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Workman v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 18, 2019

J. BRANDON WORKMAN, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

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

          Representing Appellant: David McCarthy of David McCarthy, P.C., Rawlins, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Bridget L. Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Emily M. Croucher, Student Intern. Argument by Ms. Croucher.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.


         [¶1] Appellant, J. Brandon Workman, entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance, in violation of Wyoming Statute § 35-7-1031(c)(iii), reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Finding no error, we affirm the denial of the motion to suppress and, thus, Mr. Workman's conviction and sentence.


         [¶2] We combine and rephrase the parties' issues into the following dispositive questions:

1.Whether Mr. Workman preserved his argument that Deputy Christopher Case deliberately included misstatements in his affidavit, and, if so, whether those misstatements were necessary to establish probable cause to search Mr. Workman's camper.
2.Whether deputies obtained evidence necessary to establish probable cause to search the camper in violation of Mr. Workman's rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.


         [¶3] On September 8, 2017, Weston County Fire Warden Daniel Tysdal reported to a fire which had broken out on private property near Breakneck Road.[1] At approximately 6:20 p.m., Warden Tysdal contacted the Weston County Sherriff's Office and requested it dispatch a deputy to "discuss possible causes of the fire[] and possible violations" of state law. The Sherriff's Office dispatched Deputy Case.

         [¶4] On reaching the scene, Deputy Case noticed the fire "was in the process of being put out." He also noticed "a camper next to the fire, maybe within 20 feet at best, and various items outside the camper that may or may not be flammable." Deputy Case then spoke to Warden Tysdal, who informed him that "unknown means" started the fire, that the fire had spread to seven and one-half acres, and that neighbors and passersby indicated that Mr. Workman owned the property. After speaking with Warden Tysdal, Deputy Case attempted to "check" inside the camper due to its "proximity . . . [to] where the fire started," to make sure no one was inside, and also to determine any possible reasons the fire started.

         [¶5] The means Deputy Case used to "check" inside the camper are critical to this case. After noticing that a padlock secured the camper's sole door, Deputy Case noticed a window, with a gap in its curtains, next to the front door (i.e., "the first window").[2] Deputy Case looked through that window and saw drug paraphernalia and other items which led him to question whether the camper housed a "meth lab." Deputy Case notified Deputy Dan Fields who then notified Deputy Jason Jenkins. After Deputies Fields and Jenkins arrived, Deputy Case educated them on his findings. Then, at some point, one of the Deputies opened the plastic covering the large front window (i.e., "the second window") to take pictures to send to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to confirm whether the camper was a "meth lab." DCI disabused the Deputies' concern that the camper housed a "meth lab," but suggested that the objects in the picture required further investigation.

         [¶6] Deputy Case returned to the Sherriff's Office to prepare an affidavit and obtain a warrant to search the camper. At approximately 3:30 a.m. the following morning, September 9, a magistrate granted the warrant and Deputy Case returned to the scene to transport the camper to the Sherriff's impound lot. Deputy Case returned to execute the warrant around 2:00 p.m. that day. The padlock on the camper's front door was cut, and Deputies found 13.85 ounces of marijuana and a bag containing 0.79 grams of methamphetamine inside.

         [¶7] The State charged Mr. Workman with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, and later amended the information to add a charge for possession of a controlled substance. Mr. Workman filed a motion to suppress, challenging "the reasonableness of a search on September 8, 2017, and the probable cause for Search Warrants issued on September 9, 2017 and September 12, 2017."[3] Mr. Workman's counsel premised his argument on a misunderstanding of the timeline of Deputy Case's actions on the night of the fire. In short, he believed that Deputy Case searched the camper by cutting the padlock and entering the camper before he had obtained the search warrant; and, most notably, that Deputy Case subsequently based his affidavit on what he saw in plain view during that search. From there, ...

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