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State v. Madden

Supreme Court of Oregon, En Banc

October 4, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,
JASON BENJAMIN MADDEN, Petitioner on Review.

          Argued and submitted March 2, 2018, at Willamette University College of Law, Salem, Oregon.

          On review from the Court of Appeals. [*] (CC 201305158) (CA A155807)

          Lindsey Burrows, O'Connor Weber LLC, Portland, argued the cause and fled the brief for petitioner on review.

          Adam Holbrook, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent on review. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

         [363 Or. 704] Case Summary: As police officers converged on a house to execute a search warrant, they encountered defendant and another man, who they recognized as a small-time drug dealer who often carried weapons, sitting in a car in the driveway. They seized both men, handcuffed them, brought them into the house, detained them there while they proceeded with the search, questioned them and eventually obtained defendant's consent to search the car. When the state brought drug and firearms charges against defendant based on evidence they obtained in the search, defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was the product of an unreasonable seizure of his person, in violation of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that the conduct of the officers was justified under an "officer safety" rationale and, on defendant's appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. Held: Although the officers' seizure, handcuffing and initial detention of defendant were justified for officer safety reasons, their actions thereafter were not, and court would not consider the state's alternative rationale for those later actions - that they amounted to an investigative stop supported by reasonable suspicion - in the first instance, but would remand to the trial court to consider that theory.

         The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

         [363 Or. 705] NELSON, J.

         This case concerns the scope of a police officer's authority, under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, to detain and question individuals for investigative or officer safety reasons. As police officers converged on a house to execute a search warrant, they encountered defendant sitting in a car in the driveway. They seized and handcuffed defendant, brought him into the house, kept him there while they proceeded with the search, questioned him after the house was secured, and then obtained his consent to a search of the car where they first had encountered him. The police officers' questioning and search produced evidence that the state sought to use in prosecuting defendant on drug and weapons charges. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was the product of a warrantless seizure and an interrogation that were conducted without a reasonable suspicion that he had committed any crime, in violation of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution.[1]The trial court denied the motion, ruling that the conduct of the police was justified under an "officer safety" rationale. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress, and we granted review.

         We conclude that the initial seizure and transportation of defendant into the house were justified for officer safety reasons, but that steps that the police took thereafter (continuing defendant's detention after the house was secured, moving him to a separate room, and questioning him) cannot reasonably be ascribed to the officers' safety concerns. Because the evidence at issue was the product of that later conduct, defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted, unless the officers had an independent constitutional justification for continuing the detention. We therefore reverse the contrary decisions by the trial court and Court of Appeals, and remand to the trial court to determine whether the police conduct was justified under an alternative rationale-a reasonable suspicion on the part of the police that defendant had committed a crime.

         [363 Or. 706] The following summary of the facts, which are taken from the record, reflects the applicable standard of review. That standard requires us to accept as true all findings of fact that the trial court expressly made, along with those findings that may be presumed from the trial court's ultimate conclusion, as long as those findings are supported by evidence in the record. State v. Stevens, 311 Or. 119, 126-27, 806 P.2d 92 (1991).

         In January 2013, detectives with the Springfield Police Department obtained a warrant to search the residence of Sheehan, a "known user and dealer of methamphet-amine," for evidence of delivery of controlled substances. The search warrant authorized the police to search Sheehan's person and residence. It did not refer to any other person or location.

         Late in the morning of January 30, 2013, the detectives and other members of the Springfield Police Department- eight in total-parked their cars down the street from Sheehan's house and proceeded to the house on foot, intending to execute the warrant. As they approached the house, they saw two men-defendant and Lando-sitting in a car parked in the driveway. Three of the officers-Detectives Potter, Hargis, and Espinosa-immediately recognized Lando, who was sitting in the front passenger's seat with the door slightly ajar, as a person whom they had arrested on multiple occasions for drug crimes. None of the officers recognized the man sitting in the driver's seat, i.e., defendant.

         Detectives Potter and Hargis quickly moved toward the car to "contact" defendant and Lando. Before Potter reached the car, he saw defendant reach back and shove a bag down between the seats. Potter removed defendant from the car, directed him to keep his hands raised, and handcuffed him, while Hargis did the same with Lando. Both men were subjected to pat-down searches, during which Hargis pulled two baggies, one of which appeared to contain meth-amphetamine, from Lando's pocket. All of this occurred very quickly, and defendant and Lando were taken into the house as the officers entered it to execute the search warrant a few minutes later.

         [363 Or. 707] After securing the house, most of the other officers became engaged in the search, while Potter assembled defendant, Lando, and the house's two occupants in the living room. Potter then administered Miranda warnings to them and proceeded to take them, one at a time, into a separate room to question them. Defendant was the first person who was questioned in that manner: Potter had separated him from the others and commenced to question him within five to 10 minutes of entering the house. During that initial questioning, Potter asked defendant about the car and whether it contained anything that was illegal. Defendant responded that the car belonged to a friend, and eventually acknowledged that it contained methamphetamine and a gun. Potter asked if defendant would consent to a search of the car, but defendant seemed reluctant.[2] Potter then told defendant to "think about it" while he questioned Lando and the others. Later, when Potter questioned defendant a second time, defendant agreed to the search and signed a form that stated that he was consenting to the search freely and voluntarily and that he understood that he could refuse to give consent.[3] In the search of the car that followed, the police found a large amount of methamphetamine, a handgun, and other incriminating items inside the bag that Potter had seen defendant push between the seats. Defendant was charged with unlawful possession and delivery of methamphetamine and, based on his status as a felon, unlawful possession of a firearm.

         Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress "any and all evidence resulting from the stop of * * * defendant's person, including the questioning of *** defendant, the search of * * * defendant, and the search of the vehicle in which * * * defendant had been riding." Defendant asserted that the police lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that would justify the stop under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The state responded that, insofar as officers saw defendant "sitting in a parked car in the driveway of a known drug house, with a known drug dealer, [363 Or. 708] furtively concealing a bag as *** detectives approached," they did have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that would support a stop for further inquiry. The state also argued that defendant had voluntarily consented to the search and that, in any event, the police were justified in detaining defendant for officer safety reasons.

         At a hearing on the motion to suppress, Detective Potter briefly described what he and his colleagues knew about the occupants of and activities in the house to be searched at the time the search was conducted. He stated that the department had received anonymous tips from neighbors about drug dealing at the house, and that a police informant had confirmed that methamphetamine was being sold there and had even purchased methamphetamine at the house in a "controlled buy." According to Detective Potter, the informant had described "constant traffic" at the house, with numerous people "hang[ing] out," selling drugs, and generally using the place as a "flophouse."

         Detectives Potter, Hargis, and Espinosa testified about their perceptions of and conduct with regard to defendant and Lando. All three reported that they knew, through previous experiences with Lando, that he used methamphetamine and was involved, on a small scale, with selling it. They also testified that they knew that Lando often carried nunchucks and was skilled in their use, and that he sometimes carried brass knuckles and knives. The officers acknowledged, however, that Lando had no history of aggression. None of the detectives had recognized defendant, but Detective Potter testified that he had assumed that both he and Lando were "part of the drug dealers and drug users [who] frequent[ed] the residence [to be searched]."

         The three detectives also testified about their reasons for their actions with respect to defendant and Lando. Their testimony was that, in light of their imminent entry into a known drug house where the number of occupants was unknown and where the occupants might carry weapons, behave violently, or be under the influence of drugs, they had reason to be concerned for their own safety in executing the warrant. The officers needed to enter and secure the house quickly to maintain the element of surprise and [363 Or. 709] ensure their own safety. The presence outside the house of two people who appeared to be connected with the illegal activities that reportedly were going on inside, one of whom was known to carry weapons, added to the officers' safety concerns. Detaining and handcuffing defendant and Lando and then bringing them into the house alleviated those safety concerns and it allowed the officers to use all of their power to swiftly and safely secure the house, rather than leaving some officers behind to guard against an attack by defendant and Lando.

         Detective Potter also described the actions taken with respect to defendant after the house had been secured. Potter testified that, while other officers proceeded with the search, he had seated defendant, Lando, and the house's two occupants together in the living room, advised them all of their Miranda rights and read them the search warrant. Then, starting with defendant, he had taken each of the detainees to a separate room, one by one, for questioning. He explained that he had chosen to do so because he did not want the detainees to hear each other's answers to his questions-"so they all don't come up with the same story because they're all listening to the conversations." When he questioned defendant, he first asked him about his relationship to the car and then asked whether there was "anything illegal" inside it. Defendant acknowledged that the car contained drugs and a gun and, during a second questioning, consented to a search of the car. During Potter's testimony about these later events, he did not identify any officer safety concern that prompted him to take the actions that he described.

         Detective Potter did testify, however, that he immediately had suspected that defendant had been engaged in criminal activity when he first encountered him. He testified that that suspicion was based on (1) his knowledge that defendant's companion, Lando, had a history of using and dealing methamphetamine; (2) his knowledge that the house in whose driveway he had encountered defendant and Lando was being used for dealing drugs; (3) his knowledge, based on his training and experience as a police officer, that drug deals sometimes occurred inside cars; (4) his observation of [363 Or. 710] defendant pushing a backpack down between the seats of the car as he and other police officers approached; (5) his observation that the car that defendant and Lando were sitting in had California plates; and (6) his knowledge, based on his training and experience as a police officer, that "a lot of drugs" were coming into Oregon from Mexico through California.

         Defendant also testified at the hearing, and his testimony generally confirmed the sequence of events that the three officers had described. He added, however, that he had not understood why he was being detained and handcuffed at the time, that he had been intimidated by those actions, and that, in consequence, he had felt powerless to refuse when Potter asked him to consent to a search of the car.

         After hearing the testimony and arguments, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. The court concluded that the officers "were entitled to look at [defendant and Lando] as if they were on the premises during the initial entry for execution of the search warrant" based on the fact that police had encountered them sitting in a car that was parked in the driveway of the house that was the subject of their search warrant. Additionally, the trial court explained that all the persons on the premises, including defendant, could be lawfully seized and handcuffed for officer safety reasons because one of the persons on the premises-Lando-posed a danger to the officers because he was known to carry weapons.[4] Having decided that removing defendant from the car, handcuffing him, and taking him into the house were lawful under that officer safety theory, the trial court expressly declined to reach the parties' reasonable suspicion arguments.[5] The trial court denied the motion to suppress without expressly addressing whether other aspects of the challenged stop, including holding and [363 Or. 711] questioning defendant after the initial entry into the house, were lawful.[6]

         The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. State v. Madden,283 Or.App. 524, 526, 390 P.3d 1087 (2017). Like the trial court, the Court of Appeals relied on the proposition that, in executing a search warrant, police may handcuff and detain all persons who they find at the place to be searched if they have reason to believe that at least some of them might be armed or dangerous. Applying that rule in the present case, the court explained that the officers had reason to believe that Lando was armed, and therefore, for officer safety reasons, could handcuff and detain both him and defendant. Id. at 533.[7] As to defendant's argument that that rule has no application to persons who, like defendant and Lando, were not occupants of the residence to be searched, the court concluded that there was no meaningful distinction for officer safety purposes between occupants of a residence that is the subject of a search warrant and persons who are immediately outside the residence at the time the police arrive to execute the ...

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