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State v. Christian

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 26, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellee,
Daniel J. Christian, Appellant.


         1. Under the exclusionary rule, if a criminal defendant challenges the State's use of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a court may suppress the primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure and evidence later discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality. But the exclusionary rule has never been interpreted to proscribe the use of illegally seized evidence in all proceedings or against all persons.

         2. The attenuation doctrine is an exception to the exclusionary rule. It applies when the connection between unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance, so that the interest protected by the constitutional guarantee that has been violated would not be served by suppression of the evidence obtained.

         3. No bright-line rule defines when the attenuation doctrine applies. Rather, courts must examine the particular facts of each case and determine whether those circumstances attenuate the taint of illegality.

         4. When a party appeals a ruling based on the attenuation doctrine, the appellate court considers a question of fact it must review to determine whether it is supported by substantial competent evidence. The ultimate legal conclusion of whether to suppress the evidence is reviewed de novo.

         5. The United States Supreme Court has identified three nonexclusive factors for determining whether the attenuation doctrine applies. First, courts look to the temporal proximity between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence to determine how closely the discovery of evidence followed the unconstitutional seizure. Second, courts consider intervening circumstances. Third, and particularly significant, a court examines the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct. No one factor is controlling, and other factors also may be relevant to the attenuation analysis.

         6. Under the attenuation doctrine's temporal proximity factor, a finding of attenuation is not generally appropriate unless substantial time elapses between an unlawful act and when a law enforcement officer obtains the evidence.

         7. Development of probable cause to arrest based on a police officer's discovery of evidence of a crime after the officer has illegally detained an individual does not attenuate the taint of an illegal seizure and allow admission of evidence obtained in a later search. The probable cause flows directly from the unlawful seizure and does not break the causal connection between the Fourth Amendment violation and the search. It is not, therefore, an intervening circumstance.

         8. Whether the third attenuation factor of purposeful or flagrant misconduct weighs in favor of suppression turns on multiple considerations, including whether the officer acted in good faith, committed multiple unconstitutional acts following the unconstitutional seizure, or acted as part of a systemic and recurrent pattern of police misconduct. As to the factor of good faith, the officer's subjective state of mind weighs heavily. Courts should generally find purposeful and flagrant misconduct if: (1) the impropriety of the official's misconduct was obvious or the official knew, at the time, that his or her conduct was likely unconstitutional but still engaged in it; and (2) the misconduct was investigatory in design and purpose and executed in the hope that something might turn up.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed September 8, 2017.

          Appeal from Reno District Court, Timothy J. Chambers, judge.

         Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court on the single issue subject to our review is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

          Randall Hodgkinson, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause, and Kimberly Streit Vogelsberg, of the same office, was on the briefs for appellant.

          Andrew R. Davidson, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and Keith Schroeder, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellee.


          Luckert, J.

         In this appeal, a Court of Appeals panel reversed Daniel J. Christian's convictions and sentences, holding he did not properly waive his right to a jury trial. But the panel also provided guidance on remand about Christian's motion to suppress evidence seized after a police officer unconstitutionally detained him. The panel applied the attenuation doctrine, concluding the district court could admit the evidence. The panel's holding rests mainly on its determination that a police officer's discovery of an expired tag on Christian's vehicle presented an intervening circumstance that attenuated the taint of the officer's unconstitutional seizure of Christian. State v. Christian, No. 116, 133, 2017 WL 3947406, at *1, 4-5, 9 (Kan. App. 2017) (unpublished opinion). We reverse that holding because the discovery of the expired tag did not break the causal chain set in motion by the illegal seizure.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Christian lawfully parked his car on a public street and sat there for a period of time. An unidentified caller contacted police to report a suspicious car in front of her house. A Hutchinson police officer responded and saw a car matching the one described by the caller. The car's driver-later identified as Christian-ducked down as the officer drove past. The officer parked his patrol car perpendicular to the rear of Christian's car, activated his emergency lights, and got out to make contact. As he approached the car, he noticed its license tag had expired. The officer asked Christian for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Christian produced a valid driver's license but did not have proof of insurance. The officer told Christian to exit the vehicle, and he arrested Christian for failure to provide proof of insurance.

         Christian tried to take his keys with him, but the officer instructed him to put them on the car's roof. Another officer then arrived and asked Christian about a small silver container on Christian's key chain. Christian responded he kept pills in it and, when asked, consented to a search of the container. It contained a "[g]reen leafy vegetation" consistent with marijuana. The first officer then placed Christian under arrest for possession of marijuana, and the officers searched Christian's vehicle. The search revealed ...

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