United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on Kenneth Lamont Sanders'
(“defendant”) Motion to Suppress Evidence. (Doc.
7). The Government timely filed its resistance (Doc. 9), and
I held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on August 1,
2018. For the following reasons, I recommend the Court
deny defendant's motion.
February 16, 2018, just prior to 10:00 A.M., the Dubuque
Police Department received a call from N.R.'s
grandmother. N.R. is the daughter of Karina LaFrancois, who
was defendant's girlfriend on the date in question. N.R.,
who was eleven years old at the time, called her grandmother
on the phone and explained that Ms. LaFrancois and
defendant were fighting in their residence. N.R.'s
grandmother told the 911 operator that her granddaughter told
her that Ms. LaFrancois and defendant were “fighting
really bad, ” but the grandmother did not know why Ms.
LaFrancois and defendant were fighting, or whether the
“fight” was verbal as opposed to physical.
N.R.'s grandmother also did not know whether any weapons
were involved. The grandmother informed the 911 operator that
three minor children were present in the residence: N.R. and
two other children, ages seven and one. The grandmother also
informed the 911 operator that she had difficulty
Police Officers were dispatched to the residence. The
dispatcher did not share the complete details of the 911 call
with the officers who were dispatched. Rather, the dispatcher
told Officer Joel Cross only that there was a domestic
disturbance, but made no mention of a fight, injury, or
firearm. Officer Cross was the first to arrive at the
residence, and Officer Tom Pregler arrived shortly
thereafter. Several other officers subsequently arrived at
the residence as well. When Officer Cross arrived at the
residence, he observed N.R. through an upstairs window
“acting excited, ” and gesturing at Officer
Cross. It is unclear what N.R. intended to communicate with
Cross and Pregler knocked on the front door, and Ms.
LaFrancois came outside to talk to the officers. Officer
Pregler described Ms. LaFrancois as “very
emotional” and “unstable.” Officer Pregler
testified that Ms. LaFrancois had visible injuries in the
form of red marks on her face and neck. (Exhibits 6-8). Ms.
LaFrancois, however, told the officers that everything was
officers informed Ms. LaFrancois that they also needed to
talk to defendant. Ms. LaFrancois explicitly stated that she
did not want the officers to enter the residence and offered
to have defendant speak with the officers outside. The
officers initially assented to speaking with defendant
outside. When Ms. LaFrancois opened the door to go inside to
ask defendant to speak with the officers outside, crying
could be heard coming from inside the residence, though it
was unclear, specifically, who was crying or where the crying
was coming from. Upon hearing the crying, the officers who
were positioned outside the residence had a brief discussion
as to whether they should enter the house to check on the
crying person, and the officers ultimately decided to enter
the officers were inside the residence, defendant was very
noncompliant, uncooperative, and argumentative. At some
point, Ms. LaFrancois reentered the residence. Both defendant
and Ms. LaFrancois adamantly insisted, repeatedly, that they
did not want the officers inside the house and that defendant
would go outside to speak with them. Defendant repeatedly
referred to the house as Ms. LaFrancois' house, and when
later asked if defendant and Ms. LaFrancois lived together,
defendant replied “I don't live here.”
(Exhibit 2). Officers separated defendant and Ms. LaFrancois,
with Ms. LaFrancois stepping outside. While outside, Ms.
LaFrancois stated that defendant was living in the residence.
Officers also learned that defendant and Ms. LaFrancois had a
child together. Neither defendant nor Ms. LaFrancois ever
gave the officers permission to be in the house or to search
the house, and the officers did not have a search warrant.
Officer Cross started to go upstairs to speak with N.R.,
defendant attempted to physically block Officer Cross from
communicating with either N.R. or N.R.'s brother, who was
also upstairs. Officer Cross eventually made it past
defendant and was able to converse with N.R., at which time
N.R. told Officer Cross that although she never saw defendant
in possession of a firearm during the argument, N.R. could
hear her mother yelling “Put the gun down! Put the gun
down!” (Exhibit 1). N.R. further stated to Officer
Cross that it sounded like Ms. LaFrancois was being choked
during the argument.
told Officer Cross that the gun could be in a drawer in the
downstairs living room. Officer Cross immediately went back
downstairs and searched the drawer; however, he did not
locate the firearm there. Officer Cross then spoke with Ms.
LaFrancois, who initially denied there was a gun present. She
eventually admitted that she believed defendant had a gun
while the couple was arguing, based on defendant holding his
arm behind his body as though he was reaching for a gun that
was tucked into his waistband. Officer Cross asked Ms.
LaFrancois where the gun was and after initially denying any
knowledge of the gun's location, Ms. LaFrancois stated
that it could be in the couch. Officer Cross looked in the
couch and located the gun. After Officer Cross found the gun,
the officers further questioned defendant and Ms. LaFrancois
concerning the gun and the circumstances surrounding the
fight that ultimately led to the officers being dispatched to
Warrantless Search Standards
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures.” Evidence obtained in violation
of the Fourth Amendment may be excludable. United States
v. Peltier, 422 U.S. 531, 535-39 (1975). “[T]he
exclusionary rule reaches not only primary evidence obtained
as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure, but also
evidence later discovered and found to be derivative of an
illegality or fruit of the poisonous tree.” Segura
v. United States, 468 U.S. 796, 804 (1984) (citations
and internal quotations marks omitted).
officers conduct a search pursuant to their community
caretaker functions or to exigent circumstances, however, no
Fourth Amendment violation has occurred. See United
States v. Quezada, 448 F.3d 1005, 1007 (8th Cir. 2006).
Similarly, officers are not required to obtain a warrant to
search when exigent circumstances are present. United
States v. Ramirez, 676 F.3d 755, 759 (8th Cir. 2012).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained the
differences between when an officer conducts a ...