State v. Parker

Decision Date04 November 1999
Docket Number No. 66523-1., No. 66522-2, No. 66147-2
Citation987 P.2d 73,139 Wash.2d 486
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Deborah Lee PARKER, Petitioner. State of Washington, Respondent, v. Steven Lee Jines, Petitioner. State of Washington, Respondent, v. Anna E. Hunnel, Petitioner.

Linda L. Edmiston, Kennewick, for petitioner Parker.

Robert M. Quillian and Thomas E. Doyle, Olympia, for petitioner Jines.

Joanne E. Dantonio, Port Orchard, for petitioner Hunnel.

Steve M. Lowe, Prosecuting Atty., for Franklin County. Frank William Jenny, II, Deputy, Pasco, Edward Holm, Prosecuting Atty., for Thurston County.

Steve E. Straume and Pamela B. Loginsky, Deputies, Olympia, for Respondent.

JOHNSON, J.

These consolidated cases present the question whether the personal belongings of nonarrested vehicle passengers are subject to search incident to the arrest of the driver. In all three cases, the Court of Appeals found the searches valid under the authority of State v. Stroud, 106 Wash.2d 144, 720 P.2d 436 (1986). We reverse. We hold the search incident to arrest exception articulated in Stroud does not automatically extend to the "private affairs" of persons who are not under arrest, including personal possessions police know or should know belong to such nonarrested individuals. Under the facts of these cases, it is undisputed police knew the items searched belonged to individuals who were not under arrest. The facts do not show, nor does the State argue, the existence of any articulable, objective suspicion that any nonarrested passenger was armed or dangerous or had secreted contraband obtained from the arrestee. Therefore, there was no objective, lawful justification for the searches.

FACTS
State v. Parker

Deborah Parker was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for speeding. A license check revealed the license of the driver, Tim Thomas, was revoked. Thomas was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the back of the patrol car. The arrest process lasted approximately 15 to 20 minutes, during which period Parker remained in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. Because an open container of beer was spotted in the vehicle, officers decided to check Parker's sobriety in order to determine whether the vehicle could be released into her custody. Parker was asked to step from the vehicle to take a Breathalyzer test. She complied. While the Breathalyzer was being administered, one of the officers noticed some cash lying on top of Parker's purse. The officer did not immediately decide to search the purse. Instead, he went back to Parker to ask to whom the money belonged. She said it belonged to her from the sale of a car. When Parker could produce no receipt or other proof of ownership of the money, the officer went back to his patrol car and learned from Thomas that the money belonged to him from a cashed paycheck. After the officers were satisfied the money actually did belong to Thomas, they removed the purse from the vehicle and asked Parker "if there was anything else in her purse [Thomas] placed there prior to being stopped." Tr. at 13. The officers then searched the purse, taking things out and setting them on the trunk of the vehicle as they went through it. Inside the purse was a small, two-by-three-inch snapped-shut coin purse. Inside this coin purse was a plastic baggie of methamphetamine. Parker was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Before trial, Parker moved to suppress the evidence found in her purse. At the suppression hearing the court found the ownership of the money had been resolved to the officers' satisfaction before they searched the purse and there was no other evidentiary justification supporting the search. The court, however, found the search lawful incident to the arrest of the driver.

State v. Jines

Steven Jines was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for failing to signal a left turn. A license check revealed the driver, Christopher Oberst, had a suspended license. Oberst was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the patrol car. Because Jines was not wearing his seat belt he was asked for identification, which he produced from his jacket lying on the center console between the two front seats. The officer then ordered Jines and another passenger out of the car and told them not to take anything as the officer intended to search the car. Jines complied, leaving his jacket behind. During the search of the vehicle, the officer searched through Jines' jacket and found a small black box inside it. Inside this box the officer found methamphetamine. Jines was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Before trial, Jines moved to suppress the evidence found in his jacket. At the hearing, the trial court found the officer knew, prior to searching it, that the jacket belonged to Jines. The arresting officer also testified that, except for the seat belt infraction, he had no reason to believe Jines was violating the law. The trial court found the search lawful incident to the arrest of the driver.

State v. Hunnel

Anna Hunnel, along with her three small children, was a passenger in a car driven by her husband John Hunnel. The vehicle was pulled over by the local sheriff on an unrelated suspicion of a "wanted" person in the area. However, at the scene the sheriff discovered Hunnel had outstanding arrest warrants for violation of a protection order and driving under the influence. A license check also revealed Hunnel's license was suspended. Mr. Hunnel was arrested and placed in the patrol car.

