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State v. Powell

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 6, 2014

RYAN POWELL, Appellant

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Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 45 Kan.App.2d 1090, 257 P.3d 1244 (2011).

Appeal from Greenwood District Court; JOHN E. SANDERS, judge.

Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded.



1. In determining whether probable cause exists to support a search warrant, the issuing magistrate's task is simply to make a practical, commonsense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit, including the veracity and basis of knowledge of any person supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.

2. When an affidavit in support of a search warrant application is challenged, the reviewing court's task is to ensure that the issuing magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding probable cause existed. This standard is inherently deferential. It does not demand that the reviewing court determine whether, as a matter of law, probable cause existed; rather, the standard translates to whether the affidavit provided a substantial basis for the magistrate's determination that there was a fair probability evidence would be found in the place to be searched. Because the reviewing court is able to evaluate the necessarily undisputed content of an affidavit just as well as the issuing magistrate, the reviewing court may perform its own evaluation of the affidavit's sufficiency under this deferential standard.

3. On a motion to suppress evidence, this court reviews the factual findings underlying the trial court's suppression decision using a substantial competent evidence standard and the legal conclusions drawn from those factual findings using a de novo standard. The court does not reweigh evidence.

4. Under the holding in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677, reh. denied 468 U.S. 1250, 105 S.Ct. 52, 82 L.Ed.2d 942 (1984), the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule should not be applied to bar the use of evidence obtained by officers acting in objectively reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a detached and neutral magistrate but ultimately found to be invalid, except when: (a) The magistrate issuing the warrant was deliberately misled by false information; (b) the magistrate wholly abandoned his or her detached or neutral role; (c) there was so little indicia of probable cause in the affidavit that it was entirely unreasonable for the officers to believe the warrant was valid; or (d) the warrant so lacked specificity that officers could not determine the place to be searched or the items to be seized.

5. The fact that a challenged search or seizure was authorized by a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate is the clearest indication the officers acted in an objectively reasonable manner. But that fact does not end the inquiry. To evaluate whether it was entirely unreasonable for an officer to believe the warrant was valid, it must be determined whether a reasonably well-trained officer would have known the search was illegal despite the magistrate's authorization.

Korey A. Kaul, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Joe E. Lee, county attorney, argued the cause, and Steve Six, attorney general, was with him on the brief for appellee.


Page 1166

[299 Kan. 691] BILES, J.

Ryan Powell was convicted of felony theft and felony criminal damage to property. He seeks review of a Court of Appeals decision affirming the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained through a search warrant authorizing the seizure of his blood, hair, fingerprints, and buccal (cheek) cells. State v. Powell, 45 Kan.App.2d 1090, 257 P.3d 1244 (2011). Powell argues the district court erred because: (1) After it found the warrant lacked the required probable cause, it applied the United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984), good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule and permitted the illegally seized evidence to be used at trial; and (2) K.S.A. 22-2502 does not expressly authorize search warrants for blood, hair, fingerprints, cheek cells, or other biological material. We reverse Powell's convictions and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

We hold the district court erred by not suppressing the evidence. The Leon good-faith exception cannot save the search because it [299 Kan. 692] was objectively unreasonable for the officer to rely on the warrant. In so holding, we do not reach Powell's alternative argument that K.S.A. 22-2502 does not permit the court-ordered seizure of biological material. We note, however, this presents a question of first impression for this court and may merit further legislative consideration given the lack of express statutory language.

Factual and Procedural Background

In July 2007, a Greenwood County Sheriff's Department patrol car was stolen from a locked compound and found wrecked in a ditch the following morning. Officers collected hair and tissue samples from the cracked windshield, hair from the rearview mirror, and blood from the vehicle's interior. In September, officers sought a search warrant for " samples of [Powell's] blood, hair, and oral swabs as well as fingerprint samples."

The affidavit supporting the search warrant did not indicate DNA evidence had been recovered from the patrol vehicle or otherwise explain why blood, hair samples, buccal cell swabs, and fingerprints were sought in a case involving a stolen vehicle. It summarized a police interview with Powell, who denied involvement with the crime. It went on to explain that a detective had suggested Powell submit to a DNA test " to prove his innocence" and that Powell at first declined, but then agreed, to give a voluntary sample. The affidavit stated Powell failed to report for the test. The affidavit also mentioned three anonymous phone calls. Each claimed Powell was involved in the theft.

The first anonymous caller told the sheriff's office dispatch she " pretty much [knew] for 100% sure" that Powell was involved in the car theft. During the second call, an anonymous caller told the Greenwood County Crime Stoppers hotline that another named individual drove the stolen patrol car and that Powell was a passenger. In a third call, an anonymous tipster told the Crime Stoppers hotline that Powell had told the caller Powell was involved with the theft. It is not clear whether the calls were placed by the same person.

The affidavit also discussed the detective's questioning of Powell at Powell's workplace. Powell told the detective the night the car [299 Kan. 693] was stolen was his last night on bond supervision and that he would not have done anything to get in trouble. The detective observed that he thought it odd Powell would be able to remember the exact date in question because the detective did not mention the date during questioning. The detective also noted Powell originally said he learned about the theft from the newspaper but then later claimed to have learned about it from others. Powell's wife told the detective they read about the crime in the newspaper.

A district court judge approved and signed the warrant. Hair and oral swabs were collected from Powell, and a medical professional drew his blood. The State then charged Powell with involvement in the theft.

Powell filed a motion to suppress the biological material, arguing the warrant lacked probable cause and the Leon good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply ...

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