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Giles v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

April 12, 2019

KRISTEN GILES APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE BARRY WILLETT, JUDGE ACTION NO. 14-CR-002056

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Yvette DeLaGuardia Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Joseph A. Newberg, II Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky

          BEFORE: COMBS, NICKELL AND K. THOMPSON, JUDGES.

          OPINION REVERSING AND REMANDING

          NICKELL, JUDGE.

         Kristen Giles ("Giles")[1] entered a conditional guilty plea pursuant to RCr[2] 8.09 in the Jefferson Circuit Court on March 1, 2018, to the charges of trafficking in a controlled substance in the first degree, [3] possession of drug paraphernalia, [4] and planting, cultivating or harvesting marijuana with intent to sell or transfer (less than five plants), [5] for which he received a sentence of two years' imprisonment on each count to run concurrently for a total sentence of two years' imprisonment. The sentence was probated for a period of five years. Within his guilty plea, Giles reserved the right to appeal the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized at his arrest. It is from that denial he appeals to this Court.

         The undisputed facts of this case were presented during a suppression hearing convened on October 21, 2015. On February 25, 2014, Detective James Kaufling of the Louisville Metro Police Department received a call from a confidential informant[6] regarding cocaine and marijuana trafficking at an apartment on South 8th Street in Louisville, Kentucky. The caller told Det. Kaufling a black male using the name "P" was the trafficker, and informed him of the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle "P" drove. Using this information, Det. Kaufling found the vehicle was registered to Holyparadox Apollyon and learned he had a history of drug convictions. Det. Kaufling subsequently initiated surveillance on the apartment specified by the confidential informant.

         On the evening of March 7, 2014, Det. Kaufling observed an unknown black male exit the rear door of the apartment he was watching and proceed to walk in a southerly direction. Det. Kaufling, along with other officers, approached the subject approximately one block south of the apartment and engaged him in conversation. Upon inquiry, the subject informed officers his name was Holyparadox Apollyon. Detecting an odor of marijuana, Det. Kaufling asked the man if he had illicit drugs on him, to which the man replied in the affirmative; a bag of marijuana was retrieved from his right coat pocket. Contemporaneously, Det. Kaufling was informed Giles had an outstanding arrest warrant from Indiana. Giles was placed under arrest and secured with handcuffs.

         Following the arrest, officers escorted Giles back to his apartment. Det. Kaufling admitted he had not observed anyone other than Giles entering or leaving the apartment during his surveillance. When officers arrived at the front door of the apartment, they heard no noises and noticed no movement inside. Nevertheless, the officers entered the apartment using a key obtained from Giles, ostensibly to ensure no other persons were present and secure it until a search warrant could be procured. While inside, officers observed crack cocaine and a small marijuana grow operation in plain view. An affidavit for search warrant was prepared which included reference to the illicit items seen in the apartment during the warrantless entry.

         Upon execution of the ensuing search warrant, officers seized multiple incriminating items and Giles was subsequently indicted on the aforementioned charges. Giles moved to suppress the items seized from his apartment. After the trial court denied the motion, Giles entered a negotiated plea with the Commonwealth, reserving the right to appeal the adverse decision. This appeal followed.

         When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, this Court examines the trial court's findings of fact to confirm they are supported by substantial evidence. Peyton v. Commonwealth, 253 S.W.3d 504, 514 (Ky. 2008) (citing Adcock v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 6, 8 (Ky. 1998)). Here, the trial court's factual findings are not in dispute and appear to be sufficiently supported by the record. Thus, we proceed to conducting a de novo review of the trial court's legal conclusions. Id. at 514-15.

         Giles asserts the officers unlawfully entered his apartment without a warrant and without proof of exigent circumstances. He further asserts the trial court failed to consider defects in the search warrant affidavit and relied on facts unsupported by substantial evidence. Thus, he posits the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. The Commonwealth contends officers had probable cause to enter Giles' apartment to conduct a protective sweep based on the totality of the circumstances, the search warrant was valid, and the evidence was admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine. We agree with Giles.

We begin by noting that "the touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness," which "is measured in objective terms by examining the totality of the circumstances." Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 39, 117 S.Ct. 417, 136 L.Ed.2d 347 (1996) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the absence of consent, police may not conduct a warrantless search or seizure within a private residence without both probable cause and exigent circumstances. Kirk, 536 U.S. at 638, 122 S.Ct. 2458; Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). Any other search is per se unreasonable. Id. at 586-87, 100 S.Ct. 1371. See also Cook v. Commonwealth, 826 S.W.2d 329, 331 (Ky. 1992). The Commonwealth carries the burden to demonstrate that the warrantless entry falls within a recognized exception to ...

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