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State v. Phipps

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 20, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
KARI JANAE PHIPPS, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Richard S. Christensen, District Judge. Clark A. Peterson, Magistrate Judge.

         The order of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded.

          Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for Appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          Kootenai County Public Defender's Office, Coeur d'Alene, for Respondent. Tyler R. Naftz argued.

          MOELLER, Justice.

         The State appeals from the Kootenai County district court's reversal of the magistrate court's order denying Kari Janae Phipps's motion to suppress. Phipps asserted below that the statements she made while detained during a routine parole search of a parolee's residence, along with the evidence found as a result of her statements, were inadmissible on Fourth Amendment grounds. The State brings this appeal seeking to delineate the authority of parole officers to detain a non-parolee while performing a routine parole search of a parolee's residence. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the district court's decision and hold that the limited detention of Phipps was reasonable.


         On November 18, 2016, Officer Kuebler and Officer Johnson from the Idaho Department of Correction performed a routine residence check on parolee Terry Wilson. Upon their arrival, the officers knocked on the apartment door and Wilson answered. As the officers entered, they noticed Phipps exit from a back bedroom. The officers recognized Phipps from previous visits. The officers asked Phipps and Wilson to take a seat in the living room while they "cleared the bedrooms for other persons." Officer Johnson testified that, although Phipps never asked to leave at that time, she was not "cleared to leave. . . . [b]ecause of procedure."

         After ensuring there was no one else in the apartment, Officer Kuebler advised Phipps and Wilson that a drug dog would be brought in to aid in the search of the residence and asked whether there was anything in the apartment that they should know about. Phipps confessed to having a methamphetamine pipe in her backpack, which was on her person. Officer Kuebler proceeded to conduct a full search of the residence and found two safes containing drugs underneath a bed in a back bedroom. The officers called backup law enforcement to handle the drugs. At some point prior to the arrival of backup, the officers ascertained that Phipps had no outstanding warrants.[1]

         Approximately ten to twenty minutes later, Officer Hutchison from the Coeur d'Alene Police Department arrived. Officer Hutchison talked with Phipps separately in a back bedroom after he read Phipps her Miranda rights. When asked whether she had a methamphetamine pipe in her backpack, Phipps confirmed that she did. Officer Hutchison searched Phipps's backpack and found the methamphetamine pipe. Consequently, Officer Hutchison issued Phipps a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

         On January 12, 2017, Phipps moved to suppress the methamphetamine pipe and her statements regarding the pipe. At the suppression hearing, Officer Kuebler was asked why he detained Phipps, to which he explained, "[w]hen we enter a residence, we require that everybody stays in the living room until we clear the residence for officer-safety reasons." Officer Kuebler further explained,

[W]e're entering a residence where people are on felony probation, and the people that necessarily hang out there, a lot of times we find felony warrants or other drugs so we -- we don't want to have individuals leaving, coming back -- knowing where we're at in the residence, coming back with intentions to harm an officer.

         Officer Johnson similarly testified that the detention was "[d]epartment procedure to ensure officer safety."

         When asked whether there was any suspicion of wrongdoing prior to the search of the residence, Officer Kuebler testified that they did not believe the parolee violated any terms or conditions of his parole; that they did not suspect he had any drugs in his apartment; and that they did not suspect he was illegally possessing a firearm. As for Phipps, Officer Johnson testified that he did not believe Phipps was violating any law at the time. The magistrate court found this to be the case as well: "She didn't appear to be armed or dangerous. They didn't see anything about her person that would justify a Terry stop or search of her person." Therefore, the court found that, prior to Phipps's statement to the parole officers regarding the methamphetamine pipe, "there [was] no individual probable cause to hold or detain Ms. Phipps." Rather, "Ms. Phipps was simply a person merely present during a p[arole search] . . . to check a residence."

         After the suppression hearing, the magistrate court orally pronounced its findings of fact and conclusions of law. After analyzing cases from the U.S. Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court concluded that there is no legal difference between a search pursuant to a search warrant and a search pursuant to a parole waiver; in either case, law enforcement may detain all individuals found on the premises. Therefore, the court held that when parole officers are conducting a lawful parole search, they may detain and question all persons present, regardless of whether they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause, which is what the officers did in this case. Accordingly, the magistrate court denied Phipps's motion to suppress.[2]

         On March 27, 2017, Phipps entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the magistrate court's denial of her motion to suppress. On May 5, 2017, Phipps appealed the magistrate ...

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