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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LAMONT MONTEE WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Paul G. Crawford, District Associate Judge.

         A defendant appeals convictions for possession of marijuana; failure to affix a drug tax stamp; possession of cocaine, third or subsequent offense; and possession of hydrocodone, third or subsequent offense.

          Andrew J. Boettger of Hastings, Gartin & Boettger, L.L.P., Ames, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         Lamont Montee Williams appeals from his convictions for possession of marijuana; failure to affix a drug tax stamp; possession of cocaine; third or subsequent offense; and possession of hydrocodone, third or subsequent offense. Williams maintains the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence because the search-warrant application did not provide sufficient basis to support probable cause and the required nexus between the items sought pursuant to the warrant and the people or places searched.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On November 9, 2015, Ames Police officers responded to a call from Sandra Fairbanks reporting a broken window at her residence. While discussing the incident with Fairbanks at the front door to her residence, Officer Vincent Junior reported he could smell marijuana and see a hazy smoke inside the residence. After entering the residence with Fairbanks' consent, Officer Junior conducted a protective sweep, handcuffed the occupants of the residence-including Williams, Fairbanks, and a third adult-and applied for a search warrant. A warrant was issued to search the Fairbanks residence and the three individuals, including Williams, found there by the officers. In executing the search pursuant to the warrant, officers found $1240 in cash and a key to the apartment in Williams's pockets. In a bedroom, officers found marijuana, white powder later identified as cocaine, and a prescription bottle with two hydrocodone pills. Mail with Williams's name and male clothing were also found in the bedroom.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Because this case involves the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, our review of the district court's suppression ruling is de novo. See State v. Davis, 679 N.W.2d 651, 656 (Iowa 2004). To determine whether probable cause has been established for the issuance of a search warrant, we review the totality of the circumstances. Id. We do not make an independent determination of probable cause but determine whether the issuing judge had a substantial basis for concluding probable cause existed. Id. We examine only the information actually presented to the court at the time of the application for the warrant. Id.

         III. Discussion.

         a. Probable Cause.

         The Iowa Supreme Court has held a trained officer's detection of a sufficiently distinctive odor, by itself or when accompanied by other facts, may establish probable cause. State v. Watts, 801 N.W.2d 845, 854 (Iowa 2011). Williams argues the warrant application did not demonstrate Officer Junior was qualified to recognize the odor of marijuana. Officer Junior's warrant application asserts there were illegal narcotics in the residence because he could "smell the odor of raw or burnt marijuana" from outside the residence. Williams claims ...


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