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Sharpe v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

June 4, 2015

PHILLIP DOUGLAS SHARPE, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, Respondent

Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a guilty plea, of trafficking in a controlled substance. Third Judicial District Court, Lyon County; Leon Aberasturi, Judge.

Quade Law, Ltd., and Paul E. Quade, Reno, for Appellant.

Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Carson City; Robert Auer, District Attorney, and Jeremy R. Reichenberg and Moreen Scully, Deputy District Attorneys, Lyon County, for Respondent.

Gordon Silver and Dominic P. Gentile, Las Vegas, for Amicus Curiae Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Steven S. Owens, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Amicus Curiae Nevada District Attorneys Association.

BEFORE SAITTA, GIBBONS and PICKERING, JJ.

OPINION

Page 389

GIBBONS, J.

In this opinion, we address whether Nevada wiretap law permits the interception of cellular telephone calls and text messages, even though it has not been updated since 1973. We conclude that Nevada wiretap law, assuming its other statutory requirements are satisfied, allows for the interception of cellular telephone calls and text messages.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 2010, officers began investigating appellant Phillip Sharpe after receiving information that he distributed methamphetamines. Approximately four months into their investigation, officers obtained a warrant authorizing a wiretap to intercept communications on two different cellular telephone numbers attributed to Sharpe. The wiretap resulted in the interception of both telephone calls and text messages. After collecting sufficient intelligence, officers obtained a search and seizure warrant for Sharpe's residence and vehicles.

Four days after obtaining the search and seizure warrant, due to intelligence gathered from physical surveillance and the wiretap, officers anticipated that Sharpe intended to purchase a large quantity of methamphetamines. After observing the presumed drug deal, officers pulled Sharpe over and arrested him. During the arrest, officers confiscated approximately 3.25 pounds of methamphetamines from Sharpe's vehicle. Almost simultaneously, officers executed the search and seizure warrant at Sharpe's residence and confiscated small amounts of various drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Sharpe was charged with four drug-trafficking-related felonies. After pleading not guilty on all four counts, Sharpe filed a motion to compel further discovery, two motions to suppress evidence obtained from the wiretap, a motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of his vehicle, and a motion for a Franks [1] hearing. The district court denied all five motions.

Subsequently, Sharpe pleaded guilty to trafficking in a controlled substance, level III, based upon the 3.25 pounds of methamphetamines confiscated from his vehicle. Sharpe, however, reserved his right to appeal the denial of the aforementioned five motions. On October 18, 2013, the district court sentenced Sharpe to life imprisonment ...


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