United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. BROOMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter came before the court on December 17, 2019, for an
evidentiary hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress
(Doc. 25.) The motion has been fully briefed and the court is
prepared to rule. (Doc. 26.) For the reasons stated herein,
Defendant's motion is DENIED.
March 9, 2019, Wichita Police Department received a call
regarding a loud party at the Hawthorne Suites in Wichita,
Kansas. Officer Chad Ditch was on duty and dispatched to the
call. He arrived at the hotel at approximately 12:53 a.m. On
that evening, Ditch was partnered with Officers Wine and Dau.
They contacted the manager about the call. While speaking
with the manager, she informed them that there was also a
single gunshot heard within the last hour. She said the
gunshot was near room 413. The officers first investigated
the room that was the subject of the party call. Ditch
testified that they handled the party call first because the
report of the single gunshot was not as urgent at the time.
Ditch further explained that this hotel has a history of
numerous incidents, some of which include reports of
gunshots. The officers were not overly concerned about the
gunshot because it was a single gunshot and there had not
been any calls to 911 as a result of the gunshot. After
speaking with persons in the room where the party was going
on, the officers proceeded to room 413. The officers
approached the outside of the room and could see that the
curtains to the sliding glass door were open. Ditch saw a black
male who was sitting in a wheelchair and slumped over. The
black male was later identified as Defendant. Defendant's
forehead was resting against the window. The officers shined
their flashlights inside of the room and did not see anyone
else inside. The officers banged on the glass door several
times and announced that they were police officers. Defendant
did not respond but remained slumped against the glass door.
Ditch then observed that there was blood on the left leg of
Defendant's pants. Ditch pointed out the blood to Wine
who also saw that there was a gun laying between
Defendant's feet. Ditch testified that he then believed
that Defendant had attempted suicide and was concerned that
Defendant needed medical attention.
officers went to the main door to the room and made entry by
force. All three officers quickly swept the room to determine
if Defendant was alone. There were no other individuals
inside the room. Defendant remained slumped against the glass
door during the entry and search. After securing the room,
Ditch shook Defendant and tried to wake him. Defendant
started to moan. Ditch leaned him back to try to determine if
he had any wounds that needed medical attention. Ditch
cleared the gun out of reach from Defendant. Ditch asked
Defendant what happened and if he had shot himself. Defendant
was mumbling incoherent responses and continuing to slump
over. Defendant was trying to respond but his voice was
slurred. Ditch believed that Defendant needed medical
attention because he was having difficulty responding and he
might have been shot. The officers observed a bullet hole in
Defendant's pant leg. Ditch then pulled up
Defendant's pant leg and saw that Defendant had a graze
to his left calf. Emergency medical services
(“EMS”) were called. Ditch believed that
Defendant had shot himself. Ditch looked for other injuries.
A spent casing was located in the area of Defendant's
groin. Based on a review of the gun and the shell casing,
Ditch believed that the spent casing came from the gun that
was observed by Defendant's feet.
was then moved to the bed to look for other injuries and so
that EMS could better treat Defendant when they arrived. At
some point, Ditch was informed that Defendant was paralyzed
from his waist down. Defendant also informed officers that he
had a fanny pack that had a gun inside. Ditch located the
fanny pack but it did not have a gun. While in the room,
Ditch and the officers observed two baggies in plain view on
a television stand. The stand was within an arm's reach
of Defendant's location by the sliding glass door. Based
on Ditch's experience and what he could see through the
plastic baggies, Ditch believed that one bag contained
cocaine and that the other contained ecstasy. The bags were
in the open and the officers did not have to move any items
to observe the bags.
then asked Ditch to retrieve his cigarettes that were in the
pocket of a pair of pants. When he reached into the pocket to
retrieve the cigarettes, Ditch could feel another baggie in
the coin pocket of the pants. Based on his experience, Ditch
believed that the coin pocket contained another baggie of
drugs. Ditch removed the second baggie and it contained
cocaine. When EMS arrived, Defendant refused medical
has been charged with felon in possession of a firearm, drug
abuser in possession of a firearm, and two counts of simple
possession. (Doc. 1.) Defendant now moves to suppress the
firearm and drugs on the basis that the officers entered his
hotel room in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. “[I]n order to claim the protection
of the Fourth Amendment, a defendant must demonstrate that he
personally has an expectation of privacy in the place
searched, and that his expectation is reasonable.”
Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83, 88 (1998).
Although the government initially disputed Defendant's
standing to object to the officers' entry to his room,
the government stated during the hearing that it does not
contest Defendant's standing under the Fourth Amendment.
Therefore, the court will proceed to the question of whether
the officers' entry and seizure of the gun and drugs were
permissible under the Fourth Amendment.
Circumstances. The government argues that the
officers' entry was permissible due to exigent
circumstances. Absent an exception, a warrantless entry into
a home is unconstitutional. United States v.
Mongold, 528 Fed.Appx. 944, 948 (10th Cir. 2013) (citing
Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 460 (2011)). An
exception to the warrant requirement includes “entering
a home to aid an injured individual in an emergency.”
Id. (citing King, 563 U.S. at 460).
exigent circumstances exception to apply, 1) the officers
must “have an objectively reasonable basis to believe
there is an immediate need to protect the lives or safety of
themselves or others, and (2) the manner and scope of the
search [must be] reasonable.” United States v.
Najar, 451 F.3d 710, 718 (10th Cir. 2006). Based on the
facts in this case, the court finds that the officers had a
reasonable basis to believe that there was an immediate need
to protect the safety of Defendant. The officers'
knowledge included a report that a gun had been fired,
Defendant was observed slumped against the glass door,
Defendant was not responding to the officers banging on the
glass, there was a gun on the floor by Defendant's feet,
and there was blood on Defendant's pants. Based on these
circumstances, it was reasonable for the officers to believe
that Defendant may have been shot and that he was in need of
medical assistance. The court further finds that the
officers' entry into the room was reasonable. The
officers entered the hotel room and did a quick sweep of the
room to determine whether there were any other occupants in
the room. They then attended to Defendant. The court finds
that the entry in the room and sweep were reasonable.
argues that the emergency aid exception to the Fourth
Amendment's warrant requirement “should not
exist.” (Doc. 25 at 2.) As Defendant admits, his
argument is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent cited
herein. Moreover, Defendant offers no reasonable explanation
as to why this exception, to protect lives or the safety of
officers and the community, should be set aside.
motion only challenges the entry to the room. Defendant does
not raise the argument that the gun and drugs were unlawfully
seized. (Doc. 25.) Nevertheless, the court will address the
proprietary of the seizure of the evidence. Based on the
facts, the court finds that the items seized were either in
plain view or seized after a consent to search. Items
discovered during “a truly cursory inspection-one that
involves merely looking at what is already exposed to view,
without disturbing it-is not a ‘search' for Fourth
Amendment purposes, and therefore does not even require
reasonable suspicion.” Arizona v. Hicks, 480
U.S. 321, 328 (1987). Under the plain view doctrine, “a
law enforcement officer [may] seize evidence of a crime,
without violating the Fourth Amendment, if (1) the officer
was lawfully in a position from which the object seized was
in plain view, (2) the object's incriminating character
was immediately apparent ... and (3) the officer had a lawful
right of access to the object.” United States v.
Angelos, 433 F.3d 738, 747 (10th Cir. 2006) (quotations
omitted). The court has already determined that the officers
were lawfully in a position to view the gun and the two
baggies of drugs. The officers also had a lawful right of
access to those items as they were out in the open and there
was nothing impeding the view of those ...