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Police Discover Meth Lab During Consent Search


Case: People v. McJunkin

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Motion to suppress evidence; Search & seizure; People v. Slaughter; People v. Earl; Consent exception to the warrant requirement; People v. Mahdi; The plain-view exception; People v. Galloway; Sufficiency of the evidence; Operating or maintaining a meth lab under MCL 333.7401c(1)(c); People v. Lee; Aiding & abetting; MCL 769.39; People v. Moore; Other acts evidence; People v. VanderVliet; MRE 404(b); Relevant evidence; People v. Sabin (After Remand); People v. Waclawski; Evidence of defendant’s parole status; People v. Deblauwe; Whether error warranted reversal; People v. Benton


The court held that, assuming defendant had standing to challenge the search, it was reasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Further, there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction for operating or maintaining a meth lab. Finally, while admission of a reference to his former parole status was error, the court held that reversal was unwarranted because it was unlikely to have affected the outcome of the trial given the weight and strength of the other evidence against him. As to his motion to suppress, it was undisputed that the property’s resident (W) gave police consent to search the garage, and there was no indication he in any way limited the scope of his consent. Thus, the officers’ entry into and search of the garage was reasonable and did “not implicate the Fourth Amendment protections.” Once inside, they saw an active, one-pot meth lab on the dryer and coffee filters near the SUV in which defendant was seated. “The driver-side door was open and additional folded up coffee filters were located in the driver-side cup holder. Given the strong odor of ammonia in the garage, the presence of an active, one-pot” meth lab, and the officers’ knowledge “that coffee filters are commonly used in manufacturing” meth, the coffee filters in the SUV “could be viewed as obviously incriminatory. Upon closer inspection the filters appeared to contain crushed pseudoephedrine, another item” needed for meth production. “Under these circumstances, the police officers were able to seize the pseudoephedrine under the plain-view exception.” As to the sufficiency of the evidence, it was undisputed that the controlled substance being manufactured in W’s garage was meth. There was also sufficient evidence that defendant knew that W and the other man present were in the process of manufacturing meth. Among other things, W testified that they all had the idea to make meth. Further, the prosecution produced evidence that defendant bought pseudoephedrine less than two weeks before he was found with the active, one-pot meth lab in W’s garage, and “approximately 30 grams of crushed powder containing pseudoephedrine was discovered in” the SUV next to where he had been sitting. Affirmed.

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