State v. Kant

State v. Kant, 2016 MT 42 (Feb. 23, 2016) (Cotter, J., for the majority; Shea, J., dissenting) (4-1, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Kant’s motion to suppress and dismiss.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Bradley Kant and his wife, Crystal, had registered caregiver’s licenses under the Montana Marijuana Act allowing them to grow and distribute marijuana in accordance with the law. Upon expiration of their licenses they did not renew them, but continued growing and distributing marijuana.

Upon information provided by two people, Detective Tim Barnes obtained a search warrant to search the Kants’ residence. The detectives seized 67 plants, 12 pounds of prepared product, and multiple items of paraphernalia.

On Feb. 3, 2015, the state charged the Kants with criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs, criminal possession with intent to distribute, and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Kant moved to suppress all evidence on the grounds that Barnes’ application for the search warrant lacked sufficient facts to establish probable cause. The district court denied the motion, and Kant entered into a plea agreement under which charges against Crystal were dismissed and he pled guilty to criminal possession with intent to distribute, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. He was sentenced to five years to the DOC, all suspended. Kant appeals and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: The Court applies a three-part test to determine whether probable cause exists to issue a search warrant. Reesman, ¶¶ 28-31. Kant argues that the district court applied Barnaby in such a way that it failed to properly apply the Reesman test, that it relied on stale information, and that the magistrate erroneously inferred facts that were not stated in the warrant application. The Court concludes the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding there was a probability of criminal activity, and affirms the denial of Kant’s suppression motion.

Justice Shea’s Dissent: Justice Shea would reverse the order denying Kant’s motion to suppress on the grounds that the warrant application did not demonstrate sufficient independent corroboration of the confidential informant’s tip. Corroboration must consist of more than innocent, public information. The only two facts corroborated by Barnes were Crystal’s cell phone number and the observation that the vehicle from which an unidentified person emerged at Jeffries’ house was registered to Kant. Neither fact bears any weight on the reliability of the informant’s tip that the Kants were growing marijuana.