Submitted: October 20, 2017
from United States District Court for the District of South
Dakota - Sioux Falls
WOLLMAN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,
SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
an August 2016 jury trial, James Thompson was convicted of
possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Thompson appeals
his conviction. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
2015, Sioux Falls police received an anonymous tip that
Thompson was distributing controlled substances. While
surveilling Thompson's residence, police noticed a
garbage container in the driveway, located between the garage
door and the pedestrian door entrance to the
garage. Police then contacted Thompson's
garbage collection service to conduct a controlled trash
pull. On a regularly-scheduled day of collection, police
watched the garbage collector retrieve Thompson's garbage
container from its location in Thompson's driveway by the
garage door and dump its contents in the empty collection
area of the truck. Police then retrieved the trash from the
truck and searched it, finding several drug-related items.
The police conducted a similar trash pull the following week,
which revealed additional drug-related items and a receipt
for a storage unit. Based on these trash pulls-as well as
information received from an informant-police obtained a
search warrant for Thompson's residence, where they found
19 grams of methamphetamine inside a lockbox, $26, 063 in
cash hidden inside an ottoman, and drug paraphernalia. Police
later obtained a search warrant for Thompson's storage
unit in Luverne, Minnesota, which contained an additional
115.1 grams of methamphetamine and $36, 950 in cash.
to trial, Thompson moved to suppress all evidence obtained
from the searches, claiming the warrants were based on
unconstitutional trash pulls. Following an evidentiary
hearing, the magistrate judge recommended denying
Thompson's motion to suppress because no trespass
occurred or, alternatively, because Thompson did not have an
objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the trash.
The magistrate judge also found that probable cause existed
for the search warrants even absent the information obtained
from the trash pulls and, even if the warrants were invalid,
the Leon good faith exception applied. See United States
v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). The district
court denied Thompson's motion to suppress,
adopting the magistrate judge's report and recommendation
in part by agreeing that Thompson did not have an objectively
reasonable expectation of privacy in the trash and that, even
without the trash pulls, there was probable cause for the
search warrants. Thompson was convicted following a jury
trial and sentenced to 150 months imprisonment.
first challenges the district court's denial of his
motion to suppress. We review the district court's
factual findings for clear error and its legal conclusions de
novo. United States v. Farnell, 701 F.3d 256, 260
(8th Cir. 2012). We will "affirm [the] order denying
[Thompson's] motion to suppress unless the decision is
unsupported by substantial evidence, is based on an erroneous
view of the applicable law, or in light of the entire record,
we are left with a firm and definite conviction that a
mistake has been made." Id. at 260-61 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures . . . ." U.S.
Const. amend. IV. A warrantless search of an individual's
trash violates the Fourth Amendment only where the individual
has a "subjective expectation of privacy in [the]
garbage that society accepts as objectively reasonable."
California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35, 39 (1988).
well established that there is no reasonable
"expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in
an area accessible to the public." Id. at 41.
Thompson argues that because the trash was left in a
container next to his garage-rather than on a street curb-the
trash was within the curtilage of his home and thus he
retained a reasonable expectation of privacy in it. Yet,
assuming the trash was within the curtilage of Thompson's
home, "the proper focus under Greenwood
[remains] whether the garbage was readily accessible to the
public so as to render any expectation of privacy objectively
unreasonable." United States v. Comeaux, 955
F.2d 586, 589 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks
district court found that Thompson's trash was readily
accessible to the public. We agree. The trash was placed in a
location from which the garbage collectors regularly
collected it at the regularly-scheduled time of collection,
suggesting it was placed there "for the express purpose
of having strangers take it." See Greenwood,
486 U.S. at 40-41. Presumably, these strangers might
"sort through [the] trash or permit others, such as
the police, to do so." Id. at 40. The garbage
container was easily visible from the street, and there were
no barriers preventing access to the container or its
contents. See United States v. Segura-Baltazar, 448
F.3d 1281, 1288 (11th Cir. 2006) (finding no reasonable
expectation of privacy in trash containers left next to
garage where they were "plainly visible and accessible
from the street"); see also United States v.
Hedrick, 922 F.2d 396, 400 (7th Cir. 1991) ("[T]he
absence of a fence or any other barrier [is one indicator]
that the garbage was ...