Kansas Peace Officers Association

P.O. Box 2592, Wichita, KS 67201
(316) 722-8433  |  kpoa@kpoa.org

"Co-operation and Justice"


Colin Wood

Colin Wood
KBI Retired

Colin Wood is a retired KBI senior special agent having served many years as a street officer before joining the KBI.  He is currently a federal contractor cross-designated a Special Assistant United States Attorney, and maintains a part-time practice representing local law enforcement agencies in state court forfeiture proceedings.  The views and opinions expressed here are his and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Colin may be contacted by e-mail at colin.wood@usdoj.gov or colin@colinwoodlaw.net.

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  • 04/27/2022 1:52 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    Eric Harbacek was a parolee living in the basement of a house.  In a weak moment, he decided to hassle the owners of the house and was arrested for domestic battery.  One of the arresting officers contacted Eric’s parole officer and the parole officer agreed that the officers should search Eric’s living quarters.  Officers found controlled substances, a firearm, and ammunition.  Eric was charged. 

    Although state law required the officers to have provided the parole officer with a written report of the search by the close of business the day after the search, the report was late.  K.S.A. 22-3717(k)(3) says: “Parolees and persons on postrelease supervision are, and shall agree in writing to be, subject to searches of the person and the person's effects, vehicle, residence and property by any law enforcement officer based on reasonable suspicion of the person violating conditions of parole or postrelease supervision or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Any law enforcement officer who conducts such a search shall submit a written report to the appropriate parole officer no later than the close of the next business day after such search. The written report shall include the facts leading to such search, the scope of such search and any findings resulting from such search.”

    Among other arguments, Eric seized on that late report saying that such mistake by the police should lead to suppression of the evidence found in his living area.  The trial judge agreed with Eric that the officers’ noncompliance with K.S.A. 22-3717(k)(3) warranted suppression.  The State appealed.  

    Recently, a panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court reminding the trial judge that Fourth Amendment searches should be suppressed by the district court only when the defendant demonstrates prejudice from a technical irregularity or when the violation of a statute affects an accused’s substantial rights.  The panel said, “[i]t is hard to fathom how Harbacek was prejudiced by the late filing of the report.  It would appear that the predominant reason for the filing of the report is to notify the parole officer if the search revealed any evidence that would support the filing of a parole violation and not for the purpose of protecting the rights of the parolee . . . Logic would also indicate that a parolee would not be prejudiced if the report was never filed in that the parole officer would be unaware of information that could be used for filing a parole violation.”

    That said, however, officers should still be aware of the statutory parolee search reporting requirements, and whenever possible file the required reports on time.

  • 01/20/2022 1:43 PM | Colin Wood (Administrator)

    U.S. Supreme Court Update

                The Big Court is three months into its 2021-2022 term.  There are only three cases to report on: two have already been resolved, and there is one to watch.

    The Court has already, without oral argument, reversed the 9th Circuit and the 10th Circuit concerning lawsuits against police officers in California and Oklahoma.  The Court sent the matters back for another look and reminded those federal appellate courts that to deny qualified immunity to government employees, the court has to point to a past case with nearly the exact same facts.  Only with such a case can a court then hold that a reasonable police officer would have known that his or her actions would be unlawful.  See City of Tahlequah v. Bond, Docket No. 20-1668; Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna, Docket No. 20-1539.

                Late last week, the Court accepted the only other street law enforcement case this term: Vega v. Tekho, Docket No. 21-499, involves a California sheriff deputy being sued for failing to give the Miranda warning to a suspect.  When the suspect was later acquitted by a jury, the suspect sued the officer alleging that the Miranda warning is a constitutional right and that he was damaged by the officer’s failure.  A 9th Circuit panel agreed with the suspect.  Because there is currently a split in the federal circuit courts about whether the Miranda warning is a right, or only a court prophylactic rule of evidence admission, the Big Court accepted the case to decide.  Kansas is in the 10th Circuit and the 10th has previously held that the Miranda warning is a rule and not a constitutional right.  Oral argument on Vega has not yet been set but we should have a decision by summer.  Interesting question.  Reviewing the long line of the Big Court’s Miranda warning cases, it will not be surprising if the 9th Circuit is reversed.


  • 11/02/2021 9:09 AM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    [Note: The following appeared recently in the Kansas Sheriff magazine, Fall 2021 edition.  Placed on the KPOA Point of Law page with permission of the Kansas Sheriffs Association]

    “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
    Martin Luther King Jr.

