In 2012, Warren County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a tip that Amy Whitehead was manufacturing methamphetamine at the address where she lived with her 80 year old grandmother, Ruby Mills. After police knocked on the front door, Whitehead exited the back door, carried a black box to the shed and gave the box to her boyfriend, Shane Hulett, before going back inside the house.
Meanwhile Mills answered the front door and police could smell a strong odor of ammonia. Whitehead then came to the front door, denied that there was drug activity, and led them to her bedroom, where Investigator Mike Traxler observed a coffee filter and a glass pipe.
When officers asked about the shed, both Whitehead and Hulett stated they did not own the shed but Mills gave written consent to search the shed. Inside the shed was drugs and materials used to make drugs.
Whitehead was convicted of possession of pseudoephedrine and ammonium nitrate with intent to manufacture drugs as well as possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 15 years. On appeal, she argued the search of the shed was illegal. MCOA affirmed.
In the suppression hearing, Mills consistently referred to the mobile home as her trailer. On cross-examination, she testified that she had been renting the mobile home for approximately ten years, and the shed had been behind it for about four months.
Mills also testified that she had gone out to the shed at times. She said that the shed belonged to Hulett, and she thought she was only consenting to a search of the home. However, the consent form that she signed clearly states that she was consenting to a search of the shed. Mills claimed that she did not read the consent form because she was not wearing her glasses.
Traxler testified that he specifically asked Mills if the shed belonged to her and he read the consent form to her before she signed it. He also told Mills that she had the right to refuse to consent, but she said, I’m not refusing. You can go look.
In Waldrop v. State, 544 So. 2d 834 (Miss. 1989) the MSC stated that if a person denies ownership or possession of property, he later has no standing to complain that the search of it was unlawful. There was substantial evidence that Whitehead denied having any rights to the shed. Having done so, she had no standing to complain that the search of the shed was unlawful based on her claim that Mills lacked authority to consent to the search.
Furthermore, because of Mills’s interest in the home, she also had the right to consent to a search of the curtilage surrounding it. In Jordan, the MSC said that the curtilage of a dwelling is a space necessary and convenient, habitually used for family purposes and for the carrying on of domestic employment; it is the yard, garden or field which is near to and used in connection with the dwelling.
The undisputed testimony was that the door to the shed faced the back door of the home, and the shed was approximately fifteen to thirty feet from the home. It would be reasonable to consider the shed as part of the curtilage of the home, and it follows that Mills had the authority to consent to a search of the shed.