United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree United States District Judge.
March 14, 2017, law enforcement officers had a “parole
absconder” arrest warrant for defendant Jaiquan Jahai
Wheeler. They executed the warrant at a motel room rented by
Mr. Wheeler's wife, where Mr. Wheeler was visiting.
During the execution of the arrest warrant, law enforcement
officers also searched the motel room twice without a search
warrant. Although Mr. Wheeler's papers refer to the
search effort at the motel room as a single search, his
arguments functionally divide this search into two searches.
The court thus refers to two distinct searches throughout
this order. The first search began with Mr.
Wheeler's arrest and terminated when all law enforcement
officers except the FBI officers left the motel room. The
second search began when Officer Salmon, a
task force officer with the FBI, sought consent from Mr.
Wheeler's wife to search the room. In his Motion to
Suppress (Doc. 15), Mr. Wheeler seeks to suppress evidence
found during both warrantless searches of his wife's
parties submitted their initial motion and response (Docs. 15
& 18). And Mr. Wheeler filed a Supplement to his motion
(Doc. 23). The court held a hearing on the motion on November
15, 2017. At the end of that hearing, the parties requested
time to submit supplemental briefs. The court granted their
request. Mr. Wheeler has submitted the supplement to his
motion (Doc. 35). And the Government has responded (Doc. 37).
After reviewing the parties' briefs and analyzing the
evidence presented, the court now is ready to rule. For
reasons discussed below, the court denies Mr. Wheeler's
early morning hours on March 14, 2017, law enforcement
officers from the Kansas Department of Corrections
(“KDOC”), the Topeka Police Department
(“TPD”), the Shawnee County Sheriff's
Department, and the United States Marshals Service stacked
outside Room 371 of the Econo Lodge at 2950 South Topeka
Boulevard in Topeka, Kansas. These officers had a
“parole absconder” arrest warrant for Jaiquan
Jahai Wheeler, the defendant here. And they had information
that he was staying in Room 371 with his wife, Kendra
Collins. This information proved correct, as Mr. Wheeler had
arrived there around three that morning and was asleep in
this room rented by Ms. Collins. Doc. 30 at 7 (Tr. of Nov.
15, 2017 Mot. Hr'g).
the entry team was in place, KDOC Special Agent Richard
Westgate, the officer assigned to Mr. Wheeler's warrant,
knocked on the door and announced their presence. Officers
suspected that Mr. Wheeler already knew they had approached
because the drapes on the motel room had moved as someone
peered out while the officers gathered there. For a tense two
minutes, officers waited for Mr. Wheeler to open the door in
response to Special Agent Westgate's announcement. But
Mr. Wheeler did not come to the door, offering the excuse
that he needed to get dressed before opening the door.
Meanwhile, the drapes were pulled back at least once more as
someone peered out from inside the room. Officers testified
that they smelled the odor of marijuana emanating from the
room as they stood outside it. Id. at 30 (Officer
Scott Koch testifying that he smelled marijuana as he
approached the motel room), 66 (Deputy Sheriff John Peterson
testifying that he smelled marijuana as he approached the
motel room), 95 (Deputy Sheriff James Ward testifying that he
smelled marijuana as he moved toward the motel room), 156
(Special Agent Joe Cox testifying that he smelled marijuana
as he “went up to the [motel room] door.”), 186
(Special Agent Westgate testifying that “[e]ven prior
to walking into the motel room, I could smell a strong odor
of marijuana coming from the room.”).
two minutes had passed without Mr. Wheeler opening the door
as directed, the officers used a keycard to open it.
Id. at 20, 72. Then, officers flooded the room; some
gained control of Mr. Wheeler and Ms. Collins, while others
conducted a protective sweep of the room. The officers who
gained control of Mr. Wheeler and Ms. Collins immediately
handcuffed them and moved them to the covered walkway just
outside the room. Deputy Sheriff John Peterson from Shawnee
County was the first man in the stack of law enforcement
officers who entered the motel room, and he swept the room
and the bathroom. During this sweep, he saw a bag of
ammunition on the vanity and noticed that ceiling tiles as
well as the top of the toilet tank were out of place. He
testified that they looked like they had been disturbed
recently. Id. at 76-77. KDOC Special Agent Joe Cox
testified that he, too spotted the bag of ammunition on the
vanity during this protective sweep. Id. at 147.
continued their protective sweep and looked under the beds to
ensure no one was secreted there. Once they had secured the
room, the KDOC officers-Special Agent Westgate, Special Agent
Cox, and Deputy Director Richard Sackhoff-began to search the
motel room. Deputy Sheriff Peterson and Deputy Sheriff Ward,
from Shawnee County, assisted them with the search. Deputy
Sheriffs Peterson and Ward testified that the KDOC officers
led the search under the authority granted by Mr.
