from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Mary Pat
Gunderson, Judge, and William A. Price, District Associate
appeals conviction for possession of marijuana.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Richard J. Bennett, Special
Counsel (until withdrawal), then Thomas E. Bakke and Kevin
Cmelik, Assistant Attorneys General, and John Sarcone, County
Attorney, and Stephanie Cox and Joseph Danielson, Assistant
County Attorneys, for appellee.
case, we are called upon to determine whether law enforcement
officers executing a search warrant may search a purse
belonging to a visitor who is present at the premises to be
searched but who is not named in the warrant. Under the facts
and circumstances of this case, we conclude that the search
of the purse belonging to the visitor was unlawful under
article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. As a result,
the district court in this case erred when it refused to
suppress the results of the search in an underlying criminal
proceeding against the visitor.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
facts are essentially uncontested. The officers in this case
obtained a search warrant for the residence. The search
warrant indicated that the police were looking for evidence
of the use, sale, and distribution of narcotics, along with
firearms and ammunition. The search warrant identified one
man, Jeffrey Sickles, as a person to be searched. An attached
police affidavit identified a woman-Ileen Sickles, the sister
of the man named in the search warrant-who listed the
residence as her home address.
officers involved in the search did not know Danielle Brown
and had no facts associating Brown with the residence. In
light of this lack of knowledge, it is not surprising that
Brown's name does not appear anywhere in the search
SWAT team officers executed the search warrant. They found
Brown and four individuals in a bedroom of the house. The
individuals were immediately handcuffed. Brown was handcuffed
where the officers found her. The purse in question was next
to Brown when she was handcuffed. Brown along with the others
was taken by officers into a living room.
John Scarlet searched the purse. Inside the purse he found a
zippered pouch. Upon opening the pouch, the officer found
baggies. Upon opening the baggies, the officer found a small
amount of marijuana.
being given Miranda warnings, Brown admitted she
smoked methamphetamine and marijuana on a regular basis. She
was arrested for possession of the marijuana found in her
to trial, Brown filed a motion to suppress the evidence
obtained from the search of her purse under both the Fourth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I,
section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The district court denied
the motion. Brown was found guilty of possessing marijuana
after a jury trial.
appeal, Brown asserts the district court erred in denying the
motion to suppress. For the reasons stated below, we reverse
the ruling of the district court on the motion to suppress
and remand the case to the district court.
II. Standard of Review.
asserts the search of her purse violated the Fourth Amendment
of the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of
the Iowa Constitution. Our review is de novo. State v.
Fleming, 790 N.W.2d 560, 563 (Iowa 2010).
Positions of the Parties.
Brown. Brown first argues the search was invalid
under the Fourth Amendment. She recognizes under United
States Supreme Court precedent the general rule is that a
valid search warrant authorizing a search includes the right
to search a container found on the premises. See United
States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 820-21, 102 S.Ct. 2157,
2170- 71 (1982) (holding legitimate search of vehicle
authorizes search of closed containers in vehicle). Yet,
Brown makes the general assertion that a search warrant for
the premises does not authorize the search of an individual
who is not named in the warrant but merely happens to be
present on the premises. See Ybarra v. Illinois, 444
U.S. 85, 91, 100 S.Ct. 338, 342 (1979).
addition to her general argument, Brown notes a number of
cases emphasize that "special concerns" arise when
the items to be searched belong to visitors of the premises,
United States v. Giwa, 831 F.2d 538, 544 (5th Cir.
1987), as the Fourth Amendment "protects people, not
places, " United States v. Micheli, 487 F.2d
429, 432 (lst Cir. 1973) (quoting Katz v. United
States, 389 U.S. 347, 351, 88 S.Ct. 507, 511 (1967)).
Because of the special concerns arising out of searches
involving visitors not named in a search warrant, Brown
asserts some federal and state courts have developed specific
tests to determine the validity of the search.
first test, the possession test, requires the container be in
the physical possession of the visitor for the search to be
outside the warrant. Brown notes the possession test has been
criticized as the protections of the Fourth Amendment are
"hardly furthered by making [their] applicability hinge
upon whether the individual happens to be holding or wearing
his personal belongings." Micheli, 487 F.2d at
identifies a second test, the relationship test, which
focuses on the relationship between the person and the
premises being searched. Under the relationship test, for
example, the co-owner of a business has a sufficient
relationship to the premises such that his briefcase could be
searched. See Micheli, 487 F.2d at 432.
test culled by Brown from the caselaw is a notice test. Under
the notice test, police that have actual or perhaps
constructive knowledge that the container belongs to a
visitor may not search the container. See, e.g.,
Waters v. State, 924 P.2d 437, 439 (Alaska Ct. App.
