that, at the time they applied for the ...


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