Wheeler's parole agreement. Id. at 77, 95. The
officers testified that this search produced two bags of
marijuana found inside the toilet tank in the bathroom, an
electronic scale found behind an ironing board, a box of
ammunition found in the drawer of the nightstand, and a
handgun found in Ms. Collins's purse-all located inside
the motel room. Id. at 102-04 (Deputy Sheriff Ward
testifying that he found two bags of marijuana inside the
toilet tank and an electronic scale behind the ironing
board), 121-123 (Deputy Director Sackhoff testifying that he
found a box of ammunition in the nightstand and a firearm in
Ms. Collins's purse).
this search was conducted, Officer Patrick Salmon and Special
Agent Ian Knooiheuizen from the FBI arrived. And at some
point, Ms. Collins was brought back into the room. When the
search was complete, all evidence was left in the room and
the searching officers left. Officer Salmon and Special Agent
Knooiheuizen stayed in the room with Ms. Collins. Officer
Salmon asked Officer Scott Koch to stay as well. He wanted to
use Officer Koch's body camera to record the interaction
with Ms. Collins. Id. at 37. Once the room was clear
of all law enforcement officers except Officer Salmon,
Special Agent Knooiheuizen, and Officer Koch, Officer Salmon
explained Mr. Wheeler's arrest warrant to Ms. Collins. He
then explained that the officers who were in the room had
found some contraband in plain view.And then, Officer Salmon
asked Ms. Collins to consent to a search of her entire room.
Ex. 1 (Koch #2.mp4 at 01:00-03:23)
asked what would happen if she didn't give her consent.
Officer Salmon explained that he would hold the room and
apply for a search warrant. He explained that her consent was
the quicker way, but she was free to decline consent. And
Officer Salmon also explained that he didn't want her to
consider whether they could secure a search warrant when she
decided whether to give her consent. She ultimately agreed to
consent. Id. at 03:23-04:35. But she had to use the
bathroom before she signed the consent form and so, Officer
Koch searched the bathroom before Ms. Collins used it.
she used the bathroom, Officer Salmon filled out the consent
form and read it to Ms. Collins. Ms. Collins was confused
about why she had to sign the form-saying that she had never
had to sign a form when she had consented in the past.
Officer Salmon explained that the FBI liked to get consent
verbally and in writing. Ms. Collins then said she understood
and signed the consent form. Id. at 07:28-11:15.
Koch then searched the room. Officer Koch testified that he
found the two bags of marijuana inside the toilet tank, a bag
of ammunition on the vanity, an electronic scale found behind
the ironing board, a handgun found in Ms. Collins's
purse, and a full box of ammunition found in the
nightstand. Doc. 30 at 30-31. He also testified that
he found an empty box of ammunition in the trashcan. It
matched the bag of ammunition found on the vanity. Officer
Koch also found a small bag of marijuana inside the pocket of
a red jacket. Id. at 31, 59.
Wheeler now seeks to suppress evidence discovered during
these searches of Ms. Collins's motel room.
Wheeler seeks to suppress this evidence because the searches,
he argues, violated the Fourth Amendment. The issues raised
by his argument begin with the requirement that Mr. Wheeler
must establish that he has standing to object to the
searches. See United States v. Marchant, 55 F.3d
509, 512 (10th Cir. 1995) (“In order to challenge the
lawfulness of a search and seizure under the Fourth
Amendment, a defendant must first establish his or her
standing to do so.”).
standing, Mr. Wheeler must demonstrate that the searches
affected his individual constitutional rights. United
States v. Rhiger, 315 F.3d 1283, 1285 (10th Cir. 2003).
To make this showing, he must “show that he had a
subjective expectation of privacy in the premises searched
and that society is prepared to recognize that expectation as
reasonable.” Id. (citation omitted). “It
is settled that a motel guest is entitled to constitutional
protection against unreasonable searches of his or her
room.” United States v. Owens, 782 F.2d 146,
149 (10th Cir. 1986) (first citing Stoner v.
California, 376 U.S. 483, 490 (1964); then citing
United States v. Anthon, 648 F.2d 669 (10th Cir.
1981)). But here, Ms. Collins is the motel guest because she
had rented the room from the motel. And the Tenth Circuit has
not expressly recognized an expectation of privacy for
unregistered guests in a motel room. See United States v.
Creighton, 639 F.3d 1281 (10th Cir. 2011) (“We
assume for the sake of argument that an individual like
Defendant who, unbeknownst to management, shares a hotel
space with a room's registered occupant to engage in
criminal activity has an expectation of privacy in the room
at least commensurate with the registered
Wheeler alternatively argues that he had a reasonable
expectation of privacy in the room as an overnight guest
there. See Minnesota v. Olson, 495, U.S. 91, 96-97
(1990) (finding that a defendant's status as “an
overnight guest is alone enough to show that he had an
expectation of privacy in the home that society is prepared
to recognize as reasonable.”). An overnight motel
guest's expectation of privacy is founded on the more
general principle that a person has Fourth Amendment
protections in a place other than his own home when he has a
legitimate expectation of privacy in the premises he is
using. See Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 142-43
(1978) (“[A] person can have a legally sufficient
interest in a place other than his own home so that the
Fourth Amendment protects him from unreasonable governmental
intrusion into that place . . . [when he has] a legitimate
expectation of privacy in the premises he was using.”).
the court finds that Mr. Wheeler had a legitimate expectation
of privacy in his wife's motel room. He came to the room
late at night (or early in the morning) and was asleep there
when police arrived several hours later. He used his
wife's room as a “private place to sleep.”
