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United States v. Doss

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

May 4, 2017



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant James Edward Doss III's Motion to Suppress. [DN 13.] The United States responded. [DN 14.] The Court held an evidentiary hearing on November 22, 2016, at which it heard testimony from Kentucky State Police Troopers Sean Wint and Jim McArthur. [DN 16.] The United States filed a post-hearing brief, [DN 19], and Doss filed a response, [DN 20.] The United States did not reply. Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, Doss's Motion to Suppress, [DN 13], is DENIED.


         On December 4, 2015, Troopers Sean Wint and Jim McArthur of the Kentucky State Police (KSP) conducted a “knock and talk” at Defendant James (“Jay”) Doss's residence in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. [DN 16 at 10 (Evidentiary Hearing Transcript).] Prior to this encounter, Trooper Wint and Doss had lived next door to each other for approximately one year. [Id. at 6.] Shortly after Doss moved into the house next to Trooper Wint, Trooper Wint began receiving tips that Doss was “using and selling methamphetamines and pills next door.” [Id. at 7.] After a few weeks of receiving this information, Trooper Wint saw Doss in his driveway and waived. [Id.] But rather than waiving back, as he usually did, Doss appeared startled and quickly went into his house. [Id.] As more time passed, Trooper Wint and the KSP narcotics task force, the sheriff's department, and the local police department “continued to get tips . . . that [Doss] was doing illegal drug activity next door.” [Id. at 8.] During a visit to his daughter's school, a teacher told Trooper Wint that they “heard [Doss] [wa]s bragging that . . . him and his buddies [we]re doing meth next door to a state trooper.” [Id.] Additionally, Trooper Wint testified that he and his wife noticed constant traffic around Doss's house and that they could hear cars arriving and leaving and people entering and exiting Doss's house “all hours of the day or night all week long.” [Id.] They also heard Doss “doing some type of construction stuff next door” during the day and “all through the night, into the next day, and sometimes in through the next night nonstop.” [Id. at 8-9.]

         It was the combination of these incidents that led Trooper Wint to decide to perform a knock and talk at Doss's house. [Id. at 10.] Shortly before 11:00 a.m. on December 4, 2015, Trooper Wint and Trooper McArthur approached Doss's front door in their full police uniforms. [Id.] Immediately upon knocking, the troopers heard people running inside the house. [Id.] After no one answered the door, they kept knocking, and Trooper Wint yelled “Jay, it's Sean, [your] next-door neighbor.” [Id.] When Doss eventually answered the door, Trooper Wint told him “Hey, I need to talk to you for a minute.” [Id. at 10-11.] When Doss hesitated, Trooper Wint said “Jay, it's not going to take but a minute. I do need to talk to you. It's important.” [Id. at 11] Trooper Wint testified that at that point, Doss “stepped back out of the doorway and he let us into his home.” [Id.] Though Trooper Wint could not recall Doss giving verbal consent, after reviewing the report he completed the next day which stated verbal consent was given, Trooper Wint testified that “[h]e would have given us verbal consent.” [Id. at 46-47.] Moreover, Trooper McArthur testified that Doss stated “Come on. Come on in.” [Id. at 61.]

         Upon entering, the troopers asked Doss whether there were any other people in the house. [Id. at 12.] Doss stated that there were, and Trooper Wint yelled for them to come to the living room. [Id.] In response, a male and a female appeared from the hallway. Trooper Wint and Trooper McArthur asked the male and female to sit on the couch in the living room and, though Doss “didn't think” there was anyone else in the house, the troopers asked for Doss's permission to do a safety walk-through of the house. [Id.] Doss verbally agreed, and he and Trooper McArthur conducted the walk-through together. [Id. at 12; 44-45.] Meanwhile, Trooper Wint attempted to identify the male and female individuals, whom he later identified as Arthur Sivels and Alicia Reyes. [Id. at 12-13; 17.] ] The troopers discovered that Sivels had a warrant out for his arrest, at which point he was placed under arrest and put in handcuffs. [Id. at 13.] Upon searching his person, the troopers found a small bag of marijuana in his pocket. [Id. at 13-14.]