    What is Brady/Giglio, and as an agency administrator why should I care?  The short answer is the Constitution requires the government to affirmatively provide to all criminal defendants both exculpatory (favorable) evidence and impeachment (credibility) evidence concerning government witnesses, including law enforcement officers.  The longer answer is that because the obligation is grounded in the Constitution, it is not subject to narrowing through state law or departmental policy, and violations can result in the dismissal of a prosecution, reversal of a conviction, and/or court or license action against prosecutors, law enforcement administrators and officers.  Although required by the courts for over half a century, the issues surrounding criminal justice fairness and officer credibility have been subjected to new scrutiny.  The result has been a heightened defense and public awareness of Brady/Giglio requirements.  

    In Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court determined that prosecutors have an unqualified obligation to turn over all evidence favorable to an accused when the evidence may be material either to guilt or punishment.  In Giglio v. United States, the Big Court held that certain information concerning government witness credibility must also be disclosed to the defense. 

    The disclosure obligation goes well beyond the case prosecutor to include “all information in the possession of any state or local officer.”  “There is no ambiguity in our law.  The obligation under Brady and Giglio is the obligation of the government, not merely of the prosecutor.  Exculpatory evidence cannot be kept out of the hands of the defense just because the prosecutor does not have it, where the investigating agency does.”

    Evidence is considered exculpatory if it “tends to disprove a fact in issue which is material to guilt or punishment.”  And, evidence can be exculpatory without being exonerating such as: failure of a witness to identify the defendant, information that links to the crime another person, and information that casts doubt on accuracy of some evidence. 

    Witness impeachment evidence includes: plea agreements between the witness and the government, benefits promised or given to witnesses (including immigration assistance), certain prior convictions, prior inconsistent statements, evidence of bias, and evidence bearing on a witness’s character for truthfulness.

    The Logistics

    So, we understand our agency’s constitutional obligation to provide to the defense all of the favorable and unfavorable information that we gather in our investigations.  And, that duty seems pretty straight forward.

    We also know that we will need to turn over impeachable information about all of the witnesses that the prosecutor will call to testify, including our agency’s officers and employees.  But, as a practical matter, how does the impeachment information process work?  

    Depending upon the local prosecutor’s policy, many agencies currently maintain a “Brady/Giglio List” that contains the names of officers and other employees that may be subject to disclosure because of past events reflecting upon the employee’s character or actions.  Other agencies may not maintain a formal list, but could be sufficiently aware of names and events that would require disclosure.  Whether a list is maintained or not, disclosure of impeachable information is still a legal duty.

    Some prosecutors wish to decide witness credibility issues on a case-by-case basis.  Others have decided that they will not accept a case or a warrant affidavit from an officer-witness who is Giglio-compromised.  The extent of the prosecutor’s authority is: 1) to require law enforcement agencies to participate in the Brady/Giglio information gathering process; and, 2) to report witness credibility issues.  Whether Giglio-compromised employees remain employed is determined by the law enforcement agency head.  For a variety of reasons, some agencies retain a compromised employee and assign them to duties not directly related to criminal investigations that might require sworn court testimony.  Other agencies terminate Giglio-compromised employees because either reassignment is not possible, or because the agency’s ethical standards do not allow for employees with agency or court sustained credibility issues.   

    A typical Brady/Giglio inquiry might start with a defense inquiry or an Open Records request to the prosecutor.  The request should be in writing, and will find its way to the law enforcement agency.  The agency’s legal advisor should be involved early and the agency would then make a good faith search of its records.  Personnel records are usually closed, but there may be times when portions could be released under a protective order and/or subject to an in-camera review by a judge.  The agency’s records findings are reported to the prosecutor who can then make a decision on whether the criminal prosecution will continue and the potential government witness be called to testify.  

    Should the prosecutor wish to move forward, then with the legal advisor’s help the information can be released to the defense, or any legal objections be litigated in court.  Agencies should refrain from automatically releasing information without in-house legal review due to the multiple privacy issues related to law enforcement and personnel records.  A new and separate written record should be created to track the actions taken and the documents reviewed and/or released concerning defense requests for Brady/Giglio information.

    Should an agency not currently have a Brady/Giglio policy and procedure in place for the receipt, review, litigation and disclosure of information, it is recommended that one be created sooner than later.  Brady/Giglio requests tend to be time-sensitive and trying to figure out what to do after receiving a request is difficult at best.