See Olson, 495 U.S. at 99. The Supreme Court has
recognized that using a dwelling in this fashion creates an
interest that provides Fourth Amendment protections against
unreasonable governmental intrusion. See Rakas, 439
U.S. at 143 (“[The] capacity to claim the protection of
the Fourth Amendment depends not upon a property right in the
invaded place but upon whether the person who claims the
protection of the Amendment has a legitimate expectation of
privacy in the invaded place.”). The court thus
concludes that Mr. Wheeler has standing to challenge the
reasonableness of the government's searches here.
Fourth Amendment Standard
Fourth Amendment to our Constitution forbids unreasonable
searches and seizures. California v. Carney, 471
U.S. 386, 390 (1985). When a defendant challenges the
reasonableness of a search or seizure, the government bears
the burden to prove the reasonableness of that search or
seizure by a preponderance of the evidence. United States
v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 (1974); United States
v. Zubia-Melendez, 263 F.3d 1155, 1160 (10th Cir. 2001).
If the court determines that a search or seizure violated the
Constitution, the exclusionary rule prohibits admission of
the fruits of all evidence seized illegally. See Wong Sun
v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 487-88 (1963).
Wheeler asserts that the court should suppress the evidence
found during the searches of Ms. Collins's motel room
because the authorities conducted improper warrantless
searches. Doc. 15 at 1. The Supreme Court has held that
warrantless searches are “presumptively
unreasonable.” See, e.g., Kentucky v.
King, 563 U.S. 452, 459 (2011). But “this
presumption may be overcome in some circumstances because the
ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is
reasonableness.” Id. (internal quotation
marks, brackets, and citation omitted). “Accordingly,
the warrant requirement is subject to certain reasonable
exceptions.” Id. (citation omitted).
Wheeler argues that his parole agreement cannot justify the
first warrantless search of Ms. Collin's motel room. The
government disagrees, and invokes four exceptions to the
warrant requirement to justify the search: the protective
sweep; the plain view doctrine; the plain smell doctrine; and
the special-needs exception. The government also invokes Ms.
Collins's consent as a basis justifying the second
the court concludes that both warrantless searches of Ms.
Collins's motel room complied with the Constitution. The
court explains the reasons for its conclusions, below.
First Search of the Motel Room
government combines these four exceptions to the warrant
requirement to justify the first search. Namely, the
government begins with the argument that officers initially
collected a variety of observations under the first three
exceptions-the protective sweep, plain view, and plain smell
doctrines. These lawfully collected observations-the
government contends, provided a basis for the officers to
invoke a fourth exception to the warrant requirement-the
overview, the special-needs exception permits certain law
enforcement officers to conduct warrantless searches because
their duties present special needs that differ from other law
enforcement officers. This exception applies when
“special needs” of law enforcement officers
“make the warrant and probable cause requirement
impracticable.” United States v. Warren, 566
F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2009). Probation and parole
officers frequently qualify for this exception.
underlying Kansas law here recognizes the special needs of
parole officers. Specifically, it authorizes Kansas parole
officers to conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches of
parolees. See Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-3717(k)(2)
(requiring a Kansas parolee to consent to searches conducted
by parole officers of the parolee's person and
“effects, vehicle, residence, and property”
whether such searches are conducted “with or without
cause.”). But as the discussion below explains, the
facts here present an unusual twist. It appears that Mr.
Wheeler's parole agreement gave Kansas's parole
officers broader search authority than Kansas law actually
authorized. But in the end, the court concludes that this
variance does not matter. It doesn't matter because the
officers properly gathered information under the first three
exceptions to the warrant requirement invoked by the
government. This information provided the parole officers
with reasonable suspicion sufficient to invoke the
special-needs exception as well.
Protective Sweep, Plain View, and Plain Smell
government first invokes the protective sweep exception. This
exception allows law enforcement officers to protect
themselves when making an arrest in a confined space. In this
context, officers may “look in closets and other spaces
immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an
attack could be immediately launched” without probable
cause or reasonable suspicion. Maryland v. Buie, 494
U.S. 325, 334 (1990). If the law enforcement officers'
search under this exception extends beyond immediately
adjoining locations, “there must be articulable facts
which, taken together with the rational inferences from those
facts, would warrant a reasonably prudent officer in
believing that the area to be swept harbors an individual
posing a danger to those on the arrest scene.”
enforcement officers arrested Mr. Wheeler, they conducted a
protective sweep- looking in the closet, in the bathroom, and
under the beds. All of these locations were in or immediately
adjacent to the main motel room, and an attack could have
been launched from any of them. See Id. During this