State v. Smith

<p>No. 121,619 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF KANSAS STATE OF KANSAS, Appellee, v. BRITTANY R. SMITH, Appellant. SYLLABUS BY THE COURT 1. Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 15 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights, warrantless searches and seizures by law enforcement officers are deemed unreasonable and invalid unless a recognized exception to the warrant requirement applies. 2. Kansas courts have recognized a limited exception to the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of warrantless searches when a law enforcement officer is aiding a person who is seriously injured or seriously threatened with injury. Under certain circumstances, this emergency-aid exception to the warrant requirement permits not only a search of a residence but also a search of personal belongings. 3. The emergency-aid exception applies when (1) law enforcement officers have an objectively reasonable basis to believe someone is seriously injured or imminently threatened with serious injury and (2) the manner and scope of any ensuing search is reasonable. 1 4. The emergency-aid exception is limited in time and scope. Under this limited authority, an officer may take reasonable steps to determine whether someone needs assistance and to provide that assistance. This authority ends when the emergent need dissipates—when it is no longer reasonable to believe a person needs emergency assistance. 5. There is no bright-line demarcation that defines when an officer's limited authority to conduct a warrantless search under the emergency-aid exception ends. Instead, the touchstone of a court's analysis is reasonableness: whether officers reasonably believe the search is necessary to provide emergency assistance and whether the search itself is reasonable in manner and scope. Appeal from Reno District Court; TRISH ROSE, judge. Opinion filed October 23, 2020. Affirmed. James M. Latta, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, for appellant. Natasha Esau, assistant district attorney, Keith Schroeder, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, for appellee. Before WARNER, P.J., STANDRIDGE and GARDNER, JJ. WARNER, J.: The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects our right to be free from unreasonable searches. In general, this means that law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant before initiating a search of a person or property. But in some instances, other considerations—such as the need to provide emergency assistance to someone who has an immediate and serious medical condition— justifies a warrantless search. This case presents such an instance. 2 Brittany Smith appeals her convictions of possession of methamphetamine, possession of paraphernalia, and driving under the influence, claiming the district court should have suppressed evidence obtained when police officers searched her purse without a warrant. That search occurred after the officers found Smith unresponsive in a running car parked in someone else's driveway. After failing to rouse Smith, the officers removed her from the car, but she remained largely unresponsive and appeared to be suffering an overdose. When emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, the officers searched Smith's purse, looking for her identification and any information regarding substances she may have ingested. Under these circumstances, we—like ...</p><br>
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