Saturday, March 04, 2006

Is it really an “arrest” just because there's an arrest warrant?

Cory Riddle won in an unpublished case in State v. Pittman, Appeal No. 91,937 (Kan. App. March 3, 2006)(unpublished), overturning convictions for possession out of Wyandotte County. An officer had legally pulled over Mr. Pittman, who told the officer that he may have an arrest warrant. The officer conducted a warrant check and, in fact, Mr. Pittman did have a warrant from Kansas City, Kansas municipal court. The officer then searched Mr. Pittman and found some drugs. The state justified this as a "search incident to arrest." But the Court observed that (1) the officer testified that, even after learning of the warrant for Mr. Pittman's arrest, he still only intended to issue a summons and release Mr. Pittman to go to work. Further, at oral argument the prosecutor confirmed that there was a policy that allows the release of individuals who are stopped by the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, found to have a traffic warrant, and are "arrested," searched, and promptly released without execution of the warrant.

We can see no purpose for [the officer's] claimed arrest pursuant to this policy other than to justify an incidental search with the hope of inadvertently discovering contraband. In this context, [the officer's] detention of Pittman was a mere pretext for a valid arrest. A search incident to an invalid arrest is violative of the plain language of K.S.A. 22-2501 ("When a lawful arrest is effected . . . .") We hold, as a matter of law, that Pittman was not under arrest, as defined in K.S.A. 22-2202(4) for purposes of K.S.A. 22-2501 at the time [the officer] search his pocket.
I guess it would be smart to know the police policy in the relevant jurisdiction in this regard. I wonder if there are other jurisdictions that have a policy of not arresting people on certain types of warrants?

[Update: the state did not file a petition for review and the mandate issued April 6, 2006.]

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