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Joseph Randall Owens v. the State of Wyoming

February 6, 2012

JOSEPH RANDALL OWENS, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant, Joseph Randall Owens, entered a conditional guilty plea to felony possession of methamphetamine in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(ii). He reserved the right to appeal the constitutionality of the search that resulted in discovery of the methamphetamine. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Appellant presents the following issue:

Should the motion to suppress evidence seized in a warrantless search of Appellant's containers have been granted?

FACTS

[¶3] An officer of the Gillette Police Department was dispatched to a local Gillette motel in response to a 911 call reporting a medical emergency. The officer, who was also a trained emergency medical technician, arrived before any medical personnel and was led to Appellant's motel room by the woman who had reported the emergency. The woman was a friend of Appellant's and had been staying with her children in an adjoining room. She had gone to Appellant's room earlier that morning to wake Appellant so they could check out of the motel. Soon after she roused Appellant, however, he collapsed onto the floor. When she asked Appellant whether she should call 911, Appellant "said yes, that he didn't want to die."

[¶4] When the officer entered Appellant's room, he found Appellant on his back on the floor, convulsing. His eyes were extremely wide, and he was unable to focus. Appellant did not respond to the officer's attempts to communicate with him. The officer asked Appellant's friend if she knew anything about Appellant's condition, but she was unable to provide any pertinent information. Emergency medical personnel arrived as the officer was attempting to gather information from Appellant's friend.

[¶5] As the medical personnel tended to Appellant, the officer looked around the room in an attempt to determine the cause of Appellant's condition. The officer noticed a backpack on the bed. He opened the front compartment and found a black plastic case. Inside the case, the officer found transparent pill bottles lacking prescription labels. Noticing that the bottles contained a substance that was not in pill form, the officer opened the bottles and discovered that the substance appeared to be methamphetamine. The officer found a second case in another compartment of Appellant's backpack that contained a triangular metal dish and a spoon. The officer informed the medical personnel of what he had found, which prompted them to begin treating Appellant for a suspected drug overdose.

[¶6] After Appellant was taken to the hospital, the officer secured Appellant's motel room. At some point prior to applying for a search warrant, the officer entered Appellant's friend's room and retrieved a cardboard box from a trash can.*fn1 The officer made no reference to this evidence in his affidavit supporting the warrant to search Appellant's motel room. After a search warrant was authorized, the officer returned to Appellant's motel room and seized evidence of drug use from a duffel bag, including a pipe, multiple syringes, and a spoon.

[¶7] Appellant was charged with possession of methamphetamine in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(ii). He filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the officer's warrantless search. After a hearing, Appellant's motion was denied. Appellant then entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to challenge the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court imposed a ...


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