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Yopp v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

October 26, 2018



          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Rob Eggert Louisville, Kentucky.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Jesse L. Robbins Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky.



          JOHNSON, JUDGE.

         Tyree Yopp appeals an order of the Hardin Circuit Court denying his motion to suppress certain statements and evidence on the basis that they were the product of an illegal traffic stop. Pursuant to an agreement with the Commonwealth, Yopp entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the trial court's denial of his suppression motion. After reviewing the record in conjunction with the applicable legal authority, we affirm the order of the circuit court.


         In January 2018, U.S. Post Office Inspectors notified officers of the Greater Hardin Narcotics Task Force that they had flagged as unusual three packages addressed to different locations in Hardin County. Involved in the resulting drug investigation were Task Force Managing Officer Clay Ellis, Task Force Detective Clinton Turner, Special Agent Jennifer Auckerman of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Kentucky State Police ("KSP") Officer Seth Payne. After examining the suspicious packages, Task Force officers determined that they contained marijuana and obtained search warrants for the three addresses on the packages. Task Force officers subsequently attempted controlled deliveries of the three packages, successfully making contact with residents at two of the addresses. During the execution of the search warrants at those two addresses, the contacted recipients stated that Yopp was the "final destination" of the package that each received and each identified Yopp after being shown his picture on his Facebook page.

         Upon receiving this information about Yopp from the package recipients, Task Force Detective Turner reviewed Yopp's Facebook page and noticed a picture of a black Chevy truck which purportedly belonged to him. During this time, Detective Turner, Special Agent Auckerman, and two other Task Force officers continued to watch the residence where they had left the third package outside in plain sight. While watching the residence, Detective Turner observed a truck similar to the one he had seen on Yopp's Facebook page driving back and forth in front of the premises with the package sitting outside. Detective Turner then conducted a record check on the truck's license plate and identified it as belonging to Yopp.

         Detective Turner requested that KSP Officer Payne perform a traffic stop of Yopp's truck, utilizing his K-9 drug-sniffing dog. After being stopped, Yopp gave Officer Payne permission to search his vehicle and told the officer there was a pistol in the truck. As Officer Payne took his dog around the exterior of the truck, it alerted to the presence of drugs within the vehicle. A subsequent search revealed a .45 caliber pistol and a jar with marijuana residue inside the vehicle. Detective Turner then read Yopp his Fifth Amendment rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), prior to questioning him. After Yopp disclosed his home address, Detective Turner asked permission to search the residence[1] and Yopp consented.

         While Detective Ellis drove Yopp's truck to the police station, Yopp rode with Detective Turner and Special Agent Auckerman to his residence. The vehicle in which Yopp rode was not marked as a police vehicle, did not have police lights or a cage, and he was not restrained while riding in the front seat.

         Upon arriving at Yopp's residence, Detective Turner knocked on the front door, which was ajar. Yopp, Detective Turner, and Special Agent Auckerman entered the residence and encountered two other individuals, one of whom was Yopp's roommate. Detective Turner gave the roommate Miranda warnings and both he and Yopp signed a consent to search form. Task Force officers discovered guns, cash, marijuana, marijuana butter, a marijuana butter machine, smoking apparatus, and other drug paraphernalia at the residence. Yopp then gave oral permission for Detective Turner to search his cell phone. Upon completing this search, Detective Turner discovered text messages corroborating the statements concerning Yopp's involvement which had been made by the residents of the first two addresses at which the suspicious packages had been delivered.

         Yopp and his roommate agreed to go to the police station, where they were again given Miranda warnings, and each signed a waiver administered by Detective Ellis. Detective Ellis interviewed the two men and then placed Yopp under arrest. Yopp ultimately pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana, greater than 5 pounds, gun enhanced;[2] complicity;[3] illegal use/possession of drug paraphernalia;[4] and engaging in organized crime.[5]


         Yopp argues in this appeal that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the evidence against him because the initial stop and search of his truck was not supported by reasonable suspicion. If the stop and search is invalid, Yopp insists that his consent to search his residence and cell phone was ...

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