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State of Kansas v. Deron D. Williams

May 17, 2013

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLANT,
v.
DERON D. WILLIAMS, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; THOMAS L. BOEDING, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT 1. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Section 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights provides the same guarantee. 2. Voluntary encounters between law enforcement officers and citizens are not considered seizures and do not trigger the protections of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 3. A person is seized by a police officer, thereby triggering an analysis of the police action under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen. 4. When no physical force is involved, a seizure by show of police authority occurs when the totality of circumstances surrounding the incident would communicate to a reasonable person that he or she is not free to disregard the officer's questions, decline the officer's requests, or otherwise terminate the encounter, and the person submits to the show of authority. 5. Some factors to consider in applying the totality of the circumstances test are: the presence of more than one officer, the display of a weapon, physical contact by the officer, use of a commanding tone of voice, activation of sirens or flashers, a command to halt or approach, and an attempt to control the ability to flee. This list of factors is neither exhaustive nor exclusive. Moreover, 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. 6. When a criminal defendant challenges the State's use of evidence allegedly obtained in violation of the defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the State bears the burden to establish the lawfulness of the challenged search or seizure. When the State fails to meet that burden, the evidence may be suppressed through application of the exclusionary rule. 7. One exception to the exclusionary rule is the doctrine of attenuation. Under the doctrine, the poisonous taint of an unlawful search or seizure dissipates when the connection between the unlawful police conduct and the challenged evidence becomes attenuated. 8. When evidence would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of law enforcement, the relevant question is whether officers discovered the allegedly tainted evidence through exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint. 9. To determine whether law enforcement officers obtained allegedly tainted evidence through exploitation of an illegality, courts generally consider (1) the time that elapsed between the illegality and the acquisition of the evidence sought to be suppressed, (2) the presence of any intervening circumstances, and (3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct. But no one factor is controlling, and other factors may also be relevant to the attenuation analysis. 10. Whether the taint of a prior illegality has been purged by sufficient attenuation between the unlawful conduct of a police officer and the discovery of the challenged evidence is a question of fact that appellate courts review under a substantial competent evidence standard. 11. The discovery of an arrest warrant following an illegal detention is of minimal importance in attenuating the taint from the illegal detention from the evidence discovered during a search incident to an arrest on the warrant.

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

Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed January 22, 2010.

Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

The State charged Deron Williams with one count of cocaine possession after law enforcement officers arrested him on an outstanding warrant and discovered cocaine in his shoe. The district court granted Williams' motion to suppress the cocaine, concluding officers unlawfully detained Williams before discovering the arrest warrant when they took his identification to run a warrants check and that unlawful detention tainted the evidence found in the search, requiring its suppression. The State appealed and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's suppression decision. State v. Williams, No. 101,617, 2010 WL 348286 (Kan. App. 2010) (unpublished opinion). We granted Williams' petition for review. See 290 Kan. 1104 (2010).

While we agree with the district court that the officers unlawfully detained Williams, we conclude the unlawful detention occurred at an earlier stage in the encounter than did the district court. Specifically, we agree with the Court of Appeals dissent that officers unlawfully detained Williams at the inception of the encounter when they (1) pulled over and parked their patrol vehicle next to Williams as he walked along a sidewalk early in the morning in an isolated area; (2) activated the car's emergency lights; (3) got out of the patrol car and stood on either side of Williams; and (4) immediately began asking Williams questions, all without any reasonable suspicion of his involvement in any criminal activity. We hold under these circumstances, a reasonable person would not have felt free to decline to answer the officers' questions or to otherwise terminate the encounter.

Further, applying the attenuation analysis from State v. Martin, 285 Kan. 994, 179 P.3d 457, cert. denied 555 U.S. 880 (2008), as clarified in State v. Moralez, 297 Kan. ___, ___ P.3d ___ (No. 102,342, this day decided), we hold the officers' discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant during Williams' unlawful detention did not purge the taint of that unlawful detention. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals' decision and affirm the district court's suppression ruling.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The relevant facts are undisputed. Williams' encounter with police began about 2:30 a.m., as patrolling Kansas City, Kansas, police officer Andrew Lewis observed Williams walking westbound on the sidewalk running parallel to Quindaro Boulevard in a vicinity known to law enforcement as a "high crime, high drug" area. Lewis, who was accompanied by a second officer, did not suspect Williams of committing any crimes; nevertheless, he decided to stop Williams for what Lewis characterized as a "pedestrian check."

Lewis testified at the suppression hearing the purpose of a pedestrian check is to ask the pedestrian about what is happening in the area and whether he or she has seen any suspicious activity.

In this instance, Lewis pulled his patrol car next to the sidewalk where Williams was walking and activated his "wigwags,"-two yellow lights on the back of the light bar atop the patrol car-in order to warn traffic he had stopped on the side of the road. As Lewis opened the door of his patrol car, Williams stopped walking and stood near the rear of the patrol car. Both officers got out of the vehicle; Lewis stood near the trunk of the patrol car, and the second officer stood by the passenger door.

Lewis then questioned Williams about where he had been, where he was going, and whether he had seen anything suspicious in the area. After several minutes, Lewis requested Williams' identification to "see if he's got a warrant."

After Lewis ran a computer check and discovered an outstanding warrant, the officers arrested Williams, took him to the county jail, and searched him, discovering cocaine in his shoe.

District Court's Ruling on Motion to Suppress

After the State charged Williams with possession of cocaine, he moved to suppress the cocaine, arguing he was unlawfully seized without reasonable suspicion and the unlawful seizure tainted the evidence found pursuant to his arrest. Williams also argued the discovery of the warrant did not purge the taint of the unlawful seizure. The State agreed that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion of any criminal activity by Williams but argued reasonable suspicion was unnecessary because the encounter commenced as a voluntary encounter and remained voluntary throughout the encounter. Alternatively, the State argued that even if the officers unlawfully detained Williams, the discovery of the outstanding arrest warrant constituted an intervening circumstance that purged the taint of the unlawful detention.

Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted Williams' suppression motion. The court found the encounter between Williams and the two officers began as a voluntary encounter but evolved into an unlawful detention when Lewis requested Williams' identification. In so holding, the district court relied on several facts, including the presence of two police officers, the patrol car's flashing emergency lights, Williams' location between the two officers during questioning, and the absence of any reasonable suspicion of Williams' involvement in criminal activity. However, the district court did not consider the State's alternative attenuation argument. The State appealed.

Court of Appeals' Decision

A divided Court of Appeals panel reversed the district court's suppression ruling, with the majority characterizing the entire encounter between Williams and the officers as voluntary. Alternatively, the majority applied Martin to conclude that even if officers unlawfully detained Williams, the discovery of the outstanding arrest warrant and the nonegregious nature of the officers' actions sufficiently attenuated the discovery of the contraband from the unlawful detention. Williams,2010 WL 348286, at *1-4. In a concurring opinion, Judge Buser more thoroughly considered the totality of the circumstances test before also concluding the entire encounter was voluntary. 2010 WL 348286, at *4-8 (Buser, J., concurring).

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Standridge reasoned the officers unlawfully detained Williams at the beginning of the encounter. Further, applying Martin's attenuation analysis, Judge Standridge would have held that the discovery of the outstanding warrant did not purge the taint of the unlawful detention, requiring ...


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