BY THE COURT
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects
everyone's right to be secure in his or her person and
not subject to unreasonable searches by the government.
warrantless search is unreasonable unless it falls within one
of the recognized exceptions to the search-warrant
requirement. The State has the burden to show that one of the
search-warrant exception covers searches incident to arrest,
in which an officer can search the person arrested and the
area within that person's immediate control without a
warrant. That exception does not apply to a purse left behind
by the person who was arrested when the person arrested could
no longer gain access to the purse and there's no
possibility that the purse contained evidence of the crime
for which the person was arrested.
Another search-warrant exception is inevitable discovery,
which allows the admission of evidence otherwise
unconstitutionally obtained if police eventually would have
found the evidence by lawful means. Here, the State claimed
the purse would have been taken with the arrested person to
the jail and then inventoried. But the State did not show
that the exception applied because the evidence was found
within a closed billfold within a closed purse, and the State
neither presented evidence that the police department had a
policy of taking purses to the jail for inventory purposes or
any policy about the opening of closed items.
from Shawnee District Court; Mark S. Braun, judge.
L. Pickering, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt,
attorney general, for appellant.
L. Strickland, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for
Leben, P.J., Green and Malone, JJ.
police officers arrested Linda Ritchey for an outstanding
warrant while she was sitting in the front passenger seat of
a parked van. After Ritchey was arrested, a police officer
searched Ritchey's purse, which Ritchey had left in the
van, and found a baggie with methamphetamine residue. Ritchey
moved to suppress the evidence from her purse, arguing that
it had been found during an illegal search. The district
court granted the motion.
State appeals, arguing that the district court shouldn't
have suppressed the evidence because: (1) officers legally
searched Ritchey's purse during a valid search incident
to arrest, one of the recognized exceptions to the
requirement that officers have a search warrant; and (2) even
if the search were illegal, officers would have found the
evidence when they processed Ritchey's purse at the
police station to hold it in safekeeping for her. But the
officers' search of Ritchey's purse wasn't a
valid search incident to arrest because the purse wasn't
on her person, there was no threat that Ritchey could use any
weapons in her purse against the officers, and there was no
possibility that her purse contained evidence of her crime of
arrest-having an outstanding warrant. Likewise, there was no
evidence that the police had a policy to take items like her
purse into possession for safekeeping and no evidence that
this purse was sent along with her to the jail, so the State
failed to show that items within the closed purse would have
inevitably been discovered. Because the officer searched
Ritchey's purse without a warrant and the search
didn't meet any of the exceptions for a warrantless
search, the district court properly suppressed the evidence
from the purse. We therefore affirm the district court's
order granting the motion to suppress evidence.
and Procedural Background
2017, Topeka police officers responded to a report that a
group of women, including defendant Linda Ritchey, might be
burglarizing a van in the Academy Sports parking lot. When
officers arrived and found the van, they approached Ritchey,
who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the van
smoking a cigarette.
Jake Cobler asked Ritchey if the van belonged to her. Ritchey
said that it belonged to her friends, who were inside the
store. Ritchey gave Cobler her identification, which was in
the purse Ritchey was holding while sitting in the van. About
six minutes later, a female officer, Officer Ramirez (whose
first name is not in our record), asked Ritchey to step out
of the van. When Ritchey stepped out, Ramirez put Ritchey in
handcuffs, explaining that there was a warrant out for her
Ritchey was under arrest, Ramirez led Ritchey to the back of
the van. Soon after, but while she was still standing at the
back of the van, Cobler began searching through Ritchey's
purse, which was still where she had left it on the front
passenger seat. The baggie was in a pocket ...