State v. Sanders

Decision Date26 July 2019
Docket NumberNo. 118,640,118,640
Citation445 P.3d 1144
CourtKansas Supreme Court
Parties STATE of Kansas, Appellant, v. Lee Sawzer SANDERS, Appellee.

Rachel L. Pickering, assistant solicitor general, argued the cause, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was with her on the briefs for appellant.

Reid T. Nelson, of Capital and Conflicts Appeals Office, argued the cause, and was on the briefs for appellee.

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

In this interlocutory appeal of a district court order suppressing evidence, the State argues the district court committed two errors. A Court of Appeals panel rejected the State's argument about one error but agreed with the State on another. Specifically, it rejected the argument that the district court erred by concluding police officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Lee Sawzer Sanders. But it agreed with the State that the attenuation doctrine applied and the district court should not have suppressed the evidence obtained in a search of Sanders. In invoking the attenuation doctrine, the panel noted that, after the officers seized and searched Sanders, they discovered a preexisting arrest warrant. This discovery attenuated the taint of the unconstitutional seizure, according to the panel. See State v. Sanders , No. 118640, 2018 WL 2375258, at *1, 5-7 (Kan. App. 2018) (unpublished opinion).

Sanders petitioned for review arguing the panel erred in applying the attenuation doctrine under these facts. And the State cross-petitioned arguing the panel erred in holding the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Sanders and in failing to consider its alternative argument that the inevitable discovery doctrine also provides a basis for concluding the district court should not have suppressed the evidence.

We granted review and now reverse the Court of Appeals panel and affirm the district court. We agree with the district court's and the panel's determinations that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Sanders. We disagree, however, with the panel's application of the attenuation doctrine. The panel held the officers' discovery of a warrant interrupted the causal chain between the detention and the search. But the search of Sanders occurred before the officers discovered the arrest warrant. While the officers searched some possessions they had seized after they discovered the warrant, the search incident to arrest exception to the warrant requirement—the exception discussed by the Court of Appeals—did not apply because the items were no longer in Sanders' reach or control. And while, for the first time on appeal, the State offers the inevitable discovery doctrine as an exception to the exclusionary rule and the inventory search exception as an alternative basis to justify the search, it failed to preserve these arguments and we decline to address them. We thus conclude the district court did not err in suppressing the evidence obtained when the officers searched Sanders.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Sanders was stopped by two Topeka Police Officers, Raph Belt and Cody Purney, in a restaurant's parking lot. The officers provided differing accounts of the event. Officer Belt testified he and Officer Purney had just finished investigating an unrelated incident and were seated in their parked patrol car when they noticed Sanders trying to open the door of a nearby car. Officer Belt testified that Sanders saw the officers, walked away from the car, and went into a nearby alleyway. In contrast, Officer Purney testified they had not been responding to a call but were driving down the road in what he described as "self-initiated activity" or "free mode." Officer Purney stated he had not seen Sanders trying to get into the car. Instead, Officer Belt told him he saw Sanders close the car door and go down the alleyway. Officer Belt alleged Sanders tried to conceal himself in the alleyway. He testified he "[k]ind of hollered at [Sanders], ‘hey, I would like to speak with you.’ " Officer Belt claimed Sanders ran from him, although Sanders ultimately stayed in the vicinity of the restaurant and returned to the car, which officers later learned belonged to Sanders. At that point, Officer Belt physically contacted Sanders and placed him in handcuffs.

Officer Belt then asked Sanders if he had any weapons on his person, and Sanders said he had a knife in his pocket. Officer Belt conducted a pat-down of Sanders' person and felt an item he thought was a pocket knife that turned out to be a key. Officer Belt asked Sanders where the knife might be. Sanders told him it might be in his vehicle but he was not sure. Officer Belt asked to search Sanders for the knife and Sanders agreed. Officer Belt found a methamphetamine pipe, deck of cards, and "a prison or a jail I.D." Officer Purney then ran a warrant check and discovered an outstanding arrest warrant. Sanders was arrested and Officer Belt went through the items taken from Sanders' person, finding a small bag containing methamphetamine inside the card deck.

The State charged Sanders with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sanders filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing he had been unlawfully seized and searched. The district court granted Sanders' motion, finding the officers' testimony conflicting and "too much of the answers to the questions or the scenario posed by the officers appears to be that of filling in the blanks after the fact as opposed to what they did, why they did it at the time." The district court found it was "not clear that the officer was truly investigating or making contact with somebody who was committing or had committed or was about to commit a crime." The court also said it

"watched the officers and their facial expressions as they testified separately and watched and listened to what their conduct was, the things that might have been questionable, they could not recall, were not aware of, and it was things that they seemed—the impression I get from listening to their testimony is that they pieced things together after the fact."

Additionally, the district court found "contradictions and inconsistency in the testimony between the officers that doesn't really balance or fit the two with each other," and stated:

"The other part—well, my initial issue is the contact that the officer had in taking the defendant into custody, I have great difficulty with and I've tried to look at the fact of balancing whether the—I don't remember if it's the Attenuation Doctrine. You know, at some point, they find out there's a warrant but my belief, counsel, is that the activity or that the whole issue of seizing the defendant, I have great difficulty with based on the testimony that I've heard."

