The STATE v. ROGERS.
-- February 21, 2013
Tracy Graham Lawson, Elizabeth A. Baker, for Appellant.Dorian Murry, for Appellee.
The State charged Travis Delroy Rogers with possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of piperazine in violation of the controlled substances act, and possession with intent to distribute piperazine. Prior to trial, Rogers moved on a number of grounds to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant of a Clayton County home, and the trial court granted in part the motion, finding that the warrant was supported by probable cause, and the search was constitutional, but that some evidence required suppression because the seizure was overly broad.1 The State appeals this determination, and we reverse.
“In reviewing the trial court's grant or denial of a motion to suppress, we apply the well-established principles that the trial court's findings as to disputed facts will be upheld unless clearly erroneous and the trial court's application of the law to undisputed facts is subject to de novo review.”2
So viewed, the evidence shows Officer Scott Malette received a call from a detective in connection with the drug arrest because the arrestee was willing to cooperate with police and provide names of individuals selling narcotics in the area-specifically, that a confidential informant (“the CI”) identified Travis Rogers, who resided on Babbling Brook Drive and would sell him marijuana or ecstacy. Based on the CI's statements regarding Rogers, Officer Malette set up two controlled buys using the CI to purchase marijuana and ecstacy from Rogers at 7068 Babbling Brook Drive. Based on the controlled buys, Officer Malette prepared an affidavit in support of a search warrant and later obtained a search warrant for the home. The warrant stated that
there is now located certain instruments, articles, person(s), or things, namely marijuana a controlled substance[.] Evidence of the crime of possession and/or the sale/distribution of marijuana and its proceeds, and fruits of the crime of violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act[,] which is being possessed in violation of Georgia Law.
Officers executed the warrant on February 18, 2011, but the home was empty at the time. Officers discovered “51 ounces ․ of marijuana, several [piperazine] tablets,3 hydrocodone [tablets], receipts in Rogers'[s] name as well as billing statements,” and other items in Rogers's codefendants' name. Officers also seized photographs picturing Rogers and his codefendant together and a camera. Officer Mallete testified that although no one was in the residence at the time of the search, the home was furnished, but the mail addressed to Rogers did not contain the Babbling Brook address. Rogers was later arrested at an apartment with his girlfriend.
1. As an initial matter, the State argues that Rogers did not have standing to challenge the search and seizure conducted at Babbling Brook Drive because he argued that he did not reside there.4 Although Rogers responds that the State has waived this argument because the State failed to object on standing grounds before the trial court, we find Rogers's argument unpersuasive because the trial court implicitly addressed the issue of standing by addressing the merits of Rogers's motion. Nevertheless, there was at least some evidence before the trial court that Rogers lived at the Babbling Brook address based on the testimony of Officer Malette, and we will not disturb that finding on appeal.
2. The State contends that the trial court erred by granting in part Rogers's motion to suppress on the basis that the seizure of items including papers, receipts, photographs, and a camera, was overly broad based on the language of the search warrant. We agree.5
A search which is reasonable at its inception may violate the Fourth Amendment by virtue of its intolerable intensity and scope. The scope of the search must be strictly tied to and justified by the circumstances which rendered its initiation permissible. Evidence may not be introduced if it was discovered by means of a seizure and search which were not reasonably related in scope to the justification for their initiation. A lawful search is limited to that which is described in the warrant. The warrant shall particularly describe the things to be seized and the search must be limited to that matter described.6
In this case, the trial court erred by suppressing evidence, including photographs, receipts, and a camera based on its determination that these “personal items” seized were “outside the scope of the search warrant.” The search warrant contained a residual clause allowing officers to search and seize “[e]vidence of the crime of possession and/or the sale/distribution of marijuana and its proceeds, and fruits of the crime,”7 which “sufficiently limited the searching officers' discretion” to seize only those items (namely, photographs of him within the home, documents bearing his name, and a camera, which could contain photographic evidence of possession of the narcotics) that linked Rogers to the marijuana and other contraband discovered in the home.8
Accordingly, the trial court's order is reversed to the extent that it suppressed these items.
DOYLE, Presiding Judge.
ANDREWS, P.J. and BOGGS, J., concur.