1996); State v. Lambert, 710 P.2d 693, 697-98 (Kan.
1985); State v. Lohr, 263 P.3d 1287, 1291-92
recognizes there are sometimes hybrid tests. For example, in
State v. Jackson, a Kansas appellate court seemed to
combine the notice and relationship tests. 260 P.3d 1240,
1243-44 (Kan.Ct.App. 2011). A search is not valid, according
to the Jackson court, if the officers have actual or
reasonable constructive notice the property is not subject to
the warrant with the exception that the search is valid if
the visitor has a relationship to the premises and there is a
relationship between the visitor and the illegal activities
in the warrant. Id. at 1244; see also State v.
Wills, 524 N.W.2d 507, 510 (Minn.Ct.App. 1994);
State v. Light, 306 P.3d 534, 542 (N.M. Ct. App.
does not land on any particular test for Fourth Amendment
purposes, but asserts the search in this case fails under any
of the above tests. With respect to the possession test, she
notes a photograph taken shortly after she was handcuffed and
introduced into evidence at the suppression hearing shows the
purse located right beside her. She cites a case applying the
possession test that found a purse resting against the chair
of a visitor was an extension of the visitor's person and
could not be searched pursuant to a premises search warrant.
See State v. Worth, 683 P.2d 622, 624-25
to the relationship test, Brown notes there was simply no
evidence at the suppression hearing establishing that she had
a "special relationship" to the premises. See
United States v. Neet, 504 F.Supp. 1220, 1227-28 (D.
Colo. 1981). Brown points out she was not mentioned in the
warrant, officers did not know her to have any relationship
with the residence, and she was not found in the same area of
the house as Jeffrey Sickles, the target of the
Brown argues the State cannot support the search based on the
notice test. According to Brown, the officer knew or should
have known the purse was hers as the police photograph
revealed the purse was directly in front of her when she was
handcuffed. Further, Officer John Scarlet testified he saw
Brown's identification and "stuff" in the
purse. It should have been clear the purse did not belong to
a man, the target of the warrant. Thus, Brown argues, under
the Fourth Amendment, the search of her purse was invalid
under any of the applicable tests developed by the
generally reprises her arguments under article I, section 8
of the Iowa Constitution. She notes preliminarily that we
have departed from Federal Fourth Amendment precedent in a
number of cases interpreting the search and seizure
provisions of article I, section 8 of the Iowa
Constitution. See, e.g., State v. Gaskins,
866 N.W.2d 1, 13-14 (Iowa 2015); State v. Short, 851
N.W.2d 474, 506 (Iowa 2014); State v. Ochoa, 792
N.W.2d 260, 284-91 (Iowa 2010). Brown notes our search and
seizure cases under the Iowa Constitution emphasize a
"strong emphasis on individual rights, "
Short, 851 N.W.2d at 482, that the Iowa framers
placed "considerable value on the sanctity of private
property, " Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d at 274-75, and
that our cases show concern about police searches of a
person's "private effects, " Gaskins,
866 N.W.2d at 10.
invites us to adopt a version of the notice test under the
Iowa Constitution. For support, she relies upon
Fleming, where we held a warrant supported by
probable cause did not authorize the search of a renter's
room. 790 N.W.2d at 568-69. Fleming, Brown contends,
necessarily rejected the relationship test as the renter had
a special relationship to the premises. Brown further notes
Fleming did not have physical possession of every item in the
room at the time of the search, thus implicitly rejecting the
possession test. Brown concludes, therefore, Fleming
in effect adopted a notice approach to the search of property
of third parties not named in a valid warrant.
The State. The State responds that under the Fourth
Amendment, the fact the search warrant indicated drugs and
firearms were among the items subject to search is
significant. The State in particular draws our attention to
Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 119 S.Ct. 1297
(1999). In Houghton, a divided United States Supreme
Court upheld a search of a purse found in the back seat of an
automobile. Id. at 307, 119 S.Ct. at 1304. The
majority concluded the driver's possession of a
hypodermic needle provided probable cause for a search of the
vehicle, including a purse found in the back seat of the car,
which belonged to a passenger. Id. at 298, 302, 119
S.Ct. at 1299, 1301. The State argues the United States
Supreme Court in Houghton essentially adopted a
possession test for determining whether an object may be
searched. The State asserts that although Houghton
involved a motor vehicle rather than a ...