State v. Kasparek

State v. Kasparek, 2016 MT 163 (July 12, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Kasparek’s motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant, and (2) whether the district court erred in denying Kasparek’s motion to suppress statements he made while in custody.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: In August 2013, Deputy Sheriff Stokes responded to a report of a burglary at a residence in Browning. The owner, Judy Como, had been at work from 7 pm-7 am, and told the officer her house had been burglarized while she was gone. Several items were missing, including her estranged husband Spencer Atchley’s drug test results. The front door showed signs of forced entry.

A neighbor reported seeing a car with three people come to Como’s house at 10:30 pm. The three were later identified as Atchley, Atchley’s mother Noelle Martin, and Kasparek. The neighbor reported seeing the three go into the house, leave, and return. She then saw Kasparek go into the house alone, where he stayed for 15-20 minutes until Atchley and Martin picked him up.

Based on this information, Deputy Stokes obtained a search warrant for Kasparek’s home. Upon execution of the warrant, the police found several of the items missing from Como’s house. Kasparek was arrested and taken to a holding cell. He was not read his Miranda rights. Captain Seifert testified that he asked Kasparek around 3 pm whether he wanted to talk, and Kasparek said he did not. Around 8 pm, Captain Seifert returned and asked again. Kasparek suddenly began talking very fast and provided a partial confession. Captain Seifert testified he stopped Kasparek and read him hi Miranda rights, after which Kasparek told him what happened.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Before trial, Kasparek moved to suppress the evidence found at his house and the statements he made to Captain Seifert. The district court denied both motions. Kasparek pled guilty, reserving his right to appeal the denial of the motions. Kasparek appeals and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: (1) First, the information provided in support of the search warrant established more than Kasparek’s mere presence at the scene. Second, Kasparek contends the search warrant is deficient because it did not state that Atchley had Como’s permission to enter the house, or that the neighbor did not see Kasparek carry stolen items out of the house. Allowing a defendant to challenge a search warrant based on information that was not included in the application undermines the constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches, invites speculation into the process and stands in direct contradiction to decades of precedent. “To the extent that Worrall approved of retroactively considering omitted information from a search warrant application in order to test the sufficiency of probable cause, it is overruled.” ¶ 12. Kasparek had the burden of showing that the warrant application contained misleading or untrue information that skewed the determination of probable cause. He did not do so. The Court cannot conclude that the district court erred in denying Kasparek’s motion to suppress the evidence.

(2) Before a person is subjected to custodial interrogation he must be warned of his rights. If the warnings are not given nor a waiver obtained, the law excludes any statements made during the interrogation. Not every statement made during a custodial setting constitute police interrogation, however. Interrogation must reflect a measure of compulsion above and beyond that inherent in the custody alone.

The first interaction between Captain Seifert and Kasparek was not an interrogation. The second interaction resulted in Kasparek talking very fast. Captain Seifert responded by reading Kasparek his rights. The Court cannot conclude the district court committed clear error when it found Captain Seifert did not violate Kasparek’s constitutional rights. Although Captain Seifert did not record the interrogation that followed, as required by Montana law, the record shows Kasparek’s statements were voluntary and reliable, and therefore qualify for the exception to electronic recording.