On Appeal from the 32nd Judicial District Court, In and for Terrebonne Parish, State of Louisiana. Trial Court No. 670053. The Honorable David W. Arceneaux, Judge Presiding.
Joseph L. Waitz, Jr., District Attorney, Jason A. Dagate, Ellen Daigle Doskey, Assistant District Attorneys, Houma, Louisiana, Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellee, State of Louisiana.
Powell Miller, Louisiana Appellate Project, New Orleans, Louisiana, Attorney for Defendant/ Appellant, Dontrell Derrell Robertson.
BEFORE: PARRO, McDONALD, AND CRAIN, JJ. McDONALD, J. concurs and assign reasons.
[2014 0612 La.App. 1 Cir. 2]
Defendant, Dontrell Derrell Robertson, pled guilty under State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La. 1976), to charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and obstruction of justice. He now appeals, challenging the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress the physical evidence against him. We affirm the convictions and sentences and remand with instructions.
On the night of October 22, 2013, Lieutenant Dallas Bookenberger and other officers with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office were patrolling a known high-crime area and observed defendant and another man in a parking lot, standing near the passenger side of a white Jeep Cherokee. Upon noticing the patrol vehicle, defendant and the other man appeared to be startled and began moving away from the Cherokee. When the officers exited the patrol vehicle, defendant began running across the parking lot toward a barbershop across Main Street. Lieutenant Bookenberger chased defendant and saw him disappear through a chain-link fence into an unlit grassy area behind the residence. Seconds later, defendant reappeared, walking casually as if nothing had happened. Defendant was arrested for resisting an officer, and Lieutenant Bookenberger proceeded into the grassy area where defendant had disappeared, and observed a .38 caliber pistol, lying in the open on the ground. After it was discovered that defendant was a convicted felon, he was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and obstruction of justice.
Defendant filed a motion to suppress the physical evidence against him, claiming that the pistol was seized during an illegal, warrantless search. The trial court determined that the officers had a right to detain and question defendant based on their reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and that Lieutenant Bookenberger' s entry into the grassy area where the pistol was discovered was [2014 0612 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] justified by exigent circumstances. After the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress the physical evidence obtained during the warrantless search, the defendant entered a Crosby plea, preserving his right to seek review of the trial court's ruling on the motion to suppress.
On appeal, defendant argues there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless search, and the evidence seized without a warrant should have been suppressed.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 5, of the Louisiana Constitution protect people against unreasonable searches and seizures, which protection extends to the curtilage of a home. See Oliver v. US., 466 U.S. 170, 180, 104 S.Ct. 1735, 1742, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984); State v. Brisban, 00-3437 (La. 2/26/02), 809 So.2d 923, 928. A search and seizure conducted without a warrant issued on probable cause is per se unreasonable unless the warrantless search and seizure was justified by one of the narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as the existence of exigent ...