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People v. Webb

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

May 19, 2014

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant:
v.
Lynette Webb, Defendant-Appellee:

Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court. Fremont County District Court Case No. 13CR287. Honorable Patrick W. Murphy, Judge.

SYLLABUS

In this case, the supreme court considers whether the search of a purse is within the scope of a search warrant. The police searched Webb's purse when they executed a search warrant for her house that they obtained after identifying indicia that Webb's adult son, A.W,. was using methamphetamine in the house. The supreme court holds that because the purse was found in a room to which A.W. had access and because the purse was a container in which A.W. could have reasonably hidden contraband, the search of Webb's purse was within the scope of the search warrant.

Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: Thom K. LeDoux, District Attorney, Eleventh Judicial District, Stacey L. Turner, Deputy District Attorney, Cañon City, Colorado.

Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: The Marquez Law Office, P.C., Ernest F. Marquez, Salida, Colorado.

OPINION

Page 567

BOATRIGHT, JUSTICE.

[¶1] In this interlocutory appeal we consider whether the trial court erred when it suppressed evidence that the police found in Defendant-Appellee Lynette Webb's purse. A parole officer and a detective initially visited Webb's adult son, A.W., at her house and found spoons with methamphetamine residue

Page 568

beneath A.W.'s bed and a syringe that tested positive for methamphetamine in a visitor's backpack. The detective also believed that A.W. and the visitor were under the influence of methamphetamine during the home visit. Based on this evidence, the police obtained a warrant to search the house and all personal property within it, and upon executing the warrant, they identified straws with methamphetamine residue in Webb's purse. The trial court found that it was unreasonable for the police to search Webb's purse, which was located in her bedroom at the time of the search, because Webb had a heightened expectation of privacy in her purse and because it was unlikely that A.W. would hide contraband in his mother's purse. For these reasons, the trial court granted Webb's motion to suppress the evidence that the police recovered from her purse.

[¶2] We conclude that the trial court applied the wrong analysis. Once a lawful search warrant is issued, the scope of the search is defined by the scope of the warrant rather than an individual's expectation of privacy in any particular area or item. Here, the search warrant authorized the police to search the house and all personal property within it for methamphetamine and methamphetamine paraphernalia. We hold that, because the purse was found in a room to which A.W. had access and because the purse was a container in which A.W. could have reasonably hidden contraband, the search of Webb's purse was within the scope of the search warrant. We therefore reverse the trial court's order suppressing the evidence that the police found in Webb's purse and remand the case to that court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts and Proceedings Below

[¶3] Webb and her adult son, A.W., who is on parole, reside in a single-story house. The house has two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen.

[¶4] A parole officer and Detective Jolliffe conducted a home visit with A.W., during which Webb and a visitor were present. Webb primarily stayed in her bedroom while the visitor, at ...


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