State v. Wantland, No. 2011AP3007–CR.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtANNETTE KINGSLAND ZIEGLER
Citation2014 WI 58,355 Wis.2d 135,848 N.W.2d 810
Docket NumberNo. 2011AP3007–CR.
Decision Date11 July 2014
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. Derik J. WANTLAND, Defendant–Appellant–Petitioner.

355 Wis.2d 135
848 N.W.2d 810
2014 WI 58

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff–Respondent,
v.
Derik J. WANTLAND, Defendant–Appellant–Petitioner.

No. 2011AP3007–CR.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Argued Feb. 20, 2014.
Decided July 11, 2014.


[848 N.W.2d 812]


Appeal from Circuit Court, Sheboygan County, Timothy Van Akkeren, Judge.

For the defendant-appellant-petitioner, the cause was argued by Tristan S. Breedlove, assistant state public defender, with whom on the briefs was Susan E. Alesia, assistant state public defender.

For the plaintiff-respondent, the cause was argued by Sarah K. Larson, assistant attorney general, with whom on the brief was J.B. Van Hollen, attorney general.


ANNETTE KINGSLAND ZIEGLER, J.

¶ 1 This is a review of a decision of the court of appeals, State v. Wantland, 2013 WI App 36, 346 Wis.2d 680, 828 N.W.2d 885, that affirmed the judgment and order of the Sheboygan County Circuit Court,1 which convicted Derik J. Wantland (“Wantland”) of possession of a narcotic and denied his motion to suppress evidence.

¶ 2 Both the State and Wantland concede that the driver consented to the search of the vehicle in which the briefcase was located, and concede that the driver's consent was not limited in a way that would have excluded the briefcase from the search.2 Wantland's petition for review and argument assume that the driver's general consent to search was not limited until Wantland, the passenger, asked the officer whether he had a warrant

[848 N.W.2d 813]

for the briefcase. Thus, this opinion addresses not whether the officer had the driver's general consent in the first instance, but rather, we address whether Wantland's question limited that consent.3

¶ 3 Wantland argues that the warrantless search of his briefcase, which led to the discovery of the narcotics, was unreasonable and therefore violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Wantland contends that he asserted ownership of the briefcase and withdrew the driver's consent by asking “Got a warrant for that?” of the police officer who was conducting the search. He further argues that the police officer had a duty to ask follow-up questions to clarify any ambiguity once Wantland asked his question.

¶ 4 The State argues that Wantland's question “Got a warrant for that?” was too ambiguous to constitute a withdrawal of the driver's consent. The State further contends that the officer was under no duty to clarify Wantland's question.

¶ 5 We conclude that Wantland did not effectively withdraw the driver's consent when he asked “Got a warrant for that?” Further, we conclude that police officers confronted with ambiguous statements, such as Wantland's, are not under a duty to ask follow-up questions to clarify the ambiguity. As a result, we conclude that the search of the briefcase was reasonable under the circumstances, and we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶ 6 On August 26, 2010, Sheboygan County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Brockway (“Deputy Brockway”) stopped a vehicle in Random Lake, Wisconsin, for driving with a cracked windshield and a defective brake light. The vehicle was being driven by Wantland's brother, Dennis Wantland (“the driver”).4 Wantland was riding in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.

¶ 7 After issuing a written warning, Deputy Brockway asked the driver to step out of the car so that he could show him the brake light and explain why driving with a cracked windshield was dangerous. Deputy Brockway then informed the driver that he was free to leave. After walking back to his squad car, Deputy Brockway turned and asked the driver if there was “anything in the vehicle that wasn't supposed to be in the vehicle.” 5 When the driver responded that he did not believe there was, Deputy Brockway asked if he could search the car.6 The driver responded

[848 N.W.2d 814]

“Um, I don't see why not. We gotta get our tools and stuff out anyway.” Deputy Brockway then asked both men to step out of the vehicle and wait by the curb while he performed the search.

¶ 8 During Deputy Brockway's search of the passenger compartment of the vehicle, he noted some razor blades and asked what they were for. The driver replied, “we got these little, um, utility knives that we use they're for—painting the windows and stuff, [it's] easier to just paint over the trim then come back.”

