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Siedentop v. State (8/8/2014) ap-2424

Siedentop v. State (8/8/2014) ap-2424

                                                 NOTICE
  

         The text of this opinion can be corrected before the opinion is published in the  

        Pacific Reporter.  Readers are encouraged to bring typographical or other formal  

        errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts:   



                                303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska  99501
  

                                          Fax:  (907) 264-0878
  

                          E-mail:  corrections @ appellate.courts.state.ak.us
  



              IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ALASKA  



ISAAC D. SIEDENTOP,  

                                                               Court of Appeals No. A-11085  

                                  Appellant,                 Trial Court No. 4FA-10-4143 CR  



                         v.  

                                                                       O  P  I  N  I  O  N  

STATE OF ALASKA,  



                                  Appellee.                     No. 2424 - August 8, 2014  



                 Appeal  from  the  Superior  Court,  Fourth  Judicial  District,  

                 Fairbanks, Robert B. Downes, Judge.  



                 Appearances:  Brooke  Berens,  Assistant  Public  Advocate,  

                 Appeals and Statewide Defense Section, and Richard Allen,  

                 Public  Advocate,  Anchorage,  for  the  Appellant.    Eric  A.  

                                                                   

                 Ringsmuth,  Assistant  Attorney  General,  Office  of  Special  

                                 

                 Prosecutions  and  Appeals,  Anchorage,  and  Michael  C.  

                 Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.  



                 Before:   Mannheimer,   Chief   Judge,   Allard,   Judge,   and  

                 Hanley, District Court Judge. *  

                                                         



                 Judge MANNHEIMER.  



        *    Sitting  by  assignment  made  pursuant  to  Article  IV,  Section  16   of  the  Alaska  



Constitution and Administrative Rule 24(d).  


----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

                    Isaac  D.  Siedentop  appeals  his  convictions  for  third-degree  controlled  



substance misconduct (possession of cocaine with intent to deliver) and second-degree  



weapons  misconduct  (possession  of  a  firearm  in  furtherance  of  a  felony  drug  

offense). 1  

                 Siedentop argues that the evidence against him was obtained illegally.                                   The  



evidence was obtained in the following fashion:   



                    On the morning of September 23, 2010, five police and probation officers  

                                                                                                



approached a Fairbanks residence located at 209 Dunbar Street.  The officers were trying  

                                                                                             



to serve an arrest warrant on Antonio Mendez, a man who allegedly had absconded from  

                                                                        



electronic monitoring.  The officers went to the Dunbar Street address because they had  

                                                      



received information from Mendez's wife that Mendez "was associating" with a woman  

                                                                                         



at that address.   



                    The police were aware that this address was reputed to be a drug house, and  

                                                                                    



they were concerned that their arrival might precipitate trouble, so two of the officers  



went to the back of the house while the other three officers walked up to the front door  

                                                                    



and knocked.   



                    Siedentop was in the Dunbar Street house; he responded to the knocking  

                                                                                                             



by opening the front door.  When Siedentop opened the door, one of the officers stuck  

                                                                                                       



his foot across the threshold to prevent Siedentop from closing the door again.   



                    The officers had no specific concerns about Siedentop, and initially they  



only questioned him about whether he lived at the house, and whether the owner of the  



house was present.  But the officers perceived Siedentop to be "fidgety" and "pretty  



nervous" in their presence - so, after less than a minute of conversation, one of the  



officers  asked  Siedentop  if  he  had  any  weapons  on  him.    Siedentop  responded  by  



pointing to his waist and declaring that he was carrying two weapons.   



          1    AS 11.71.030(a)(1) and AS 11.61.195(a)(1), respectively.  



                                                            - 2 -                                                       2424
  


----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

                     Based on Siedentop's statement, one of the officers patted him down and  



discovered  a  hunting  knife,  a  handgun,  an  extra  magazine  for  this  handgun,  and  



approximately  $2000  in  cash.    The  officer  thereupon  removed  Siedentop  from  the  



residence and took him to a patrol car, where the officer conducted a second search.  This  

                                            



second search revealed bindles of powder cocaine, a rock of crack cocaine, and a digital  

                                                                                                                    



scale.  These various discoveries led to the charges against Siedentop.  



