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State v. Uhlig

November 2, 2007

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. UHLIG, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Johnson District Court; STEPHEN R. TATUM, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Probationers do not enjoy the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled, but only conditional liberty properly dependent on observance of special probation restrictions.

2. The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness, and the reasonableness of a search is determined by assessing, on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individuals's privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.

3. Prisoners have no expectation of privacy and lack Fourth Amendment rights (they can therefore be searched at any time for any reason); parolees have a slight expectation of privacy and therefore can be searched in the absence of reasonable suspicion, but not arbitrarily or capriciously; and probationers have a higher expectation of privacy than parolees.

4. Reasonable suspicion is sufficient when a search of a probationer is made. The reasonableness of the search is determined by applying a balancing test that heavily considers the government's strong interest in allowing the search.

5. Under the facts of this case, where it was a condition of probation for the defendant to submit to searches of his room, the search was done by a probation officer and a law enforcement officer, and the defendant admitted that he was attempting to hide cigarettes in his room, the officers had a reasonable suspicion to search the defendant's room. The trial court correctly denied the motion to suppress.

6. The facts reveal that the defendant was not in custody when he answered the officer's questions, nor were his answers coerced by threat. His answers were admissible even though the officers did not give a Miranda warning. The trial court correctly denied the motion to suppress.

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

Affirmed.

Before RULON, C.J., ELLIOTT and HILL, JJ.

Christopher L. Uhlig was convicted of possessing methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a drug commonly known as ecstasy. The ecstasy was found by a court services officer when she searched his bedroom. Uhlig unsuccessfully sought to suppress the drug evidence and now asks us to overturn his conviction because of this warrantless search. But probationers do not enjoy the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled. For example, one condition of Uhlig's juvenile probation required him to submit to searches "at home, school, work or elsewhere" as directed by his court services officer. Before this search, Uhlig admitted to the officers that during a delay in allowing the officers entry into his bedroom, he was trying to hide his cigarettes from them. Possession of tobacco was a violation of his probation. Based on those facts, we hold that the officers had reasonable suspicion to search his room. We affirm the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress.

Uhlig further contends that we should suppress any statements he gave to the officers because they had not warned him of his constitutional rights as required by the Miranda decision. Warnings must be given to all in custody before their interrogation. Because Uhlig was not in custody during the search of his room when he replied to the officers' questions, we hold the officers were not required to give a Miranda warning. We affirm the trial court's denial of Uhlig's motion to suppress his answers to the officer's questions.

We first review some principles of the law of search and seizure when dealing with searches of probationers. Next, we look at what the record reveals about the actions of Uhlig and the officers with respect to the search. Finally, we decide if the officers needed to ...


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