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

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


         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 @



                                                               Court of Appeals No. A-11085  

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


                                                                       O  P  I  N  I  O  N  


                                  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.  


                     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  



                    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            


          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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