STATE v. JEAN JACQUES, SC 19783

Judicial District of New London

 

†††† †Criminal; Search & Seizure; Whether Defendant had Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Apartment such that Warrantless Search Illegal Where Defendantís Lease had Expired Prior to Search and While Defendant was Incarcerated.† On June 15, 2015, five days after entering into a month-to-month lease for a Norwich apartment, the defendant was arrested on a drug charge.† A week later, he was charged with murder.† The defendantís cellmate while he was incarcerated and awaiting trial reported to the police that the defendant told him that he stabbed the murder victim and that he took a bag of drugs and a cell phone from the victimís apartment and hid them in a hole in a wall in the bathroom of his apartment.† The police conducted a warrantless search of the apartment with the landlordís consent and they saw a hole in the bathroom wall with a plastic bag tucked into it.† After obtaining a search warrant, the police retrieved the cell phone and the bag of drugs from the hole.† The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized in the search of the apartment.† The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment because, when the police executed the search on July 15, 2015, the month-to-month lease that the defendant had entered into on June 10, 2015, had expired.† The court noted that, during the entire initial month of the lease, the defendant had made no effort to contact the landlord about maintaining the lease and that he had made no arrangement with friends or family that the next monthís rent be paid.† The court found that the defendant had shown no interest in the apartment, that he was aware that he would likely be imprisoned for a long time, and that he never sought by any means to retrieve or secure any personal belongings he left there.† The defendant was found guilty of murder after a jury trial, and he appeals, claiming that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress on finding that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment where his lease had expired.† The defendant argues that he had made the apartment his home when he signed the lease, paid the first monthís rent, and moved his belongings into and occupied the apartment, and he urges that any warrantless search of a home is presumptively unreasonable and unconstitutional.† Finally, while the defendant acknowledges that a person can no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a home that they have abandoned, he argues that he manifested no intent to abandon the apartment and that the state bore a heavy burden of demonstrating his intent to abandon, especially where his involuntary absence from the apartment was due to his arrest and incarceration.