    For further research and understanding: Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); Giglio v. U.S., 405 U.S. 150 (1972); Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995); U.S. v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976); Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263 (1999); State v. Nguyen, 251 Kan. 69 (1992); “ Brady & Giglio” Sample Prosecutor’s Policy, Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, August 2017; “Brady/Giglio Policy of the District Attorney” Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, August 2014; the author also notes his appreciation for the learned guidance of Laura Oblinger, Legal Advisor, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

  • 07/22/2021 10:55 AM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    The United States Supreme Court ended its 2020-21 term at the end of June. The Court handed down six street law enforcement cases. I have already reported to you on the Torres v. Madrid, (No. 19-292) case when it was issued in the Spring. Here are summaries of the other five cases:

    Taylor v. Riojas
    No. 19-1261

    Qualified immunity continues a hot topic in the Big Court. Trent Michael Taylor was a Texas state prisoner that was in 2013 allegedly held naked for 6 days in multiple filthy, feces-covered and frigid cells. He sued prison officials but the district court (later affirmed by the federal circuit appeals court) held that under current case law a “few days” of such confinement was not unconstitutional and granted summary judgment to the officers. Further, should 6 days have been too many, the officers were still deserving of qualified immunity from liability because the law was not clear as to how many days counted as “a few days.”

    The Big Court (7-1) vacated the lower courts’ decisions and sent the case back for further proceedings because “confronted with the particularly egregious facts of this case, any reasonable officer should have realized that Taylor’s conditions of confinement offended the Constitution.”

    The Court was not finding liability, only ordering the lower courts to take another look under a more realistic standard.

    Lombardo v. St. Louis
    No. 20-391

    Nicholas Gilbert was arrested in 2015 for trespassing and failing to appear on a traffic ticket. While in a PD holding cell, Gilbert attempted to hang himself. A number of officers responded and a lengthy struggle ensued. Officers finally got Gilbert into handcuffs and leg restraints. The problem was the officers held him face down for about 15 minutes as he continued to struggle. Gilbert quit breathing and died at a local hospital.

    The family (through Jody Lombardo) sued the officers claiming excessive force. Interestingly, some of the evidence in the case showed previous local police training to not keep a already-restrained subject face down, and that such a position may cause a subject to continue to struggle to breathe rather than an actual “desire to disobey officers’ commands.” The trial court granted summary judgment to the officers concluding they were entitled to qualified immunity, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

    However, the justices (6-3) found that the lower courts had not given “careful attention to the facts and circumstances” of the case as is the test. “We express no view as to whether the officers used unconstitutionally excessive force” and the case was sent back to give the trial court “an opportunity to employ an inquiry that clearly attends to the facts and circumstances.”

    Clearly another case where the Big Court is taking a second look at how the lower courts should review excessive force and grants of qualified immunity to government employees.

    Caniglia v. Strom
    No. 20-157

    Edward Caniglia had a fight with his spouse and threatened to do harm to himself. The spouse later asked local police to check on Edward’s welfare. Officers met the spouse at the house, spoke to Caniglia, and he agreed to be taken by ambulance for an evaluation. Although the facts are disputed after that, once Caniglia left the scene the officers entered the home and removed two handguns.

    Caniglia was released from care and asked for return of his firearms. The police refused. Caniglia sued claiming the officers entered his home without a search warrant. The officers responded that they entered the home based upon the “community caretaking” exception to the warrant rule. The officers believed that a 1973 Supreme Court case, Cady v. Dombrowski, involving the warrantless search of an impounded vehicle and the seizure of an unsecured firearm inside also covered the officers’ entry into the Caniglia home. Nice try, but no cigar.

    The Big Court held (9-0) that vehicles are not homes. Homes are the most Fourth Amendment-protected location in the country. The community caretaking exception under Cady does not apply to a house. The case was sent back to decide whether some other exception to the warrant rule might apply under the particular facts such as consent, or exigent circumstances, or a state law mental health intervention law.

    This case did not change any other existing warrant exceptions involving a home. It only holds that the police “community caretaking function” does not work for a house search.

    Cooley v. United States
    No. 19-1414

    Joshua Cooley was parked on the shoulder of a Montana state highway within the boundaries of the Crow Reservation. A tribal police officer noticed the truck, thought it might need help, stopped and spoke with Cooley. During the event, the tribal officer noticed that Cooley was non-native, displayed DUI indicators, had two rifles on the seat and some white powder that was later identified as methamphetamine. Other officers including a federal Bureau of Indian Affairs arrived, Cooley was arrested, and he was later indicted on federal drug and gun charges.

