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United States v. Macon

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

June 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
GARNDELL JEROME MACON, JR., Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on a motion to suppress filed by defendant Garndell Jerome Macon, Jr. (“Macon”). For the following reasons, the court denies Macon's motion in full.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 10, 2017, Charleston Police Department officers Mallek and Newcomb were on routine patrol in the parking lot of the Palace Apartments at 1000 King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The officers observed a number of individuals loitering in the parking lot and the odor of marijuana around a black Honda CRV (“Honda CRV”) located on the south side of the parking lot. The officers observed two individuals place a digital scale on the hood of the Honda CRV and quickly walk away. After searching around the Honda CRV, the officers found plastic baggy pieces, a digital scale, and multiple cigar wrappers. Officer Harkins, another officer in the Charleston Police Department, was then called to the scene. Harkins observed a black male with dreadlocks pick up a digital scale that had been on the hood of the Honda CRV, open the rear driver-side door, and remove a firearm. Officers Mallek and Newcomb then observed a black male matching the description provided to them by Officer Harkins running from the Honda CRV towards the front entrance of the apartment building, and entering a doorway on the south side of the first floor hallway.

         Officers Mallek and Newcomb then entered the apartment building and waited outside of apartment 106, the apartment that the officers had viewed the suspect run to. Lasheaka Nelson (“Nelson”), the tenant of apartment 106, opened the door to the apartment and informed the officers that her cousin Macon-a black male with dreadlocks who matched the description of the suspect-was located inside the apartment and provided verbal consent to the officers to enter the apartment. The officers detained Macon inside the apartment, and after some time, Charleston Police Department Sgt. LaFromboise entered the apartment and spoke with Nelson, who again provided consent to search the apartment. Nelson was then provided a “consent to search” form, which she signed.

         After Nelson signed the consent form and Macon had been detained, the officers went to the bedroom and lifted the mattress off the bed, finding a .45 caliber Glock 21 between the mattress and the box spring. The officers then arrested Macon, and during the resulting search of his person, found a plastic baggy of marijuana in Macon's right sock. The officers then went to the parking lot of the Palace Apartments and searched the Honda CRV. The officers found a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson XD handgun on the rear floorboard behind the driver's seat of the Honda CRV. Def.'s Mot. 5. While the officers were removing the Smith and Wesson handgun and its ammunition, the registered owner of the Honda CRV, Tiffany Jenkins (“Jenkins”), approached the officers and told them that the Honda CRV had been mechanically disabled and had not been able to be moved “for months.”[1]

         Macon has a 2001 conviction for assault with intent to kill, a crime carrying punishment of over one-year of imprisonment. Macon was arrested, and later indicted, for two counts of unlawful carrying of a handgun, two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and simple possession of marijuana.

         On February 1, 2017, Macon moved to suppress: (1) the Glock .45 caliber pistol and the .45 caliber ammunition found at Nelson's apartment, and the (2) Springfield Arms Smith and Wesson Model XD .40 caliber pistol and .40 caliber ammunition found in the Honda CRV. The government opposed the motion to suppress on April 20, 2017. The court held a hearing on April 25, 2017. The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Macon presents a number of different arguments challenging the constitutionality of the search of Nelson's apartment and of the Honda CRV. However, a person must have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the place searched to have standing to challenge a search under the Fourth Amendment. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 134 (1978). As explained below, Macon did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in either Nelson's apartment or the Honda CRV. Since the court finds that Macon does not have standing under the Fourth Amendment to challenge either search, it denies Macon's motion to suppress the evidence that was seized during the searches.

         A. Search of the Apartment

         Macon has no legitimate expectation of privacy in Nelson's apartment, so he does not have standing under the Fourth Amendment to challenge the search. Even if Macon did have standing, Nelson gave both verbal and written consent for officers to search the apartment. Accordingly, the court finds that search of the apartment did not impinge on Macon's Fourth Amendment rights and denies the motion to suppress as to the the Glock .45 Caliber pistol and .45 caliber ammunition found in the apartment.

         1. Fourth Amendment Standing

         The Fourth Amendment's guarantee of the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, ” protects individuals living in a large number of legal arrangements. U.S. Const. amend. IV. Not every visitor “merely present with the consent of the householder” has a legitimate expectation of privacy recognized by the Fourth Amendment. Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83, 90 (1998). However, a person “may have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the house of someone else.” Id. at 89. The fact that Macon was in Nelson's home at the time of the search does not, in and of itself, mean that he cannot claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment. ...


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