TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court last week reversed Court of Appeals ruling and that evidence in a 2010 Rice County drug case was seized illegally. The high court’s decision affirmed that of the original Rice County District Court decision.
On Jan. 17, 2010, a Rice County Sheriff’s deputy stopped Allen Julian for driving a vehicle with a defective headlight. The deputy had prior reports that Julian was involved in methamphetamine manufacture but, prior to the stop, had no grounds to believe Julian’s car contained anything illegal.
In the ensuing trial, the district court granted Julian’s motion to suppress evidence of items associated with the manufacture of meth. The items were found in Julian’s car after he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia during a traffic stop.
The state appealed, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals held the warrantless search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Julian appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
A unanimous court held the search was illegal under K.S.A. 22-2501, the statute that governed searches incident to arrest at the time of Julian’s arrest. The court explained that the Fourth Amendment is the baseline protection for unreasonable searches and seizures, but that states have the authority to adopt rules that provide stronger protection for individual rights.
At the time of Julian’s arrest, the Kansas statute provided more protection than the federal case law interpreting the Fourth Amendment relied on by the Court of Appeals. Because the statute did not authorize searches for evidence in vehicles incident to a lawful arrest at that time, the court held evidence obtained during the search must be suppressed.
The case will return to Rice County District Court for further proceedings.
As the deputy approached Julian’s car on the night of the arrest, he saw Julian make what he described as “furtive movements,” consisting of Julian raising a blanket and appearing to shove items underneath it. The officer removed Julian from the car and placed him under arrest when he could not produce proof of insurance.
He then conducted a pat-down search and found a loaded firearm in Julian’s jacket pocket and a metal tin containing marijuana, two knives, rolling papers, and lighters in his pants pocket.
The deputy arrested Julian for carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He then secured Julian in the back of his patrol car and went back to Julian’s car to search it.
He testified he was searching for more marijuana and items used to manufacture meth. He found a bowling bag containing items associated with such a process
In addition to the traffic violations for defective headlight and no proof of insurance, the state charged Julian with five felonies: (1) attempting to manufacture methamphetamine, (2) possession of pseudoephedrine, (3) possession of drug paraphernalia, (4) possession of marijuana, and (5) possession of a firearm.
Julian filed a motion to suppress the evidence recovered from his vehicle. The district court granted his motion. The State pursued an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed the suppression ruling by a 2-1 vote.