    Cooley moved to suppress the search arguing that tribal officers have no authority over non-Indians on a public road even when the road passes through a recognized reservation. The trial court agreed with Cooley. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court. The Big Court disagreed with both and reversed. The justices held (9-0) that “a tribal police officer has authority to detain temporarily and to search non-Indian persons traveling on public rights-of-way running through a reservation for potential violations of state or federal law.”

    Kansas already provides for tribal officer jurisdiction under certain conditions and provisions as outlined in K.S.A. 22-2401a(3)(a).

    Lange v. California

    Arthur Lange was enjoying a nice California evening car ride by playing his radio loud and honking his horn at the world. Arthur’s pleasures drew the attention of a California Highway Patrol officer who, after following Arthur for a while, signaled with red lights for Arthur to stop. Instead, Arthur drove a little farther to his house stopping in the drive and walking into the garage. The officer followed.

    Inside the garage, the officer detected DUI indicators, tested and questioned Arthur, and later arrested Arthur for DUI. Arthur asked the trial court to suppress what had happened in the garage since the officer did not have a search warrant or consent to have entered into the garage in the first place. The California courts sided with the officer holding that fresh pursuit of a misdemeanant categorically (always) provides exigent circumstances and thus an exception to the warrant rule. Following his conviction, Arthur appealed to the Supreme Court that “categorical” question.

    The Big Court disagreed with California (9-0), albeit the justices did not agree as to the practical consequences. First, homes are the most constitutionally protected places in the country. Second, only rarely may the government enter a house without a warrant or consent.

    Unlike the hot pursuit of a felon, misdemeanants vary widely in seriousness and therefore whether exigent circumstances are present should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Further, flight alone does not create an exigency. Instead, the new rule is FLIGHT + another factor, such as: imminent harm to others, threat to the officer or others, destruction of evidence, or later escape from the home.

    In summary, the “flight of a suspected misdemeanant does not always justify a warrantless entry into a home. An officer must consider all the circumstances in a pursuit case to determine whether there is a law enforcement emergency. On many occasions, the officer will have good reason to enter . . . But, when the officer has time to get a warrant, he must do so – even though the misdemeanant fled.”

    That said, the Court also stated that a “great many misdemeanor pursuits involve exigencies allowing warrantless entry;” that “in many, if not most, cases allow a warrantless home entry;” and, “no doubt that in a great many cases flight creates a need for police to act swiftly.” So, officers should be ready in the future to testify at more length based upon the particular case facts, and the officer’s training and experience, that a home entry was necessary.

    Because California wrongly applied the “always” rule to misdemeanor chases, the case was sent back to the state court to determine in this particular case whether the officer acted reasonably. Under the facts of Arthur’s case, my money says that Arthur will need to buy a new toothbrush because he will be spending a few weekends as the guest of the state government.

    Colin

  • 06/09/2021 10:17 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    The following article from the Washburn Law Journal was written and provided to me by Tyler Pettigrew, a former sheriff’s deputy who has recently graduated from law school.  It is an excellent review on recent developments in Kansas vehicle pursuit law and discusses at length the Kansas Supreme Court opinion in Montgomery v. Saleh.  Agency administrators will especially be interested. 

    Colin

    PERMISSION TO PURSUE? [MONTGOMERY V. SALEH, 361 KAN. 649, 466 P.3D 902 (KAN. 2020).]

  • 05/04/2021 7:43 AM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    State v. Cash

    Kansas Supreme Court, No. 121,467

    This case arises from a 2018 traffic stop of a van for a tag violation. During the initial contact, and while the driver was looking for registration and insurance papers, the officer noticed in the back of the van a partially open flat safe. Hanging out of the safe was a plastic baggie and a Crown Royal bag. The officer could not see what was in either bag.

    The officer asked Cash if he would open the safe, and Cash agreed. As Cash opened the safe, the officer could see orange hypodermic needle caps inside of the plastic bag. Cash then slammed the safe shut saying, “I think there’s a pipe in there.” That all together led to a probable cause search that found methamphetamine, other narcotics, and paraphernalia in the van.

    Cash was charged and requested a suppression hearing. The question at the hearing was whether the officer had developed reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity so as to extend and broaden the traffic stop. At the hearing, the officer testified that she had come across Crown Royal bags in the past, and that she “more often than not” found drug paraphernalia in them. Based upon the officer’s experience, the safe, the plastic baggie, and the Crown Royal bag, the trial court held that the officer had reasonable suspicion to extend the stop so as to then inquire about the safe and to then hear Cash blurt out about the “pipe.” Cash was convicted and appealed.