                     The primary question in this appeal is whether the officer acted unlawfully  

                                         



when he stuck his foot across the threshold to prevent Siedentop from closing the front  

                             



door of the residence.  The answer to that question is yes.  



                                                          2 

                     In Payton v. New York ,   the United States Supreme Court declared that  



                                                

"physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the ... Fourth Amendment is  



                     

directed" - and that the Fourth Amendment "draw[s] a firm line at the entrance to the  



house".  Absent exigent circumstances, the police may not cross the threshold of a home  

without a warrant. 3  

                                 



                                                                        4  

                    And in Steagald v. United States,   the Supreme Court clarified the Payton  



                                                                                                                        

rule by holding that, even when the police have an arrest warrant for a suspect, the police  



                                                                                               

need a separate search warrant if they wish to enter the house of a third party to execute  



that arrest warrant.   



          2    445 U.S. 573, 585-86 & 590; 100 S.Ct. 1371, 1379-1380 & 1382; 63 L.Ed.2d 639            



(1980).  



          3    Payton , 445 U.S. at 590, 100 S.Ct. at 1382.  



          4    451 U.S. 204, 101 S.Ct. 1642, 68 L.Ed.2d 38 (1981).  



                                                               - 3 -                                                          2424
  


----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

                      Although there is no Alaska appellate decision on point, many federal and  



state courts have held that an officer's act of placing a foot across the threshold of a  

                                      

home constitutes an entry for Fourth Amendment purposes. 5  

                                                                                                    



                                                                                                 

                      The State does not dispute this rule.  Nor does the State seek to defend the  



superior court's ruling that the officer's action was justified by safety concerns.  



                      Instead, the State suggests two other reasons why Siedentop should not be  

                                                                                 



entitled  to  suppression  of  the  evidence,  even  though  the  officers  entered  the  house  



without permission.  First, the State contends that the entry into the house was justified  

                                            



because the officers were attempting to serve an arrest warrant for Antonio Mendez.  



Alternatively, the State contends that even if the entry was not justified, the evidence  



against  Siedentop  was  not  the  fruit  of  this  unlawful  entry.    We  address  these  two  

                                                                                          



contentions in turn.  



                      To support its contention that the officers were justified in crossing the  

                                          



threshold of the residence without permission, the State relies on this Court's decision  



in Anderson v. State , 145 P.3d 617 (Alaska App. 2006).  Like the present case, Anderson  

                                                  



involved a situation where police officers entered a house in an attempt to serve an arrest  

                                                                                                                      



warrant.  But that is where the material similarity ends.   



           5    See (in reverse chronological order) Dalcour v. Lakewood , 492 Fed.Appx 924,   



932-33 (10th Cir. 2012); Moore v. Bannon , unpublished, 2011 WL 5184224, *9 (E.D. Mich.               

2011); Hogan v. City of Corpus Christi , unpublished, 2011 WL 4436723, *6 (S.D. Tex.   

2011); Hanie v. City of Woodstock , unpublished, 2008 WL 476123, *6-7 (N.D. Ga. 2008);                    

McDonald v. Foltz , unpublished, 2007 WL 760509, *7 (W.D. Penn. 2007);                                               Jones v. State ,  

38 A.3d 333, 351-52 (Md. 2012); State v. Hudson , 209 P.3d 196, 199 (Idaho App. 2009);  

Bulloch v. State , unpublished, 2005 WL 3307318, *3 (Ark. App. 2005); State v. Maland , 103  

P.3d 430, 435 (Idaho 2004); State v. Larson , 668 N.W.2d 338, 343 (Wis. App. 2003); Green  

                                                                            

v. State , 78 S.W.3d 604, 608, 614 n. 3 (Tex. App. 2002); State v. Johnson , 501 N.W.2d 876,  

                                                     

879 (Wis. App. 1993); State v. Lewis, 561 A.2d 1153, 1158 (N.J. 1989).   