         During the walk-through, Trooper McArthur observed a live shotgun shell in the closet and what appeared to be a gun case leaning against the closet wall. [Id. at 52-53.] Trooper McArthur asked Doss if the firearm was stolen, and Doss said stated that it was not and that he or his family had had the gun for a long time. [Id.] When Doss and Trooper McArthur returned from the walk-through, Trooper McArthur told Trooper Wint that he observed a firearm in the closet of the back bedroom of the house. [Id. at 13; 54.] The troopers were aware that Doss had a prior felony conviction and therefore that it was illegal for Doss to possess a firearm or ammunition. [Id.]

         Trooper Wint asked Doss to sit down on the couch in the living room and informed him that he had received information that Doss was engaging in drug activity next door to him. [Id.] Trooper Wint also told Doss that he needed to pat him down and search him to verify that Doss did not have anything on him. [Id. at 14.] Doss got up from the couch and walked over to Trooper Wint, who asked if he could search Doss's pockets, himself, and his residence. [Id.] Doss consented. [Id.] Trooper Wint testified that Doss “was extremely cooperative the whole time” and that “it was a very cordial . . . encounter.” [Id.] Doss said something to the effect of “do whatever you need to do. I'm not going to give you any trouble.” [Id. at 14-15.] Likewise, Trooper McArthur testified that Doss was “very cooperative” and, at times, “upset at himself.” [Id. at 54-55.] Trooper McArthur further stated that it appeared as if Doss “was glad he got caught. He was relieved.” [Id. at 55.]

         After Trooper Wint performed the pat down and before having Doss sit back down on the couch, Trooper Wint searched the couch in the living room to verify that there were no weapons being stored there. [Id. at 15.] He found a small black magnetic key box and asked Doss what it was. [Id.] In response, Doss “took a deep breath, he sighed, and he just hung his head down.” [Id.] Because Doss had already given Trooper Wint verbal consent to search his house, Trooper Wint opened the key box and found “two bags of a white crystal substance that appeared to be crystal methamphetamine.” [Id.][1]

         After Doss sat back on the couch, Trooper Wint read Doss his Miranda rights from “KSP Form 96, which is the statement of rights and waiver of those rights.” [Id. at 15-16.] Trooper Wint testified that he does not read Miranda rights “from memory. [He] read[s] it directly off the paper.” [Id. at 16.] He then had Doss read the form and sign it, which was witnessed by Trooper Wint and the female individual, Reyes. [Id.] The time on listed on the form is 11:05 a.m. [Id. at 19.] Doss “requested at some point to call his mother . . . [Trooper Wint] consented to that, said that would be fine.” [Id. at 15.]

         Trooper Wint asked Doss if there were any other firearms in the house, and Doss responded that he had another one in the back bedroom. [Id. at 17.] Before Trooper Wint performed a more detailed search, he asked Doss to sign a “KSP Form 23, which is the consent to search” form. [Id. at 19.] The form provides that a person “has a right to refuse to give consent, ” and states that the signer “has not been threatened or coerced in any way and he's not been promised any sort of favor or benefit in return for executing the form.” [Id. at 20.] Doss signed the form at about 11:30 a.m. [Id. at 19.] Trooper McArthur testified that he was present when Doss signed this form. [Id. at 56.]

         After getting the written consent from Doss, [2] Trooper Wint and Doss went into the back bedroom and Doss, now in handcuffs, showed Trooper Wint the dresser in which the firearm was being kept. [Id.] Doss became very upset and started to cry at this point. [Id.] The drawer to the dresser was locked, so Doss got the key and unlocked it. [Id.] Upon opening the drawer, Trooper Wint found a 9mm handgun. [Id.] Trooper Wint again asked Doss if any more firearms remained in the house, and Doss responded that there were more in his safe. [Id.]

         The safe was on the floor behind the bedroom door, and Doss gave Trooper Wint the combination to open it. [Id. at 17-18.] Inside the safe, Trooper Wint found a .40 caliber handgun which, when he ran the serial numbers through the Christian County Sherriff's Department, showed was stolen. [Id. at 18.] Also inside the safe was another black magnetic key box in which Trooper Wint again found multiple small bags of what appeared to be crystal methamphetamine.[3] [Id.] The safe also contained “a quantity of pills, baggies, scales, marijuana, and a lot of other . . . paraphernalia used or commonly used to traffic narcotics.” [Id.]

         After Trooper Wint's search of the dresser and the safe, he called the Hopkinsville Police Department for back up to help perform a more detailed search of the residence and to bring evidence bags and other materials to the house. [Id. at 20.] After those officers arrived, they all performed ...

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