Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects
"[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures." Section 15 of the Kansas
Constitution Bill of Rights provides the same protection from
unlawful government searches and seizures as the Fourth
Whenever an officer interacts with a person in a public
place, the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment are
tested. The legal principles applied to safeguard those
rights vary depending on the type of interaction that takes
place. Kansas courts have recognized four such interactions:
(1) voluntary encounters; (2) investigatory detentions; (3)
welfare checks or public-safety stops; and (4) arrests.
officer's authority to conduct welfare checks or
public-safety stops is not based on a suspicion of criminal
activity, but rather a need to check on a person's health
or confirm the safety of a situation.
court uses a three-part test to define the contours of a
valid welfare check: First, an officer has the right to stop
or investigate when there are objective, specific, and
articulable facts to suspect that a person needs help or is
in peril. Second, if the person needs help, the officer may
take the appropriate steps to render assistance. And third,
when the officer believes that the person is no longer in
need of assistance, any further actions constitute a seizure.
exclusionary rule is based on deterrence. To justify the
exclusion of unlawfully seized evidence, law
enforcement's conduct must be sufficiently deliberate so
exclusion can meaningfully deter it and sufficiently culpable
so the deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice
system in excluding the evidence.
There is no bright-line rule defining when the attenuation
doctrine applies to admit evidence that would normally be
suppressed. Instead, courts consider various factors,
including the temporal proximity between the unlawful conduct
and the discovery of the evidence in question; the presence
of intervening circumstances (such as the discovery of a
warrant); and the purposes and flagrancy of the official
Although the existence of an outstanding warrant is certainly
a factor weighing against suppression of evidence under the
attenuation doctrine, that factor is not controlling in every
case. Instead, the discovery of the warrant must be
considered in the context of the other factors in the
third factor in the attenuation analysis-the purpose and
flagrancy of the official misconduct-is perhaps the most
critical because it focuses on the primary purpose of the
exclusionary rule: deterring police misconduct. To assess the
purpose of the misconduct, Kansas courts look at factors such
as an officer's regular practices and routines, an
officer's reason for initiating the encounter, the
clarity of the law forbidding the illegal conduct, and the
objective appearance of consent.
from Lyon District Court; W. Lee Fowler, judge. Opinion filed
November 15, 2019.
Kittel, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant.
L. Miser, assistant county attorney, Marc Goodman, county
attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee.
Powell, P.J., Hill and Warner, JJ.
case originates from a welfare check conducted by Emporia
police officers at a local convenience store. The officers
were called to check on Shelbie Ellis after she had been in
the women's restroom for an extended duration. After the
police talked to Ellis and determined she did not need
assistance, an officer asked for her driver's license and
called in a records check for warrants-even though he had no
suspicion of criminal activity. The officers subsequently
discovered Ellis had an outstanding warrant in Rice County.
When they arrested her, the officers found methamphetamine
and a pipe in her purse.
was convicted of possession of methamphetamine and possession
of paraphernalia after the district court denied her motion
to suppress the seized evidence. She challenges the denial of
that motion on appeal, arguing the records check (as well as
the officer's retaining her license and asking her
several investigatory questions) violated her right under the
United States and Kansas Constitutions to be free from
unlawful searches and seizures. And she asserts that the
evidence seized in this case must be excluded in order to
deter such unlawful conduct and safeguard the constitutional
rights at stake. We agree and therefore reverse Ellis'
convictions and remand to the district court with directions
to suppress the evidence in question.
facts in this case are not disputed. On January 20, 2018,
employees at an Emporia convenience store called the local
police department because a female customer had been in the
bathroom for 45 minutes and was found in a stall on her hands