State v. Walker, No. 99,457.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Writing for the CourtThe opinion of the court was delivered by NUSS, C.J.:
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellee,v.Maurice J. WALKER, Appellant.
Decision Date01 April 2011
Docket NumberNo. 99,457.

292 Kan. 1
251 P.3d 618

STATE of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Maurice J. WALKER, Appellant.

No. 99,457.

Supreme Court of Kansas.

April 1, 2011.


[251 P.3d 619 , 292 Kan. 1]

Syllabus by the Court

1. When reviewing a motion to suppress evidence, an appellate court reviews the factual underpinnings of a district court's decision for substantial competent evidence and the ultimate legal conclusion drawn from those facts de novo. The ultimate determination of the suppression of evidence is a legal question requiring independent appellate review. The State bears the burden to demonstrate that a challenged search or seizure was lawful.

2. Law enforcement interaction with a person is consensual, not a seizure, if under the totality of the circumstances the officer's conduct conveys to a reasonable person that he or she was free to refuse the requests or otherwise end the encounter.

3. Appellate review of the trial court's determination of whether a reasonable person would feel free to refuse the officer's requests or otherwise terminate the encounter consists of two parts: (1) the factual underpinnings are reviewed under a substantial competent evidence standard and (2) the ultimate legal conclusion drawn from those facts, i.e., whether a reasonable person would feel free to refuse the requests or to otherwise

[251 P.3d 620]

terminate the encounter, is reviewed under a de novo standard.

4. In applying the totality of the circumstances test in a Fourth Amendment context, no one factor is legally determinative, dispositive, or paramount. The outcome does not turn on the presence or absence of a single controlling or infallible touchstone and requires careful scrutiny of all the surrounding circumstances.

5. Whether reasonable suspicion exists is a question of law. An appellate court applies a mixed question standard of review: whether substantial competent evidence supports the district court findings, while the legal conclusion is reviewed de novo.

6. In reviewing an officer's belief of reasonable suspicion, an appellate court determines whether the totality of the circumstances[292 Kan. 2] justifies the detention. The court makes its determination with deference to a trained law enforcement officer's ability to distinguish between innocent and suspicious circumstances, remembering that reasonable suspicion represents a minimum level of objective justification which is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the officer must be able to articulate more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch of criminal activity.

7. Under the totality of the circumstances, the officer in this case possessed reasonable suspicion to detain and investigate the pedestrian defendant. As a result, the officer did not exceed the detention's constitutionally permissible boundaries by taking the defendant's ID and using it to run a computer records check.

Ryan J. Eddinger, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.Robbin L. Wasson, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Jerome Gorman, district attorney, and Steve Six, attorney general, were with her on the brief for appellee.

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

The district court denied Maurice J. Walker's motion to suppress evidence, and a jury convicted him of possession of cocaine and marijuana discovered during a pedestrian stop. The Court of Appeals affirmed. We granted Walker's petition for review under K.S.A. 20–3018(b).

The issues on appeal and our accompanying holdings are as follows:

1. Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to detain Walker? Yes.

2. Did the officer exceed the scope of the detention by running a records check on Walker? No.

Accordingly, we affirm the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the district court.

[292 Kan. 3] Facts

On September 16, 2006, Kansas City, Kansas police officer Jason D. Pittman was driving a marked patrol car when a pedestrian, Angel Torono, flagged him down on Central Avenue at 5:55 p.m. Torono did not speak English. With two children translating, he told Officer Pittman that a man burglarized his truck minutes earlier. Torono described the man as “a black male wearing a black shirt and black shorts.” He alleged that the man “broke out the side window of [Torono's] truck and removed a CD case, then went walking eastbound on Central Avenue from that location.” Pittman asked Torono and the two children to stay put while he searched for the suspect.

Pittman drove in the suspect's direction of travel: eastbound on Central Avenue. At 10th and Central—approximately two blocks from the crime scene—Pittman spotted Walker, whom he described as “a black male wearing a black t-shirt and black shorts,” sitting next to a bus stop. Pittman parked near the bus stop, exited his car, and approached Walker. According to Pittman, he “told [Walker] the reason I came up to him, that he fit the description of a suspect in an incident that occurred up the street and asked him if he had any identification.”

Pittman and Walker offered conflicting testimony on the rest of their encounter.

[251 P.3d 621]

According to Pittman, he asked Walker for identification, and Walker produced a Missouri ID. Pittman provided Walker's information to police dispatch for a records check, which revealed an arrest warrant for Walker in Kansas City. Pittman then arrested Walker per the warrant. The resultant search incident to arrest revealed one clear plastic baggy of marijuana and another one of cocaine in Walker's pockets.

In contrast, Walker testified that he started to remove his backpack to obtain his ID when Pittman placed him under arrest. According to Walker, Pittman then searched the backpack, removed the wallet, and asked Walker to take the ID out of the wallet. Walker replied, “[W]ell, I'm handcuffed. Why do you think I can take it out?” Pittman's continued search of the backpack revealed a CD with Walker's initials on it. Walker claims that only after [292 Kan. 4] Pittman finished searching the backpack did he run a records check, i.e., once Walker was already under arrest.

Walker admitted ownership of the marijuana. But he claimed he took the cocaine from a kid in an alley and intended to throw it away. Sergeant George Sims arrived to conduct a field test of the two substances found on Walker. Sims testified that the substances tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, while Walker alleges that Sims said they tested negative while on site.