After John Hunnel was arrested, the sheriff asked Anna Hunnel for identification in order to determine whether the vehicle could be released into her custody. She produced her identification from a purse at her feet on the front passenger floorboard. Thereafter, the sheriff requested Anna Hunnel exit the vehicle so he could search it. She attempted to take her purse but the sheriff ordered her to leave it in the car. She complied. The sheriff then searched through Hunnel's purse as part of his search of the vehicle. Inside the purse he found a miniature Marlboro "cigarette pack" matchbox. Inside this matchbox he found two small baggies of methamphetamine. Anna Hunnel was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Before trial, Hunnel moved to suppress the evidence found in her purse. At the suppression hearing, the State conceded the sheriff knew the purse belonged to Ms. Hunnel before he searched it. The court found the search lawful incident to the arrest of the driver.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In each case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the validity of the searches under the authority of New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 101 S.Ct. 2860, 69 L.Ed.2d 768 (1981) (search of vehicle passenger compartment, including all containers therein, valid incident to arrest of driver), and Stroud, 106 Wash.2d 144, 720 P.2d 436 (search of vehicle passenger compartment, except locked containers, valid incident to arrest of driver). See State v. Hunnel, 89 Wash.App. 638, 949 P.2d 847 (1998); State v. Parker, 88 Wash.App. 273, 944 P.2d 1081 (1997); State v. Jines, No. 20454-1-II (Wash.Ct.App. Jan. 23, 1998). We granted review and consolidated these cases in order to determine whether the lawful scope of a vehicle search incident to the arrest of the driver extends to the personal belongings of nonarrested passengers.

ANALYSIS

Defendants claim their right to be free from warrantless searches was violated under both the state and federal constitutions. Since we find the searches violated article I, section 7 of the state constitution, we do not decide whether the warrantless searches also violated the Fourth Amendment.1See State v. Young, 123 Wash.2d 173, 188, 867 P.2d 593 (1994). Our analysis begins and ends, therefore, by examining the validity of the searches under article I, section 7 of the state constitution.2

Article I, Section 7

It is by now axiomatic that article I, section 7 provides greater protection to an individual's right of privacy than that guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. State v. Ferrier, 136 Wash.2d 103, 111, 960 P.2d 927 (1998); State v. Hendrickson, 129 Wash.2d 61, 69 n. 1, 917 P.2d 563 (1996); Young, 123 Wash.2d at 180, 867 P.2d 593; Stroud, 106 Wash.2d at 148, 720 P.2d 436; State v. Williams, 102 Wash.2d 733, 741-42, 689 P.2d 1065 (1984); State v. Myrick, 102 Wash.2d 506, 510, 688 P.2d 151 (1984) (citing cases).

Article I, section 7 provides: "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law." This provision differs from the Fourth Amendment in that article I, section 7 "clearly recognizes an individual's right to privacy with no express limitations." State v. White, 97 Wash.2d 92, 110, 640 P.2d 1061 (1982). See also Ferrier, 136 Wash.2d at 111, 960 P.2d 927. Accordingly, while article I, section 7 necessarily encompasses those legitimate expectations of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment, its scope is not limited to subjective expectations of privacy but, more broadly, protects "those privacy interests which citizens of this state have held, and should be entitled to hold, safe from governmental trespass absent a warrant." Myrick, 102 Wash.2d at 511, 688 P.2d 151. See also State v. Mendez, 137 Wash.2d 208, 219, 970 P.2d 722 (1999); State v. Johnson, 128 Wash.2d 431, 446, 909 P.2d 293 (1996); State v. Boland, 115 Wash.2d 571, 577, 800 P.2d 1112 (1990).

We have long held the right to be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion into one's "private affairs" encompasses automobiles and their contents. See, e.g., Mendez, 137 Wash.2d at 217, 219, 970 P.2d 722; Hendrickson, 129 Wash.2d at 69 n. 1, 917 P.2d 563 (citing cases); City of Seattle v. Mesiani, 110 Wash.2d 454, 456-57, 755 P.2d 775 (1988) (citing cases); State v. Kennedy, 107 Wash.2d 1, 4-5, 726 P.2d 445 (1986); State v. Gibbons, 118 Wash. 171, 187-88, ...

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