¶ 9 After searching the passenger compartment, Deputy Brockway opened the back hatch of the vehicle and observed a variety of tools and toolboxes, along with a briefcase. Deputy Brockway asked what was in the briefcase. Wantland responded, “A laptop. Uh. Got a warrant for that?” Deputy Brockway responded, “I can open up the, uh, laptop” and proceeded to remove the briefcase from the vehicle. Wantland then recounted the contents of the briefcase, stating “Yeah, it's uh, laptop, Visine, acid reflux.”

¶ 10 During his search of the briefcase, Deputy Brockway discovered pills that appeared to be inconsistent with the bottle in which they were found.7 A second officer, called in by Deputy Brockway for his expertise in identifying narcotics, verified that the pills were morphine. The briefcase also contained letters and personal papers with Wantland's name on them. At that point, Deputy Brockway arrested Wantland and informed him of his Miranda rights. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). A search incident to Wantland's arrest revealed two additional morphine pills concealed in some loose tobacco in Wantland's pocket.

II. PROCEDURAL POSTURE

¶ 11 On January 27, 2011, the State filed a complaint charging Wantland with possession of narcotic drugs without a prescription, as a repeater, contrary to Wis. Stat. §§ 961.41(3g)(am) and 939.62(1)(b) (2011–12). 8 On February 14, 2011, Wantland made his initial appearance, waived a reading of the complaint, and requested a preliminary hearing. The court set Wantland's signature bond at $5,000. On February 23, 2011, the court held a preliminary hearing, found probable cause to bind Wantland over for trial, and the State filed an information which alleged the same charge against Wantland. On March 25, 2011, Wantland was arraigned on the information and pled not guilty.

¶ 12 On April 5, 2011, Wantland filed a motion to suppress the evidence uncovered during Deputy Brockway's search of the briefcase.9 On April 12, 2011, the circuit court held a hearing on Wantland's motion.10 At the hearing, Wantland argued that there was no valid consent to search

[848 N.W.2d 815]

the vehicle because the circumstances of the stop were coercive. Alternatively, Wantland argued that his question “Got a warrant for that?” was sufficient to withdraw any consent that may have been given. The State argued that the driver's consent to search the vehicle was valid and was not limited in any way, and that Wantland's question was not sufficient to withdraw the original consent.

¶ 13 On May 2, 2011, the circuit court denied Wantland's motion to suppress. The court concluded that the initial consent was voluntary and was not the result of any coercion or show of force on the part of Deputy Brockway. The court further concluded Wantland's question did not withdraw the driver's original consent.

¶ 14 On May 3, 2011, Wantland pled no contest to the charge pursuant to a plea agreement. In exchange for his plea, the State agreed to recommend 18 months' probation. The circuit court accepted Wantland's plea, found him guilty, and accepted the State's recommendation with regard to sentencing.

¶ 15 On December 21, 2011, Wantland appealed. Before the court of appeals, Wantland narrowed the issue and argued that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress because his question “Got a warrant for that?” effectively withdrew the general consent his brother had given Deputy Brockway. The State again contended that, as the driver of the vehicle, the driver had apparent authority to consent to a search, and that Wantland's subsequent question did not withdraw that consent.

¶ 16 On February 20, 2013, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court. Wantland, 346 Wis.2d 680, ¶ 1, 828 N.W.2d 885. The court of appeals determined that, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would not have understood Wantland's question to be a withdrawal of his brother's general consent to search the vehicle. Id., ¶¶ 8–9. As a result, the court of appeals concluded that the search was legal and upheld the circuit court's denial of Wantland's motion to suppress. Id., ¶ 12.

¶ 17 On March 22, 2013, Wantland petitioned this court for review, which we granted on November 21, 2013.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 18 “Our review of an order granting or denying a motion to suppress evidence presents a question of constitutional fact.” State v. Robinson, 2010 WI 80, ¶ 22, 327 Wis.2d 302, 786 N.W.2d 463 (citing State v. Hughes, 2000 WI 24, ¶ 15, 233 Wis.2d 280, 607 N.W.2d 621).