The State charged Walker with one count of possession of cocaine in violation of K.S.A. 65–4160(a) and one count of possession of marijuana in violation of K.S.A. 65–4162(a). Walker filed a pretrial motion to suppress the drug evidence, essentially arguing that Pittman did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him because the description of the suspect was “grossly inadequate.”

In denying the motion, the district judge stated in relevant part:

“[T]he officer had a legal justification to inquire of a possible suspect who matched the description of the perpetrator of a crime only minutes before. It was a detention. He ascertained his identity. The defendant cooperated. He gave him some sort of a Missouri identification card.

“At that point, the officer found out there was an active arrest warrant for the defendant. At that point in time, the arrest was legal, it was constitutional, and the subsequent search was legal and constitutional.”

A jury found Walker guilty on both counts. He appealed, but a Court of Appeals panel affirmed his convictions in State v. Walker, 41 Kan.App.2d 337, 202 P.3d 685 (2009). We granted Walker's petition for review.

More facts will be added as necessary to the analysis.

ANALYSIS
Issue 1: The officer had reasonable suspicion to detain Walker.

Walker argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. He contends that the encounter with Officer Pittman was not only an investigatory detention but it was also unsupported by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Walker specifically argues that a reasonable person would not feel free to terminate an encounter with a police officer after learning he or she is a possible suspect in criminal activity. Walker further argues that the suspect's [292 Kan. 5] description—a black male wearing a black shirt and black shorts—was insufficient to provide Pittman with a reasonable and articulable suspicion that Walker committed a crime. Walker particularly points to the fact that his shirt was dark blue, with a picture of Mickey Mouse on the front. Consequently, Walker demands that all evidence obtained be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963).

The State responds that the encounter was consensual and did not become an investigatory detention until Pittman discovered Walker's arrest warrant. In the alternative, if the encounter was an investigatory detention from the onset, the State argues that Pittman possessed reasonable suspicion. It points out that Walker matched the suspect's description, he was the only person Pittman saw matching the description, he was located within minutes of the crime, and he was found just two blocks away.

[251 P.3d 622]

Standard of Review

When reviewing general motions to suppress evidence, we employ the following standard of review:

“ ‘ “ ‘[T]his court reviews the factual underpinnings of a district court's decision for substantial competent evidence and the ultimate legal conclusion drawn from those facts de novo. The ultimate determination of the suppression of evidence is a legal question requiring independent appellate review. [Citation omitted.] The State bears the burden to demonstrate that a challenged search or seizure was lawful. [Citation omitted.]’ ” ' ” State v. Thomas, 291 Kan. 676, 246 P.3d 678 (2011) (citing State v. McGinnis, 290 Kan. 547, 551, 233 P.3d 246 [2010] ).

Walker contends that...

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57 practice notes
  • State v. Neighbors, No. 105,588.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • April 25, 2014
    ...437 U.S. at 393, 98 S.Ct. 2408 (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 25–26, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 [1968] ); see also State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 13, 251 P.3d 618 (2011) (“ ‘In other words, we must determine whether running a warrants check [during an investigatory detention] was “rea......
  • State v. Talkington, 107,596.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 6, 2015
    ...public visibility of the baggie by stating otherwise. See State v. Reiss, 299 Kan. 291, 296, 326 P.3d 367 (2014) (citing State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 16, 251 P.3d 618 [2011] ).We make two additional observations. First, the fact that an effort was made to conceal the baggie between the pipe......
  • Schreiner v. Hodge, No. 117,034
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • November 9, 2017
    ...and experience. See Thomas v. Board of Shawnee County Comm'rs, 293 Kan. 208, 234-35, 262 P.3d 336 (2011). Then, in State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 8, 251 P.3d 618 (2011), the court clarified that determining whether an officer has reasonable suspicion must be viewed in light of all the circums......
  • State v. Ellis, No. 120,046
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • August 7, 2020
    ...warrants when the officer has reasonable suspicion to detain and investigate the person for criminal activity. See State v. Walker , 292 Kan. 1, 14-16, 251 P.3d 618 (2011). Likewise, as part of the routine investigation of a traffic infraction, the officer has a right to check the driver's ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
57 cases
  • State v. Neighbors, No. 105,588.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • April 25, 2014
    ...437 U.S. at 393, 98 S.Ct. 2408 (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 25–26, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 [1968] ); see also State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 13, 251 P.3d 618 (2011) (“ ‘In other words, we must determine whether running a warrants check [during an investigatory detention] was “rea......
  • State v. Talkington, 107,596.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 6, 2015
    ...public visibility of the baggie by stating otherwise. See State v. Reiss, 299 Kan. 291, 296, 326 P.3d 367 (2014) (citing State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 16, 251 P.3d 618 [2011] ).We make two additional observations. First, the fact that an effort was made to conceal the baggie between the pipe......
  • Schreiner v. Hodge, No. 117,034
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • November 9, 2017
    ...and experience. See Thomas v. Board of Shawnee County Comm'rs, 293 Kan. 208, 234-35, 262 P.3d 336 (2011). Then, in State v. Walker, 292 Kan. 1, 8, 251 P.3d 618 (2011), the court clarified that determining whether an officer has reasonable suspicion must be viewed in light of all the circums......
  • State v. Ellis, No. 120,046
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • August 7, 2020
    ...warrants when the officer has reasonable suspicion to detain and investigate the person for criminal activity. See State v. Walker , 292 Kan. 1, 14-16, 251 P.3d 618 (2011). Likewise, as part of the routine investigation of a traffic infraction, the officer has a right to check the driver's ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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