    In 2020, a divided Court of Appeals panel agreed with the district court. But, the lone dissenter, appellate Judge Michael Buser, would have held among other things that the officer had not testified sufficiently about her training and experience to believe that such innocent items as a baggie and Crown Royal bag, by themselves, could amount to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Cash lost his appeal, but the Kansas Supreme Court agreed to review the decision.

    Justice Melissa Taylor Standridge, only recently moved up to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals, wrote the opinion also agreeing with the district court. She started with a recitation of the current law concerning car stop mission limitations and reasonable suspicion: “Yet these limitations do not mean that police must perform their duties with a blind eye. When a detainee’s responses and the surrounding circumstances give rise to an objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring during a traffic stop, an officer can broaden his or her inquiry to satisfy those suspicions . . .The reasonable suspicion analysis requires use of an objective standard based on the totality of the circumstances, not a subjective standard based on the detaining officer’s personal belief . . . So the relevant question for the district court at a suppression hearing is whether the facts presented to the officer—facts to which the officer must testify with particularity—give rise to an objective basis for suspecting criminal activity when viewed under the totality of the circumstances standard . . . [A]n officer is not required to neatly package the reasonable suspicion factors in a single succinct answer; the court is required to consider ‘the totality of the circumstances, all facts and inferences, [and] not a select few . . . Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause. What is reasonable depends on the totality of the circumstances in the view of a trained law enforcement officer. The totality of the circumstances standard allows officers to draw on their own experience and specialized training to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative information available to them.”

    The Supreme Court went on to hold that the officer’s experience of having come across Crown Royal bags in the past that had “more often than not” contained drug paraphernalia, together with the safe and plastic baggie, amounted to reasonable suspicion to extend a car stop for further investigation.

    This is a welcome re-setting of the reasonable suspicion bar. I have written for years that our state courts have been “all over the map” on what amounts to reasonable suspicion, and they have generally set the bar too high when compared to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Only last year Kansas was reversed by the Big Court in Kansas v. Glover on a similar “what amounts to reasonable suspicion” traffic stop case.

    State v. Arrizabalaga

    Kansas Supreme Court, No. 120,209

    You may recall this case from the 2019 Kansas Court of Appeals opinion that changed when drug dogs should be called. That appellate panel had split 2-1 on the issue of whether an officer was required to call a dog the moment that the officer developed reasonable suspicion. The State had appealed that ruling and the Kansas Supreme Court has recently agreed with the State.

    The facts are long, but suffice it to say: car stop for a traffic violation: reasonable suspicion developed; warning ticket; driver released; re-contacted and consent to search given; withdrawal of consent a few minutes later; officer called for drug dog; the nearest dog arrived 24 minutes later; a sniff, an alert, and a search: 111-one pound bags of marijuana. At the time the dog was called, the event had lasted about 23 minutes.

    Interestingly, in the initial criminal case the trial court had held two separate suppression hearings. Following testimony in the first hearing, the trial court had denied suppression. The defense then altered its strategy in a second hearing arguing that the officer “was not diligently and reasonably pursuing the purpose of the stop” while he awaited the drug dog. The defense convinced the trial judge that 24 minutes was too long to wait for a dog, and the drug evidence was then suppressed.

    The State appealed. A split appeals panel agreed with the trial judge, holding that the officer “could have attempted to dispel his suspicions or tried to locate a drug-sniffing dog immediately [when first suspicious, not later when consent to search was withdrawn].” Appeals panel Judge Kathryn Gardner dissented having found no fault with the officer’s decision to wait and use other means to dispel his suspicions. Judge Gardner would have held that those other means used by the officer (release and consent to search) were diligent under the circumstances; and, there was nothing further that the officer could have done while then waiting for the dog.

    The State then asked for review by the Supreme Court. Senior (retired) District Judge Michael Ward, sitting temporarily with the Supreme Court, wrote the opinion released last week reversing the Court of Appeals majority and the trial court.

