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Bratcher v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

February 20, 2014

ROBERT BRATCHER, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, APPELLEE

Released for Publication March 13, 2014.

ON APPEAL FROM MUHLENBERG CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE BRIAN WIGGINS, JUDGE. NO. 12-CR-00126.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: V. Gene Lewter, Department Of Public Advocacy.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Jack Conway, Attorney General Of Kentucky, Julie Scott Jernigan, Assistant Attorney General, Office Of Criminal Appeals, Office Of The Attorney General.

OPINION

Page 412

VENTERS, JUSTICE.

Appellant, Robert Bratcher, appeals as a matter of right, Ky. Const. § 110(2)(b), from a judgment of the Muhlenberg Circuit Court sentencing him to a total of twenty-one years imprisonment following his conditional guilty plea to manufacturing methamphetamine and second-degree persistent felony offender (PFO) status. In connection with his guilty plea, Appellant reserved for appeal the issue of whether the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the drug-related evidence seized during a warrantless search of his residence by a state police officer and a parole officer.

At the time of the search, Appellant was a parolee under the supervision of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. He bases his argument upon the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 S.Ct. 587, 151 L.Ed.2d 497 (2001), holding that a warrantless intrusion upon a probationer's " significantly diminished privacy interests" is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment only when an officer has " reasonable suspicion" that the probationer is engaged in criminal activity. Id. at 121.

Because Appellant bases his argument exclusively upon the federal constitution and judicial interpretations thereof, we limit our review accordingly and need not evaluate his arguments under any corresponding provisions of the Kentucky Constitution. We conclude that the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843, 126 S.Ct. 2193, 165 L.Ed.2d 250 (2006), negates the argument upon which Appellant relies and, therefore, we affirm his conviction and sentence.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Testimony presented at the suppression hearing discloses the following facts. While investigating suspected illegal activity of William Zguro, police officer Troy Gibson was informed by Zguro that Appellant had at his home items used to manufacture methamphetamine, and that Appellant had said he was then planning to " do a cook." [1] Officer Gibson also had independent knowledge of Appellant's prior criminal activity and so, accompanied by another police officer, he went to Appellant's home and asked Appellant for permission to search the residence. Appellant declined the request.

Using his cell phone, Gibson then contacted Appellant's parole officer, Cynthia Moore, and informed her that he was at Appellant's residence investigating allegations of illegal activity, and that Appellant had not permitted him to conduct a search. Gibson then allowed Appellant to use the phone to speak with Moore. Moore reminded Appellant that his parole agreement required him to allow parole officers to search his residence. Moore told Appellant that he should consent to the search and consequently, Appellant consented.

Gibson then recruited another parole officer, Paul Newman, to assist in the search because Newman was closer than Moore to

Page 413

Appellant's residence. Gibson and Newman searched Appellant's residence and discovered various items used for the manufacture of methamphetamine, including 144 pseudoephedrine tablets. Appellant was subsequently charged for the offense of ...


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