State v. Urziceanu

State v. Urziceanu, 2015 MT 58 (Feb. 24, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether deputies violated defendant’s constitutional rights by entering his property to assist with a civil standby.

Short Answer: No, based on the plain view doctrine.

Affirmed 

Facts: Sheriff’s deputies accompanied Christine Robutka to a 15-acre rural property so that she could remove her belongings. Robutka lived with two men at the property, one of them Urziceanu, and was worried they might cause trouble upon her moving out.

The property is fenced and marked with no trespassing signs, with the house at the end of a 100-foot private driveway. Three deputies in two vehicles drove halfway up the driveway behind Robutka, and parked. One testified that upon getting out of his car, he saw a glassed-in porch in which he saw several marijuana plants. Robutka went in the front door; through the open door, the deputy saw more marijuana plants, and took a picture.

Two days later, a detective interviewed Robutka, who said Urzinceanu was growing marijuana at the house. The detective sought and obtained a search warrant. The sheriff’s department executed the warrant and seized several marijuana plants.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The state charged Urziceanu with criminal cultivation of marijuana. Urziceanu moved to suppress, arguing the state violated his right to privacy and his Fourth Amendment rights. At the suppression hearing, Urziceanu testified Robutka lived on the property for two weeks in September 2012, and did not have permission to be in the house or on the property. The district court denied the motion, and Urziceanu appeals. The Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Even if Robutka did not have authority to enter the property, the deputies reasonably believed she did at the time they entered the property. They therefore did not violate Urziceanu’s constitutional rights by entering the property to conduct the civil standby. The deputy was lawfully on the property when he first saw the marijuana plants, the marijuana plants were in plain view, and the search was proper.