    Judge Ward first reviewed the law: “A routine traffic stop is likened to a brief stop under Terry v. Ohio as opposed to an arrest. It is a form of investigative detention which must be legally justified from the start by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. A traffic infraction provides the reasonable suspicion required to initiate a traffic stop. The scope of investigation during the stop is delineated by the circumstances which rendered its initiation proper. Beyond determining whether to issue a traffic ticket, an officer’s mission includes . . . checking the driver’s license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the automobile’s registration and proof of insurance. The duration of a routine traffic stop is generally limited to the time reasonably necessary to carry out its mission. Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—completed. Normally, after the traffic citation process is concluded, the officer must allow the motorist to depart the scene. That is unless the officer has reasonable and articulable suspicion of additional criminal activity, or consent.”

    So, this appeal surrounded only one question: whether the officer had, after developing reasonable suspicion of additional criminal activity, “acted diligently to verify or dispel his suspicions.” In other words, was it OK to go through the steps the officer first took, then call for a dog, and then to just sit and wait 24 minutes for the nearest dog to arrive. Judge Ward, speaking for the Supreme Court, said yes. First, there is no legal time limit for waiting for the arrival of the nearest dog. That said, “if an investigative stop continues indefinitely, at some point it can no longer be justified as an investigative stop.” Second, “[i]n evaluating the reasonableness of a stop, we consider what the police in fact do and whether the officers acted reasonably under the totality of the circumstances. The Court of Appeals should have Focused solely on the 24 minute segment of time between withdrawal of consent and the arrival of the drug dog: “[the officer] detained Arrizabalaga and his passenger for no longer than was necessary to get a drug dog to the scene to quickly confirm or dispel his reasonable suspicions. Under the circumstances existing that night . . . waiting 24 minutes for a fellow officer to arrive with a drug dog was reasonable and diligent . . . [w]e agree with the dissent that the panel majority engaged in post hoc second guessing of police conduct, imagining what other different investigative approaches might have accomplished. We choose not to go there. (emphasis added).

    Hmmm. That is the second favorable Terry-related case from our Kansas Supreme Court in less than a month. A sign of a re-evaluation of the Court’s decades-long, unilateral and solitary, legal interpretations of Terry v. Ohio standards? Maybe. Time will tell.

    Colin

  • 04/12/2021 6:49 AM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    Larry Welch

    Others this week will speak about this much more eloquently, but I wanted to add something important, at least to me.  

    Gerald Ford was in the White House.  I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie standing in January snow on the first rustic KLETC firearms range.  And, I had a problem.  Well, I had a lot of problems but one of them was a frightful anticipation-jerk when I pulled the trigger of my blue Colt Python.  Every round seemed to have a better chance of hitting Hutchinson than the target.  That week there was a volunteer FBI agent helping the range master.  He watched a while, then came over, demanded my wheel gun, turned away, loaded what turned out to be fewer than 6 rounds, spun the cylinder, closed it, and handed it back.  My first trigger pull landed on an empty chamber and I almost threw the Colt into the snow.  The second pull was not quite so bad.  As the day ended, my dangerous jerk was gone.  For a career it was gone.  

    Just who was that volunteer FBI agent who did more for the safety of everyday Kansans that day in Yoder than he ever knew?  I did not know for 20 years.  By that time, I had joined the KBI and we were welcoming a new Director, Larry Welch.  Director Welch told stories.  Unlike many others who tell stories, the Director told good stories.  Funny stories.  One of those stories involved him helping at the KLETC firearms range when Gerald Ford was in the White House.  I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I could put those facts together and find probable cause that the unidentified FBI agent was a much younger Larry Welch.

    Later, the Director, a law school graduate and big proponent of education, granted my request to rearrange my agent duties so as to attend law school.  That resulted in years of direct benefit for the KBI, and a later great second career for me.  A second career that has allowed me to help Kansas officers be a little better at their jobs.  The same thing that the Director did in each of his multiple careers.

    I had enjoyed and learned from decades of reading the Director’s Point of Law magazine articles where he talked about the latest changes at the “Big Court” as he described the United States Supreme Court.  Beginning in 2004, I tried to emulate the Director’s ability to speak directly to officers by writing myself on case law changes.  He and I were successful in that because we were not “lawyers.”  We were both law enforcement officers who happened to have attended law school.  There is a true difference there.   That difference probably gave us not only credibility, but it allowed us to find in a case only what mattered to the street officer, and to not waste officers’ time wandering in the legal weeds.

    Though only acquaintances at best, our paths crossed one last time a couple of years ago.  The Director was going to retire from writing Point of Law, and I was asked to step in.  Big shoes, I thought.  I sent him a note thanking him for what he had done for me over the years, and told him that I would try hard.  His note back to me was better than great.  