¶ 19 “When presented with a question of constitutional fact, this court engages in a two-step inquiry.” Id. (citations omitted); see also State v. Popke, 2009 WI 37, ¶ 10, 317 Wis.2d 118, 765 N.W.2d 569. “First, we review the circuit court's findings of historical fact under a deferential standard, upholding them unless they are clearly erroneous. Second, we independently apply constitutional principles to those facts.” Id. (citations omitted). 11

IV. ANALYSIS

¶ 20 “The Fourth Amendment does not proscribe all state-initiated searches and seizures; it merely proscribes those which are unreasonable.” Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 250, 111 S.Ct. 1801, 114 L.Ed.2d 297 (1991) (citing

[848 N.W.2d 816]

Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 110 S.Ct. 2793, 111 L.Ed.2d 148 (1990)). The United States Supreme Court has “long approved consensual searches because it is no doubt reasonable for the police to conduct a search once they have been permitted to do so.” Id. at 250–51, 111 S.Ct. 1801 (citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 practice notes
  • State v. Brown, No. 2017AP774-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 3, 2020
    ...We have expressly declined to impose a "magic words" requirement in the Fourth Amendment context as well. See State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶33, 355 Wis. 2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (rejecting "particular ‘magic words’ " in assessing whether consent is withdrawn). Officer De......
  • State v. Cummings, Nos. 2011AP1653–CR, 2012AP520–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 24, 2014
    ...to a defendant's assertion of a constitutional right is troubling when the asserted authority contradicts the right. See State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶ 27, 355 Wis.2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (Prosser, J., dissenting). When Detective Guy asserted that he had a right to question Smith, he effec......
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 2012AP–46–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 11, 2014
    ...WI App 147, ¶ 15, 337 Wis.2d 688, 808 N.W.2d 130. The interest of justice statute “ ‘was not intended to vest this court with power of [848 N.W.2d 810]discretionary reversal to enable a defendant to present an alternative defense at a new trial merely because the defense presented at the fi......
  • Marathon Cnty. v. D.K. (In re Condition D.K.), No. 2017AP2217
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 4, 2020
    ...WI 27, ¶36, 374 Wis. 2d 98, 892 N.W.2d 682 (rejecting in the context of a circuit court inquiring about juror bias); State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶33, 355 Wis. 2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (rejecting in context of withdrawing consent under the Fourth Amendment); Elections Bd. v. Wisconsin Mfrs.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • State v. Brown, No. 2017AP774-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 3, 2020
    ...We have expressly declined to impose a "magic words" requirement in the Fourth Amendment context as well. See State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶33, 355 Wis. 2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (rejecting "particular ‘magic words’ " in assessing whether consent is withdrawn). Officer Deering testified the ......
  • State v. Cummings, Nos. 2011AP1653–CR, 2012AP520–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 24, 2014
    ...to a defendant's assertion of a constitutional right is troubling when the asserted authority contradicts the right. See State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶ 27, 355 Wis.2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (Prosser, J., dissenting). When Detective Guy asserted that he had a right to question Smith, he effec......
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 2012AP–46–CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 11, 2014
    ...WI App 147, ¶ 15, 337 Wis.2d 688, 808 N.W.2d 130. The interest of justice statute “ ‘was not intended to vest this court with power of [848 N.W.2d 810]discretionary reversal to enable a defendant to present an alternative defense at a new trial merely because the defense presented at the fi......
  • Marathon Cnty. v. D.K. (In re Condition D.K.), No. 2017AP2217
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 4, 2020
    ...WI 27, ¶36, 374 Wis. 2d 98, 892 N.W.2d 682 (rejecting in the context of a circuit court inquiring about juror bias); State v. Wantland, 2014 WI 58, ¶33, 355 Wis. 2d 135, 848 N.W.2d 810 (rejecting in context of withdrawing consent under the Fourth Amendment); Elections Bd. v. Wisconsin Mfrs.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT