State v. Patterson

Decision Date22 April 2016
Docket NumberNo. 109,995.,109,995.
Citation304 Kan. 272,371 P.3d 893
Parties STATE of Kansas, Appellant, v. Dontae M. PATTERSON, Appellee.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Lance J. Gillett, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Matt J. Maloney, assistant district attorney, Marc Bennett, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellant.

Richard Ney, of Ney, Adams & Shaneyfelt, of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by STEGALL, J.:

The Wichita Police Department received information that a resident of 2720 N. Erie in Wichita, Dontae Patterson, was selling narcotics. The police obtained and executed a search warrant that described the place to be searched as [t]he premises of 2720 N. Erie, Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas.” The warrant authorized a search for various items at the premises related to the sale of marijuana including any marijuana, drug paraphernalia, currency, records of sales, evidence of occupancy or ownership of the residence, firearms connected with the sale of marijuana, scanners or radios used in the sale, and indicia of gang affiliation or membership including clothing. The supporting affidavit identified Patterson's minor son, D.M.P., as also residing at that location. The affidavit indicated that D.M.P. had a juvenile criminal record and was flagged as a member of a criminal street gang in the Wichita Police Department's database.

During the search of the house, officers found various amounts of marijuana, a white chunk-like residue that field-tested positive for cocaine, a digital scale, $10,020 in cash, a bag of marijuana seeds, and a Glock firearm. Officers also searched a Mercedes parked in the driveway and found a glass container with white crusty residue, a box of sandwich bags, a digital scale with powdery residue, and a Taurus handgun. At the time the warrant was executed, Patterson was inside the house and D.M.P. was sitting in the driver's seat of the Mercedes. Following the search, Patterson was arrested and charged with various crimes including distribution of marijuana, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Patterson filed numerous motions to suppress the evidence obtained during the search, including a motion to suppress the evidence found in the Mercedes. At the suppression hearing, Wichita Police Officer John Groh testified that as he and other officers approached the home to execute the warrant, he saw a white Mercedes backed into the driveway and a juvenile male sitting behind the steering wheel. Groh testified the juvenile was D.M.P. Groh described the Mercedes as backed up to “within a few feet” of the house. The car was parked, engine not running, and facing the street. Following safety protocol, Groh and other officers ordered D.M.P. out of the car. Officers then secured the home and its occupants and conducted a concurrent search of both the vehicle and the residence.

The district court granted Patterson's motion to suppress the evidence found in the Mercedes on the grounds that it was not within the scope of the search warrant and the evidence would not have inevitably been discovered. The State took a timely interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. State v. Patterson, 49 Kan.App.2d 1001, 319 P.3d 588 (2014). The panel held that the search warrant for the “premises” authorized the search of any vehicles within the curtilage of the home, and the Mercedes was within the curtilage. 49 Kan.App.2d at 1007–10, 319 P.3d 588. We granted Patterson's petition for review.

Analysis

This appeal presents only one question: Was the search of the Mercedes authorized by (or within the scope of) the search warrant? Patterson argues the Court of Appeals erroneously concluded the Mercedes was within the curtilage of the residence described in the search warrant—and that it was therefore outside the scope of searches authorized by the warrant. The State, unsurprisingly, argues that the Court of Appeals panel correctly found that the Mercedes was located within the curtilage and was therefore included within the scope of the warrant's authorized search of the premises.

Our standard of review in cases such as this is well established:

“An appellate court generally reviews a trial court's decision on a motion to suppress using a bifurcated standard. The trial court's findings are first reviewed to determine whether they are supported by substantial competent evidence. Appellate courts do not reweigh the evidence, assess the credibility of the witnesses, or resolve conflicting evidence. The ultimate legal conclusion regarding the suppression of evidence is then reviewed de novo. If the material facts in a trial court's decision on a motion to suppress evidence are not in dispute, the question of whether to suppress is a question of law over which an appellate court has unlimited review. [Citation omitted.] State v. Martinez, 296 Kan. 482, 485, 293 P.3d 718 (2013).

“On a motion to suppress evidence, the State bears the burden of proving to the district court the lawfulness of the search and seizure by a preponderance of the evidence.” State v. Porting, 281 Kan. 320, 324, 130 P.3d 1173 (2006). Here, material facts are not in dispute, and we exercise plenary review. See Martinez, 296 Kan. at 485, 293 P.3d 718.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” “The scope of Section 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights is identical to that of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” State v. LeFort, 248 Kan. 332, 334, 806 P.2d 986 (1991) ; see also K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 22–2502(a) (Statute authorizes the issuance of search warrants “which particularly describes a person, place or means of conveyance to be searched and things to be seized.”).

“To satisfy the specificity requirement of the constitutions the search warrant must describe the premises to be searched with sufficient particularity to permit the executing officer to locate the same from the face of the warrant. [Citations omitted.] LeFort, 248 Kan. at 334–35, 806 P.2d 986 ; see also Steele v. United States No. 1, 267 U.S. 498, 503, 45 S.Ct. 414, 69 L.Ed. 757 (1925) (“It is enough if the description is such that the officer with a search warrant can, with reasonable effort ascertain and identify the place intended.”). “The purpose of this requirement is to prevent general searches and to prevent the seizure of an item at the discretion of the officer. [Citations omitted.] LeFort, 248 Kan. at 337, 806 P.2d 986. “If the scope of the search exceeds that permitted by the terms of a validly issued warrant or the character of the relevant exception from the warrant requirement, the subsequent seizure is unconstitutional without more.” Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128, 140, 110 S.Ct. 2301, 110 L.Ed.2d 112 (1990).

[W]arrants and their supporting affidavits are interpreted in a common sense, rather than a hypertechnical, fashion. To do otherwise would tend to discourage police officers from submitting their evidence to a judicial officer before acting.” LeFort, 248 Kan. at 335–36, 806 P.2d 986 ; see K.S.A. 22–2511 (“No search warrant shall be quashed or evidence suppressed because of technical irregularities not affecting the substantial rights of the accused.”); see also United States v. Young, 263 Fed.Appx. 710, 713 (10th Cir.2008) (unpublished opinion) (“The scope of a warrant is determined using ‘a standard of practical accuracy rather than technical precision.’).

Here, the warrant accurately and particularly described the place to be searched as [t]he premises of 2720 N. Erie, Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas.” The only question presented is whether, as a matter of law, this description was broad enough to include the search of the Mercedes parked in the driveway. As a general matter, “the term ‘premises' as used in [a] warrant include[s] all property necessarily a part of and appearing so inseparable as to be considered a portion thereof.” State v. McClelland, 215 Kan. 81, 84, 523 P.2d 357 (1974) (citing State v. Caldwell, 20 Ariz.App. 331, 334, 512 P.2d 863 [1973] [“A search of premises, however, may include all property necessarily a part of the premises and so inseparable as to constitute a portion thereof.”] ). The term premises, therefore, describes a single unit of ownership—i.e., the whole of the property.

In State v. Basurto, 15 Kan.App.2d 264, 807 P.2d 162, aff'd 249 Kan. 584, 821 P.2d 327 (1991), a Court of Appeals case this court adopted and affirmed, the court was confronted with a warrant that did not include the term “premises” or a like description of the entire unit of ownership. The Basurto panel concluded that even in the absence of a broader description of a unit of ownership, the description of a residence included its curtilage. See 15 Kan.App.2d at 266–71, 807 P.2d 162. Basurto reasoned that [w]hile the use of the term ‘premises' in a search warrant may be desired to avoid arguments such as the one with which we now deal, it is not required in every instance. The law is clearly established that a search warrant which describes a specific residence authorizes a search of the ‘curtilage’ of that residence.” 15 Kan.App.2d at 271, 807 P.2d 162.

“At common law, the curtilage is the area to which extends the intimate activity associated with the ‘sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life,’ ... and therefore has been considered part of home itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180, 104 S.Ct. 1735, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984) (quoting Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746 [1886] ). Courts have defined curtilage “by reference to the factors that...

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