Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Opinion Digests / Criminal Law / Suppression Order Reversed in Meth-Lab Case

Suppression Order Reversed in Meth-Lab Case

A deputy who accompanied a social worker to a home to investigate the possible presence of children in a methamphetamine-manufacturing site had probable cause and exigent circumstances to enter the home, after observing items used to manufacture the drug in a burn pile outside the home and hearing movement inside when the deputy knocked at the door, before the occupants opened the door.

The commonwealth argues the deputy’s decision to enter the residence was supported by probable cause and exigent circumstances. We agree.

Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to appellees, who prevailed at the suppression hearing, we conclude the information known by the deputy at the time of his warrantless entry into the residence supports a finding of probable cause and exigent circumstances.

The deputy testified he received a phone call from a social worker who was concerned that methamphetamine was being manufactured at this residence with children present. He had previously received several anonymous tips regarding the same illegal activity. While the deputy was walking outside the residence, he observed a burn pile, Coleman fuel and a clear one-liter bottle. He explained that these items, when used together, indicate “possible methamphetamine labs.” Based on his training and experience, the deputy had probable cause to believe this residence was being used to manufacture methamphetamine. He reasonably concluded that a criminal offense had been or was being committed.

Our inquiry then becomes one of whether exigent circumstances existed to justify the deputy’s entry into the residence without a warrant. We find that they did.

When the deputy knocked on the door earlier, he heard movement inside the trailer. He also observed a large window at the front of the residence, unobstructed by blinds or curtains, allowing the residents to look outside and ascertain his presence as a police officer. Appellee responded within seconds, suggesting to the deputy that the residents did, in fact, know he was present on the property.

Methamphetamine is easily disposed of, and the deputy was aware that the evidence could possibly be destroyed during the time he left the property to obtain a search warrant. The deputy also testified to the volatile nature of manufacturing methamphetamine. He held a reasonable concern that because the residents were manufacturing methamphetamine, the residents and/or responding officers could be injured at any time. Finally, based on information from the social worker, the deputy thought it possible that children could be present inside the residence and need protection.

We find the deputy had probable cause and exigent circumstances to enter the premises without a warrant.

The suppression order is reversed and case remanded.

Commonwealth v. Turner (Frank) No. 2276-12-3, May 14, 2013; Floyd County Cir.Ct. (Melesco) Elizabeth C. Kiernan, AAG, for appellant; Dennis E. Nagel for appellee. VLW 013-7-149(UP), 8 pp.

VLW 013-7-149

Leave a Reply