BY THE COURT
police officer's warrantless search of an automobile is
per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution and results in illegally obtained
evidence unless the State can prove that the search fits
within one of the recognized exceptions to the constitutional
warrant requirement. Those recognized exceptions to the
Fourth Amendment warrant requirement are: consent; search
incident to a lawful arrest; stop and frisk; probable cause
plus exigent circumstances; the emergency doctrine; inventory
searches; plain view or feel; and administrative searches of
closely regulated businesses.
Under the plain-view doctrine, police may seize a plainly
viewed object without a warrant if: (1) the police officer is
lawfully at the location and position from which the object
was plainly viewed; (2) the incriminating character of the
object is immediately apparent from the police officer's
plain-view observation; and (3) the police officer has a
lawful right of access to the place and position at which the
object may be seized.
3. If a
police officer lacks probable cause to believe that an object
in plain view is contraband without conducting some further
search of the object, i.e., if the object's incriminating
character is not immediately apparent solely from the initial
observation, the plain-view doctrine cannot justify the
seizure of the object without a warrant.
4. If a
container conceals its contents from plain view, the
plain-view exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution cannot be
applicable, standing alone, to permit the warrantless search
of that container.
vehicle's mobility is considered an exigent circumstance
for purposes of the probable-cause-with-exigent-circumstances
exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment
to the United States Constitution, creating a subclass known
as the automobile exception. The automobile exception
provides that a warrant is not required to search a vehicle
as long as probable cause exists to believe the vehicle
contains contraband or evidence of a crime and the vehicle is
probable cause analysis under the automobile exception to the
warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution reviews the totality of the circumstances
to determine whether it is fairly probable that the vehicle
contains contraband or evidence.
of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished
opinion filed July 1, 2016.
from Leavenworth District Court; Gunnar A. Sundby, Judge.
Caroline M. Zuschek, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office,
argued the cause, and Peter Maharry, of the same office, was
on the briefs for appellant.
G. Thompson, county attorney, argued the cause, and Kathryn
Devlin, assistant county attorney, and Derek Schmidt,
attorney general, were on the brief for appellee.
enforcement officer stopped the vehicle Robert Doelz was
driving to investigate whether it had any connection to a
recent bank robbery. After seizing a digital scale from the
backseat, the officer searched the vehicle, uncovering a
large amount of methamphetamine in the vehicle's gas cap
area. The district court denied a motion to suppress the
fruits of the vehicle search, and an initial jury trial ended
with a hung jury. The retrial jury convicted Doelz of
possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; the
district court denied Doelz' motion for a new trial based
on newly discovered evidence; and the Court of Appeals
affirmed the district court's denial of the suppression
motion, the district court's denial of the new trial
motion, and the jury's conviction. We granted Doelz'
petition for review which claims inter alia that the
Court of Appeals erred in affirming the district court's
denial of the motion to suppress because the officer's
general search of Doelz' vehicle was an unconstitutional
warrantless search. We agree, reversing and remanding to the
and Procedural Summary
31, 2013, a credit union in Leavenworth, Kansas, was robbed.
According to eyewitnesses, two black males committed the
robbery, and they fled in a dark green Chevrolet Blazer
driven by a white male. The witnesses said the getaway
vehicle had standard Missouri license plates with the final
three characters being "GAY." But standard Missouri
license plates use both letters and numbers.
next morning, Leavenworth Police Officer Brandon Mance saw a
dark green Chevrolet Blazer with standard Missouri license
plates ending in "G4Y." The vehicle was parked at a
residence Mance knew to be "involved with drug
activity." As he drove past the parked Blazer, Mance
noted that there were three white males inside the vehicle
and a black male leaning against the outside of the Blazer,
talking to the backseat passenger.
waited until the vehicle left the residence, followed it, and
subsequently initiated a traffic stop. Doelz was driving;
Floyd Eaton was the front-seat passenger; and David Schmidt
was seated in the backseat. None of the occupants was black.
Mance asked if they had any knowledge about the robbery that
occurred the night before, and they responded that they had
read about it in the newspaper. Doelz told Mance that the
Blazer belonged to his girlfriend's aunt. Mance
recognized Eaton and Schmidt from prior encounters; Mance
associated Eaton with a residence "notorious for the use
of narcotics, primarily methamphetamines," and Eaton had
previously admitted to using methamphetamine.
ran all three occupants' names through dispatch and
discovered that Schmidt had two outstanding arrest warrants
with the City of Leavenworth. In the process of arresting
Schmidt, Mance saw an object on the Blazer's backseat, 4
by 4 inches, black plastic, with a lid and a clasp, that he
believed contained a digital scale. Without obtaining
permission to enter the vehicle or to remove the object,
Mance grabbed it, opened it, and confirmed that it was a
confronted Doelz with the scale, and Doelz denied that it
belonged to him. Mance then requested permission to search
the vehicle, but Doelz initially resisted the request. Mance
told Doelz that, based on the evidence he had already found,
the officer was legally authorized to search the vehicle even
without permission. At that point, Doelz responded, "If
you have to, go ahead." The ensuing thorough search of
the vehicle uncovered drugs, drug paraphernalia, and cash,
including 28.52 grams of methamphetamine wedged in the
vehicle's gas cap area.
State charged Doelz with possession of methamphetamine with
intent to distribute and, after a preliminary hearing and
arraignment, the matter was set for a jury trial. The Friday
before trial, Doelz filed a motion to suppress all of the
evidence recovered in the vehicle. He first argued that the
investigative detention should have terminated when Mance
confirmed that the vehicle occupants were white, given that
the credit union robbers were described as two black males.
In addition, he asserted that Mance had unlawfully seized the
digital scale without a warrant, and the ensuing vehicle
search-based upon the scale and without a knowing consent-was
an unlawful warrantless search.
trial the next Monday, Doelz' counsel objected to officer
Mance's testimony regarding the seized evidence and, in a
sidebar, stated he wished to preserve his motion to suppress
for appeal. The judge overruled the objection. The district
court then took up the motion to suppress at the end of the
day, following voir dire, opening statements, and the
State's case-in-chief. Because the district court did not
hold an evidentiary hearing, it is unclear whether the judge
relied exclusively on testimony at ...