Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dude where's my car?

Shawn P. Lautz won in State v. McFadden, Case No. 99,832 (Feb. 13, 2009)(unpublished), affirming Judge Chambers' suppression of evidence in a Reno County meth manufacture prosecution. Judge Chambers found that the search and seizure of Mr. McFadden’s car was illegal and suppressed the evidence from the car as well as Mr. McFadden’s statements obtained after the search. The COA affirmed.

The police smelled anhydrous ammonia coming from the back yard of a house, so they went into the back yard to search for evidence of a meth lab. They observed some meth manufacturing paraphernalia and subsequently applied for a search warrant. Mr. McFadden’s car was parked outside the house. She arrived at the house and got in her car, and the officers, who where waiting to serve a warrant on the house, seized Mr. McFadden’s car when she attempted to leave with a person who had ran from the house. Three hours later, the police secured a warrant for the car and found in it a grinder and pill bottles with white powder.

The COA affirmed the district court’s decision that police had initially conducted an illegal search of the residence’s back yard based on State v. Fisher, 283 Kan. 272, 154 P.3d 455 (2007) (police cannot use illegal intrusion into curtilage of a residence to obtain a plain view of evidence). The COA noted, that “any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search could not be used to support probable cause for the subsequent seizure and search of McFadden's car.”

The COA also affirmed the district court’s decision that the three-hour seizure of Mr. McFadden's car exceeded the bounds allowed under a proper investigative detention (Terry stop). The COA stated:

To seize the car for a period in excess of the Terry stop, the officers needed probable cause. The only legally obtained evidence the officers had at the time they seized the car, i.e., the odor of anhydrous ammonia emanating from the residence and the officers' observation of Frischenmeyer running empty-handed from the house to the car, did not constitute probable cause to detain the car for an extended period of time.

The COA also held that Mr. McFadden’s incriminating statements obtained after the search of the car were not sufficiently attenuated from the illegal search and seizure of the car.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on March 19, 2009].

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