APPEAL FROM SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. CR-2014-918] HONORABLE JAMES O. COX, JUDGE
David L. Dunagin, for appellant.
Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
BART F. VIRDEN, Judge
Travis Wayne Jordan was convicted by a Sebastian County Circuit Court jury of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B felony; and possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. The circuit court sentenced Jordan as a habitual offender to thirty years' imprisonment for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, thirty years' suspended imposition of sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia, and one year in jail for possession of marijuana. On appeal, Jordan argues that the evidence to convict him was insufficient and that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.
I. Facts and Procedural History
On March 17, 2015, Jordan filed a motion to suppress the evidence that was found when the police entered his motel room without a warrant. On May 6, 2015, there was a hearing on the matter. Amanda Ibarra, the Motel 6 manager on duty on October 1, 2014, when the contraband was discovered, testified. Ibarra stated that a housekeeper told her that Jordan had been arrested on the motel property immediately after he had come to the office that morning and paid for his room through the next day. Ibarra explained that Motel 6 had a policy of immediately evicting a guest if he or she is arrested on the property. She testified that a guest's arrest voids the contract with Motel 6 and that Motel 6 immediately becomes the custodian of the room in such an event. Ibarra testified that Jordan did not sign a written contract to this effect that guests are generally not informed of the eviction policy either verbally or in writing; in fact, Ibarra stated that there was no way Jordan would have known he had been evicted. Ibarra stated that around noon she entered the room to check to ensure it was unoccupied, to clear the room for the housekeeper, and to pack Jordan's belongings. When she entered the room, she saw drugs and drug paraphernalia on the table, so she closed the door and immediately called police. At some point during the day, a woman came to Motel 6 to collect Jordan's belongings, and she presented Ibarra with a signed note from Jordan giving her the authority to do so. Jordan's payment for the room for that night was refunded to the woman.
Officer Travis Watkins of the Fort Smith Police Department also testified at the hearing. Officer Watkins testified that on October 1, 2014, he and Corporal Joey Boyd were at the Motel 6 for other police-related business when they saw Jordan, whom they knew had a warrant for his arrest. They took him into custody at that time.
Corporal Joey Boyd also testified. He reiterated Officer Watkins's testimony that they were already at Motel 6 on other business when they saw Jordan and arrested him on an existing warrant. Officer Boyd testified that somewhere around 2:30 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. they returned to Motel 6 after Ibarra had called and informed them that she had found drugs and paraphernalia in Jordan's room. Officer Boyd testified that he called the prosecutor's office about getting a warrant and that it was determined that he did not need a warrant based on the motel's eviction policy. Officer Boyd also testified that he confirmed with Ibarra and the guest registry that the room where they found the contraband had been Jordan's.
The State argued that Jordan had no standing to challenge the search because he had been evicted from the room pursuant to the Motel 6 eviction policy. In support of this argument, the State pointed out that Jordan's payment for the night had been refunded to him. Even if he did have standing, the State argued, the inevitable discovery doctrine applied because he had remained in jail from October 1, 2014, through the next two weeks. The State reasoned that Jordan's room would have been cleaned and emptied before he had a chance to get his things, and the contraband would have been found at that time.
Defense counsel argued that the State did not know why Jordan had been arrested and that Jordan could have bonded out the morning he was arrested. Jordan could have returned before the maid had cleaned the room if the new charges had not been brought pursuant to the warrantless search. In support of this argument defense counsel pointed out that Jordan had paid for the room through the next day, and he had not been aware of the eviction policy. The circuit court asked defense counsel about daily cleaning of the rooms, which would have happened around noon before the police searched the room around 2:30 p.m., and how that might affect the argument against the inevitable-discovery doctrine. Counsel responded that housekeeping had not entered the room on the day of the search and reiterated that the room was entered only because of the warrantless search. The circuit court denied the motion to suppress. No written order denying the motion was entered, but the court stated its reasoning for denying the motion from the bench:
This young lady was going into the room in the performance of her duties to get his belongings because he had been evicted because he had been arrested. She was doing what she was authorized and directed to do and it was her duty. Plus, he had been evicted. So there is some question as to whether or not this gentleman has standing. The third is that inevitably that a maid or somebody would have gone in there and would have discovered it, but the main point is that this woman was doing what she was asked to do when somebody gets arrested, they are evicted and they go in and get their belongings and secure them in a safe place for them and then they would refund them their money. The motion to suppress is going to be denied.
Jordan renewed his motion to suppress before the beginning of the jury trial on July 22, 2015, and the circuit court upheld the denial of the motion.
At the trial, Amanda Ibarra testified that on October 1, 2014, she was the manager on duty and that it was her job to go to Jordan's room to bag and tag his belongings pursuant to his arrest on the property and his subsequent eviction. Ibarra testified that when she opened the door, she saw the drugs and paraphernalia and called Officer Boyd immediately.
Ibarra testified that the electronic key log that shows whose key was used to enter a room and when the room was entered must have malfunctioned, because the log showed that the room was entered only once at 2:17 p.m., and she was certain the room had been entered at least twice with her key. Ibarra testified that she was pretty sure the first time she opened the door was around noon on the day of Jordan's arrest. She testified that to the best of her knowledge, the maid did not enter the room that day, but she could not be certain.
Officer Boyd testified as well. He stated that he received a call from Ibarra that drugs had been found in the room and that he and Officer Watkins returned to the motel, entered the room, and found empty baggies, digital scales, a straw for injecting narcotics and for moving narcotics to a scale to be weighed, three baggies containing what looked to be methamphetamine, and a marijuana cigarette. Jordan's wallet containing his driver's license was near the contraband. Officer Boyd testified that the scales indicated that the drugs were being prepared for sale. Officer Boyd ...