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People v. Davis

Supreme Court of Colorado

April 8, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
Shaun R. Davis, Defendant-Appellee

          Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 18CR1068 Honorable Andrew Baum, Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Susan J. Trout, Senior Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender James Karbach, Deputy Public Defender Anthony Falcone, Deputy Public Defender Centennial, Colorado

          OPINION

          HOOD, JUSTICE

         ¶1 After suddenly finding himself in custody on an arrest warrant, the defendant Shaun Davis wanted someone to contact his girlfriend about retrieving the car he had with him. So, he invited a police officer to use Davis's cell phone to call her, and he gave his cell phone passcode to that officer. Following a station house interview, Davis repeated his request. Again, he asked the police to contact his girlfriend. And again, he offered up his passcode. The police later obtained a warrant to search the contents of Davis's cell phone. Without seeking Davis's or the court's specific consent, the police used the previously provided passcode to execute the search warrant.

         ¶2 Davis asked the trial court to suppress his statements about the passcode and any evidence from the phone. He argued that his statements about the passcode were involuntary and that they were taken in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona. 384 U.S. 456 (1966). He also contended that the search warrant was overbroad and lacked probable cause.

         ¶3 The trial court rejected Davis's arguments. Even so, the court independently discerned a constitutional defect arising from the limited scope of Davis's consent to use of the passcode. Because the police may not have been able to access the phone without the passcode, the court reasoned that the search of the phone was a consent search, not a search pursuant to a warrant. The court found that Davis gave "very limited" consent for the police to use the passcode to search his phone for his girlfriend's phone number- not general consent to search everything in his phone. Because the trial court concluded that the search exceeded the scope of Davis's consent, it suppressed any evidence recovered from the phone.

         ¶4 We reverse. On the facts presented here, we conclude that the search of the phone was not a consent search, but rather a search pursuant to a valid warrant, and Davis did not manifest a legitimate expectation of privacy as to his passcode. Accordingly, law enforcement was at liberty to use the passcode to execute the search warrant.

         I. Facts and Procedural History[1]

         ¶5 Police took Davis into custody on an arrest warrant for first degree murder and other crimes. Shortly after his arrest at his place of employment, Davis asked Officer Aaron Woodbury to call Davis's girlfriend so that she could pick up her car, which Davis had driven to work. Davis encouraged Woodbury to go into Davis's phone to get her phone number. When Woodbury told Davis that Davis's iPhone was locked, Davis provided the passcode. Woodbury then used the passcode to get into the phone and find Davis's girlfriend's number, but Woodbury ultimately decided not to call her. Woodbury told Davis that he wasn't able to reach her.

         ¶6 Later, after an interview with detectives at the police station, Davis again asked Woodbury to contact Davis's girlfriend. Again, Davis suggested that Woodbury use the passcode to find his girlfriend's phone number. In neither this instance nor the first did Davis place any explicit limitation on law enforcement's use of his passcode.

         ¶7 The police eventually obtained a search warrant to search Davis's cell phone. They used the previously provided passcode to unlock the phone so they could conduct the search.

         ¶8 Davis moved to suppress his statements regarding the passcode. He argued that they were obtained involuntarily and taken in violation of Miranda. He also moved to suppress the fruits of the search of his phone, positing that the police lacked probable cause and that the warrant was constitutionally overbroad.

         ¶9 The trial court found that Davis's statements about the passcode were voluntary, and that there was no Miranda violation. The court also found that the search warrant was valid. However, the court suppressed the fruits of the search of the phone on different grounds. The court saw the passcode conundrum not "as a Fifth Amendment issue at all," but as a Fourth Amendment consent issue.

         ¶10 The trial court concluded that, in providing the passcode, Davis gave the police "very limited," voluntary consent to search his phone. The consent was limited to a specific item (his girlfriend's phone number), a specific area (his contacts folder), a specific purpose (to call his girlfriend), and a specific time (the time of the requests). Then, the court reasoned, the question becomes: "If the police have that pass[code], can they later use it if they have a valid search warrant?"

         ¶11 The trial court found that, without the voluntarily provided passcode, the police may not have been able to access Davis's cell phone. Thus, it reasoned, the only way the police could have gotten into the phone was by a search that went beyond the limited consent provided by Davis. Because the trial court concluded that the police had exceeded the scope of Davis's consent in ...


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