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State v. Baker

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 9, 2017

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Casey M. Baker, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. When a person is arrested in a public place, the arresting officer may take custody of personal effects that are with the arrestee at the time if it is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.

         2. Standardized criteria or an established routine must regulate the opening of containers during a valid inventory search.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed August 21, 2015. Appeal from Douglas District Court; Paula B. Martin, judge.

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

          Corrine E. Gunning, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

          Kate Duncan Butler, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Patrick J. Hurley, assistant district attorney, Charles E. Branson, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          Stegall, J.

         Casey M. Baker appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence discovered through a warrantless search of his backpack at the time of arrest as well as his resulting convictions for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. The district court denied the motion, ruling the evidence would have been inevitably discovered during an inventory search. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

         We conclude the officers reasonably seized Baker's backpack but the State presented no evidence of an established inventory routine that would have inevitably led to the opening of the containers in which the evidence was found. Therefore, we hold the State did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the contraband would have been inevitably discovered and the district court erred in denying Baker's motion to suppress. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The material facts are not in dispute. In July 2013, Detective Mike McAtee and Officer Kim Nicholson, with the Lawrence Police Department, were traveling to court in an unmarked police vehicle when they noticed Baker riding his bicycle and wearing a blue drawstring backpack. Detective McAtee called for assistance because he knew Baker had outstanding arrest warrants and was a suspect in other cases. Detective McAtee and Officer Nicholson spotted Baker's bicycle outside the Habitat for Humanity store in the 700 block of Connecticut Street in Lawrence. They found Baker inside the store holding the same backpack.

         When the officers approached, Baker dropped the backpack. They arrested Baker on his outstanding warrants, and Detective McAtee instructed Officer Ryan Halsted to search the backpack. Officer Halsted searched the backpack at the scene and discovered needles inside a Nintendo game case. He searched the backpack again in an evidence room and found a bag of crystal-like substance inside a cell phone carrier. The substance tested positive for methamphetamine.

         Baker moved to suppress this evidence, arguing the warrantless search of his backpack violated the Fourth Amendment. Specifically, Baker claimed his backpack was searched without probable cause and the contraband would not have been inevitably discovered through an inventory search. He also argued law enforcement would not have had lawful custody of the backpack at the time of an inventory search. The State countered that the evidence would have been inevitably discovered through an inventory search at the arresting agency or jail and it was reasonable to seize the backpack instead of leaving it unattended in the store.

         At the suppression hearing, Detective McAtee testified the backpack was searched for evidence of crimes under investigation and collected for safekeeping as Baker's personal property. He explained the police have an obligation to collect personal property instead of leaving it unattended at the scene following an arrest.

         Two officers testified about inventory searches. The State asked Officer Halsted, "When you make an arrest of an individual on the street and you take that individual to the county jail, what do you do with that individual's belongings that ...


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