Evidence Found After Discovery of Outstanding Warrant During Welfare Stop is Inadmissible

State v. Manwarren, No. 119,520 (Kan. Ct. App. Apr. 12, 2019).

Issue: Unconstitutionally-obtained evidence should be suppressed unless the connection between the evidence and the constitutional violation is too attenuated. Law enforcement officers encountered Richard Manwarren during a welfare check, but asked for—and retained—his identification to run a warrant check, without having any suspicion of wrongdoing. The officers discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia on Manwarren. Are they admissible as evidence?

Answer: No. Retaining identification to run a warrant check constitutes a seizure under the 4th Amendment, and discovery of an outstanding warrant does not always result in the “attenuation” exception to the exclusionary rule.

Facts: A bystander called law enforcement to check on Manwarren after seeing him on the side of the road. Officers arrived and found Manwarren safe and waiting for a ride. An officer then asked to see Manwarren’s identification, and proceeded to run a warrant check without telling him. The check showed an unrelated warrant for failure to appear, prompting his arrest. After Manwarren was handcuffed, officers discovered Manwarren had drugs and paraphernalia on his person. Manwarren was charged with several drug-related offenses.

Discussion: The court addressed two questions: (1) was Manwarren’s detention illegal, and (2) does the attenuation doctrine allow the admission of the evidence?
First, the court found that when the officer ran a warrant check without any suspicion of criminal activity, the legal public safety check evolved into an illegal investigatory detention.
Second, the court determined that the discovery of an outstanding warrant is an intervening circumstance, but it does not mean that the connection between the illegal seizure and the evidence is too attenuated for the exclusionary rule to apply.

Key Authorities: Utah v. Strieff, 579 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 205 (2016) (discussing requirements for application of attenuation doctrine).

State v. Moralez, 297 Kan. 397, 300 P.3d 1090 (2013) (holding that the discovery of an outstanding warrant does not necessarily trigger the attenuation-doctrine exception to the exclusionary rule).

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