    The Director passed away last week.  I told you in my first Point of Law article that I was going to steal from Larry Welch the phrase “Big Court” when referring to the U.S. Supreme Court.  I have done that.  I will continue to do that.  And, each time I type “Big Court,” I will think of the Director and his contribution to Kansas law enforcement.  I hope you do too.

    Thanks again, Director. 


    Colin

  • 04/08/2021 1:34 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    We have been watching the following four street-law enforcement cases currently before the United States Supreme Court: 

    (1) Caniglia v. Strom, Question: Whether the “community caretaking” exception to the search warrant requirement extends to the home;

     (2) United States v. Cooley, Question: Whether evidence should have been suppressed when an Indian tribe police officer detained and searched a non-Indian on a public highway within a reservation; 

    (3) Lange v. California, Question: Whether the pursuit of a person who has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualifies as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant; and, 

    (4) Torres v. Madrid, Question: Whether an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect by use of physical force is still a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment.

    Torres v. Madrid

    The Big Court recently decided the Torres case and changed many decades of legal understanding about when a Fourth Amendment “seizure” of a person occurs.  In a 5-3 decision, the majority of justices said that law enforcement need not have taken a suspect into physical custody for there to have been a “seizure” and the protections of the Fourth Amendment to have been triggered.  

    In 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, state officers attempted to contact Torres in a parking lot thinking she was the target of an arrest warrant.  Torres, who later admitted to having been on methamphetamine at the time, entered her car and drove toward the officers.  “Fearing the oncoming car was about to hit them, the officers fired their duty weapons, and two bullets struck Ms. Torres while others hit her car.”  Torres did not stop, collided with another car, stole a second car, drove 75 miles and was eventually treated at a hospital and arrested the next day.  She later pleaded no contest to assault on a police officer, aggravated fleeing from an officer, and the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.

    More than two years later, Torres sued the officers under the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. 1983, for deprivation of her Fourth Amendment rights alleging the officers used excessive force in an unreasonable seizure.  The federal trial court, and later the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, held for the officers holding that “no seizure can occur unless there is physical touch or a show of authority” and that “such physical touch (or force) must terminate the suspect’s movement” or otherwise give rise to physical control over the suspect.  Since Torres drove away, the lower courts said that there was no seizure.  Without a seizure, the Fourth Amendment was never triggered.  (Note that Torres may well have had state tort law remedies but she had failed to file a state court case before the expiration of New Mexico’s statute of limitations; however, there is no statute of limitations in the text of § 1983).

    The Big Court’s majority reversed, holding that “the application of physical force to the body of a person with intent to restrain is a seizure even if the person does not submit and is not subdued.”  The case was sent back to the trial court.  However, that does not necessarily mean any officer liability since the majority did say that “we leave open on remand any questions regarding the reasonableness of the seizure, the damages caused by the seizure, and the officers’ entitlement to qualified immunity.”  So, the case holding was somewhat narrow and only re-defined when a “seizure” occurs for Fourth Amendment purposes.

    The dissenting justices: Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito noted that “[u]ntil today, a Fourth Amendment ‘seizure’ has required taking possession of someone or something.  To reach its contrary judgment, the majority must conflate a seizure with its attempt and confuse an arrest with a battery.  In the process, too, the majority must disregard the Constitution’s original and ordinary meaning, dispense with our conventional interpretive rules, and bypass the main currents of the common law. . . . Neither the Constitution nor common sense can sustain it.”

    The other three cases, Caniglia, Cooley, and Lange, remain pending and should be decided before summer.

  • 12/29/2020 4:51 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    Kansas Court of Appeals No. 120,345; December 11, 2020

    A panel of the Court of Appeals has recently issued an opinion and it is hopefully the last word in a civil case concerning which law enforcement agency truly owes an old hospital bill of an injured suspect.  The case involved the chase of a murder suspect, a hostage situation, and an arrest where the suspect was injured.  The main question was when there are multiple agencies involved in an event where a detained suspect is injured, which agency is responsible for the medical bill? 

    In 2009, multiple KHP, Geary County, Shawnee County, and Topeka personnel were involved in a chase.  After the vehicle was disabled, the suspect ran into a house and held the occupants hostage.  KHP set up a command post and ordered a precautionary ambulance.  Supervisors from the agencies met and agreed on coordination of the differing on-scene units and skills.  In the end, a tactical unit entered the house and arrested the suspect.  During the arrest one of the officers’ weapons accidently discharged striking the suspect.  Officers from multiple agencies traveled with the suspect to Stormont Vail Hospital, stayed during surgery, and did guard duty.  

