Prosecution defends deputies’ drug search

Defense’s suppression hearing is March 6

SUBLETTE COUNTY – In response to a public defender’s motion that deputies illegally searched the home of Tanner C. Moceika, of LaBarge, before he was charged with felony possession of meth, the state replied the Feb. 20, 2022, warrantless search was justified.

Looking at the same video, the defense and prosecution reach very different conclusions.

Public defender Rachel Weksler’s Feb. 6 motion to suppress the “illegal search” and resulting charge argues that Sublette County deputies Danielle Cooper and Krystal Mansur went by Moceika’s Marbleton home in their separate vehicles, saw his door cracked open and “pushed the barely cracked door open and proceeded to search the residence without a warrant.”

In his Feb. 21 response, Sublette County Deputy Attorney Adrian Kowalski asks 9th District Court Judge Kate McKay to deny the defense motion to suppress the evidence gathered against Moceika.

On Feb. 22, Judge McKay ordered the motion to suppress hearing for March 9 at 10 a.m.


“The deputies announced their presence and knocked on the door,” Kowalski wrote. “The door seems to have opened further upon being knocked. At this time, Deputy Cooper observed ‘pipes’ in plain view.”

A warrantless search would be unreasonable but for the exception of “an object inadvertently in the plain view of police officers while they are where they have a right to be,” his reply says. “… Deputy Cooper saw the methamphetamine pipe in plain view from outside of the house.”

He also referred to the “emergency aid exception” if there is a reasonable belief of an emergency that requires their “immediate action.”

The door was open in the middle of a winter day with snow on the ground, no one responded to their repeated announcements, the owner’s car was parked, no lights were on, meth pipes were in plain sight and the “house was in a state of disarray.”

Potential emergencies might have been a burglary, home invasion, medical emergency or drug overdose,” it says. Their entering the home “was justified” under this exception, Kowalski concluded.

The defense motion said that the deputies’ video shows no other vehicles but their own. There is no indication anyone is present and no reason for the deputies to be there.