                                                                  - 4 -                                                            2424
  


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

                    We upheld the officers' entry in Anderson because we concluded (1) that  

                                                                                      



the officers had probable cause to believe that the house they entered was the residence  

                         



of the person they were seeking to arrest, and (2) that they had probable cause to believe  

                                                                                 



that this person was inside the house when they made their entry.  Id. , 145 P.3d at 624- 

                                                                  



26.  That was not the case here.   



                    It  is  true  that  Mendez's  wife  had  told  the  officers  that  Mendez  was  

                                                                                                               



"associating" with a woman who lived at the Dunbar Street residence; thus, the officers  



may  have  had  reason  to  think  that  they  might find   Mendez  at  that  location.    But  

                                                                                                             



Mendez's wife did not assert that Mendez was  living  at the Dunbar Street residence.  

                                                                                    



And the officers had no other information to support the conclusion that the Dunbar  

              



Street house was Mendez's residence.  Indeed, the officers were looking for Mendez  



precisely because he had absconded from the place where he normally resided.  



                    Because of this, the rule of Steagald applies:  the police needed a separate  

                                                                             



search warrant to enter the house of a third party to try to find Mendez, even though they  

                                                       



already had a warrant for Mendez's arrest.  



                    Moreover, even though the officers may have had reason to believe that  

                                                                            



they might find Mendez at the Dunbar Street house, the officers did not have probable  

                                                                                 



cause to believe that Mendez was currently inside the house when they arrived.  The  

                                                                                               



only information the officers had on this point was the information they obtained from  

                                                                               



Siedentop after they seized him and searched him - at which point, Siedentop told the  

                                                                                                         



officers that Mendez had been at the house at an earlier time, but that Mendez hadn't  

                                                                                                      



been at the house in a while.   



                    For  these  reasons,  we  conclude  that  the  officers  violated  the  Fourth  

                                                                                                                  



Amendment when one of them placed a foot across the threshold of the Dunbar Street  



house to prevent Siedentop from closing the door.  



                                                              - 5 -                                                         2424
  


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                    The State's second argument is that the evidence against Siedentop was not  

                                                                                                         



obtained through this violation of the Fourth Amendment.   



                    Under the circumstances presented in this case, the officers' illegal crossing  



of the threshold had two distinct legal aspects.  To the extent that this illegal entry gave  

                                                                                                   



the officers an augmented view of the contents of the house, it was an unlawful search.  

                                                                        



And because the officers physically obstructed the doorway to prevent Siedentop from  

                                                                                                            



closing  the  door  and  ending  his  encounter  with  the  officers,  the  officers'  action  

                                                      



constituted an unlawful seizure of Siedentop's person.   



                    See Majaev v. State , 223 P.3d 629, 632 (Alaska 2010):  "A seizure [occurs]  

                                                                               



when [an] officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way  



restrained the liberty of a citizen."  



                    With regard to the unlawful search, the State's argument appears to be  

                              



correct:  the evidence against Siedentop was not derived from the officers' enhanced  



view of the interior of the house.  But the evidence against Siedentop was discovered as  

                                                          



a result of his admission to the officers that he was armed, and that admission was the  

                                       



fruit of the unlawful seizure of Siedentop's person.  



                    Essentially,  the  officers  conducted  an  investigative  stop  of  Siedentop  

                                                                                                      



without   reasonable   suspicion.      During   this   investigative   detention,   the   officers  



interrogated him, and Siedentop admitted that he was carrying weapons.  This statement  



ultimately led to the discovery of the evidence against him - the firearm, the cocaine,  

                                                                                               



and the other evidence of drug dealing.  



                    All of this evidence was the fruit of the unlawful seizure, and the superior  

                                                                           



court should have suppressed it.  See  Waring v. State, 670 P.2d 357, 366-67 (Alaska  

                                                           



1983) (all evidence obtained as a direct or indirect result of an unlawful investigative  

                                                                                             



detention must be suppressed unless the government can show an attenuation between  



the unconstitutional conduct and the incriminating evidence);  Young v. State, 72 P.3d  

       



                                                             - 6 -                                                         2424
  


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

1250,  1256  (Alaska  App.  2003)  (statements  obtained  as  a  result  of  an  unlawful  



investigative detention must be suppressed).  



              For these reasons, we REVERSE the judgement of the superior court.  



                                           - 7 -                                      2424
  

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