    The hospital treatment bill was $41,700.00.  Years of legal wrangling followed.  Many years.  

    The question?  Which agency was responsible for the medical bill under K.S.A. 22-4612.  In pertinent part, that statute says: “[A] county, a city, a county or city law enforcement agency, a county department of corrections or the Kansas Highway Patrol shall be liable to pay a health care provider for health care services rendered to persons in the custody of such agencies the lesser of the actual amount billed by such health care provider or the medicare rate.”

    First, the panel affirmed an earlier holding that under that statute “custody” includes both formal arrest and detention that is the equivalent of an arrest.  

    Second, what happens when there are multiple agencies involved in the arrest?  Which agency has “custody?”  The Court said that “[i]n a coordinated police action involving multiple law enforcement agencies, the agency ‘with operational control’ has the obligation under K.S.A. 22-4612 to pay for medical treatment requested during the action for an injured person taken into custody . . . [s]o if the response team acted in something other than a ‘willy-nilly exercise’ . . .  then the test for operational control is simply this: Who was ‘the captain of the team?’”

    But, wait, in this case the officer who caused the injury was not employed by the “captain of the team” agency.  Does that make a difference?  No, the panel said.  “The obligation to pay under K.S.A. 22-4612 does not have a fault-based component to it.”  The captain is still responsible.

    Left unanswered by the opinion are those noted “willy-nilly” situations that involve less time and less coordination between responding agencies.  And, they happen all the time.  Agency heads now have something else to think about and plan for.  

    Colin


  • 11/21/2020 1:25 PM | Grover Piper (Administrator)

    The Court has already heard argument in one street law enforcement case, and this past week has agreed to hear two more.  And, it is still early in the term.

    We will be watching these cases:

    Torres v. Madrid, Docket No. 19-292: On October 14th, the Court heard argument on the meaning of the Fourth Amendment’s term, “seizure.”  The nation’s courts are split on the question: “does the shooting of a suspect constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure even if the force does not immediately result in custody?”  

    In 2014, thinking she was a suspect for whom they had an arrest warrant, New Mexico officers approached Roxanne Torres while she was in her car.  Torres later testified that she did not hear any commands, saw the officers’ guns but did not recognize the officers in their dark clothing, and thought she was being carjacked.  Torres drove away and the officers fired 13 shots, two hitting Torres.  She crashed into another car, told bystanders to call 911, then without permission took an unattended running car and drove herself 75 miles to a hospital.  Officers arrested her the next day, and Torres later pled no contest to aggravated flee and elude, assault a law enforcement officer, and car theft.

    Torres sued the officers alleging the Fourth Amendment violation of using excessive force.  The officers’ defense was that because an excessive force claim requires a seizure, and there was no seizure, there could be no claim.  The federal district court agreed, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  Torres appealed and the justices should make a decision after the first of the year.

    Caniglia v. Strom, Docket No. 20-157: Following a domestic dispute involving a firearm and alleged mental instability, Rhode Island officers convinced Caniglia to go to a hospital for evaluation.  Before the officers left the marital home, and after discussions with the spouse, officers were concerned with everyone’s future safety, entered the home and removed two firearms.  Caniglia sued the officers for the alleged Fourth Amendment violation of entering his home without permission and without a search warrant.  The officers defense was that their actions were protective and should be seen as valid under the “community caretaking” search warrant exception.  The federal district court granted summary judgment to the officers, and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.  Interestingly, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter sat by designation on the circuit court of appeals panel that voted 3-0 to affirm the officers’ position.  Caniglia appealed and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case this term.  

    U.S. v. Cooley, Docket No. 19-1414: Just after midnight on U.S. 212 in Montana, a stretch of highway that passes through the Crow Tribe reservation, a tribal officer stopped to check on a pickup sitting on the side of the road with its motor running.  After some interaction between the officer and the driver, Cooley, the officer arrested Cooley and searched the truck.  Cooley was charged in federal court with weapons and drug charges.  Cooley filed a motion to suppress the evidence found because he alleged that the tribal officer did not have authority to detain and search a non-tribe member on a road within a reservation.  The district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.  The government appealed and the Supreme Court will decide the matter after the first of the year.

    This case may well not have much practical effect in Kansas since K.S.A. 22-2401a provides for Tribal Officer authority and for interlocal agency agreements.  We will wait and see.

    Colin

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