The district court held: "I still think the whole thing had been set up to be able to make contact and do those things with the defendant. Then they find out about the warrant."

The State filed an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals upheld the district court's finding that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Sanders. But the panel reversed the district court's decision to suppress the evidence based on the United States Supreme Court's attenuation doctrine analysis in Utah v. Strieff , 579 U.S. ––––, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2060-62, 195 L. Ed. 2d 400 (2016), because of the discovery of the arrest warrant. See Sanders , 2018 WL 2375258, at *1, 5-7.

Sanders timely petitioned for review and the State filed a timely cross-petition. We granted review of Sanders' petition and the State's cross-petition. Our jurisdiction is proper under K.S.A. 20-3018(b) (petition for review of Court of Appeals decision).

ANALYSIS

All issues before us relate to a warrantless seizure and search and the district court's decision to suppress the evidence obtained as a result. In reviewing the granting or denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we determine whether the factual findings underlying the district court's decision are supported by substantial competent evidence. Its ultimate legal conclusions are reviewed de novo. In doing so, we do not reweigh evidence or make credibility determinations. See State v. Patterson , 304 Kan. 272, 274, 371 P.3d 893 (2016). The State bears the burden of proving the lawfulness of its search and seizure. State v. Reiss , 299 Kan. 291, 296, 326 P.3d 367 (2014).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. State v. Ramirez , 278 Kan. 402, 404, 100 P.3d 94 (2004). The United States Supreme Court has interpreted this prohibition to require law enforcement officers who seize an individual or who conduct a search to have either a warrant or a basis for relying on one of the specific and well-recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. See Riley v. California , 573 U.S. 373, 382, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2482, 189 L. Ed. 2d 430 (2014) ; State v. Neighbors , 299 Kan. 234, 239, 328 P.3d 1081 (2014).

Before considering whether a search was lawful, a court should consider the legality of the initial seizure, as an unlawful seizure may taint the fruits of the later search. See State v. Thompson , 284 Kan. 763, 777, 166 P.3d 1015 (2007). One exception to the warrant requirement allows an officer to stop and briefly detain an individual without a warrant when the officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion, based in fact, that the detained person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. See Terry v. Ohio , 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968) ; State v. Epperson , 237 Kan. 707, 711-12, 703 P.2d 761 (1985).

To have reasonable suspicion to detain an individual, "[a] police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion." Terry , 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. 1868. The suspicion must have " ‘a particularized and objective basis’ " and be something more than "an...

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22 cases
  • State v. Ellis, No. 120,046
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • August 7, 2020
    ...carries little weight when applying the attenuation doctrine, Strieff did not abrogate the other portions of Moralez . See State v. Sanders , 310 Kan. 279, Syl. ¶ 13, 445 P.3d 1144 (2019). This court has held that the development of probable cause to arrest after a police officer's discover......
  • Khalil-Alsalaami v. State
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • May 14, 2021
    ...and substance and which furnishes a substantial basis in fact from which the issues can reasonably be resolved.’ " State v. Sanders , 310 Kan. 279, 294, 445 P.3d 1144 (2019). As highlighted in the introduction, in reviewing a district court's factual findings for substantial competent evide......
  • State v. Shimer
    • United States
    • Kansas Court of Appeals
    • September 24, 2021
    ...and substance and which furnishes a substantial basis in fact from which the issues can reasonably be resolved.’ " State v. Sanders , 310 Kan. 279, 294, 445 P.3d 1144 (2019). In reviewing a district court's factual findings for substantial competent evidence, we are not to reweigh the evide......
  • State v. Vonachen
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • December 4, 2020
    ...statutory factors guiding its decision, based upon the factual findings, is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Sanders , 310 Kan. 279, 294, 445 P.3d 1144 (2019) ; State v. Brown , 300 Kan. 542, 545-46, 331 P.3d 781 (2014). A district court abuses its discretion when: (1) no reaso......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Probable cause and reasonable suspicion: arrests, seizures, stops and frisks
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Suppressing Criminal Evidence Fourth amendment searches and seizures
    • April 1, 2022
    ...of a warrant after an unlawful search cannot be used to justify the search under the attenuation doctrine. In State v. Sanders , 445 P.3d 1144 (Kan. 2019), the court distinguished the facts from Strieff . Although the defendant had a warrant for his arrest, it was not discovered until after......
  • Probable cause and reasonable suspicion: arrests, seizures, stops and frisks
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Suppressing Criminal Evidence - 2020 Contents
    • July 31, 2020
    ...of a warrant after an unlawful search cannot be used to justify the search under the attenuation doctrine. In State v. Sanders , 445 P.3d 1144 (Kan. 2019), the court distinguished the facts from Strieff . Although the defendant had a warrant for his arrest, it was not discovered until after......

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