Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-01103-7. Date filed: 11/14/94. Judge signing: Hon. George A. Finkle.
Authored by Walter E. Webster. Concurring: Ronald E. Cox, Ann L. Ellington.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Webster
WEBSTER, J. -- Under the federal constitution, search warrants must describe the place to be searched with particularity. Even a warrant with the wrong address can pass constitutional muster, however, when the place to be searched is sufficiently identified so as to enable officers to locate it with certainty. In this regard, courts consider both the executing officer's observations, and whether the warrant includes a physical description. Of course the courts are particularly concerned that there be little possibility of a mistaken search. Here, the warrant incorrectly identified the address of the apartment to be searched: the warrant read "2547 South Lander," while the proper address is 2547 14th Ave. South. But the warrant also included a detailed physical description of the premises, and two accusers had earlier pointed out the apartment to one of the executing officers. Furthermore, no structure exists at 2547 South Lander. As a consequence of all three factors, the warrant sufficiently identified the premises to be searched and eliminated the possibility that officers would search an unauthorized place. Hence, we agree with the trial court's decision to admit the fruits of the search, and we affirm the judgment and sentence.
It was New Year's Eve. Sixteen year old Sean Proctor went to a party with two friends and his cousin. He wore his new "Doc Martin" boots and a braided leather belt. Sean's cousin gave him a pack of Newport cigarettes, which he liked to smoke. Around 4:30 a.m., Sean left the party and walked to an AM-PM market. He was slightly intoxicated, but fully coherent.
Along came Jarockus Grissom and Terrance Pfeifer. They too had been partying. Having run out of gas, they walked to the mini-market with a gas can. Proctor initially asked them to buy some cigarettes for him, then asked whether they would sell him some marijuana. They told him they would, got their gas, and returned with Pfeifer's car. Proctor got in.
Grissom drove to a dimly lighted area near some apartments. Pfeifer got out, purportedly to get the marijuana from the trunk. Instead, he returned with an assault rifle that Grissom had earlier been given by a friend. Pfeifer then demanded that Proctor strip. Proctor complied, giving his clothing, wallet, a pizza which he had purchased, and assuring Pfeifer "it's cool, don't shoot, don't kill me." Ex. 29. Pfeifer ordered Proctor out of the car, then shot him twice in the back. Jumping back into the car, he told Grissom to drive, drive, drive. Proctor died before anyone discovered the crime.
Pfeifer later bragged about the shooting to friends. Grissom wore Proctor's new boots and his belt. The police apprehended both one month later after receiving a tip. Upon executing a search warrant, they recovered the boots and the belt from Grissom's apartment. They found an empty package of Newport cigarettes in the trunk of Pfeifer's car. Grissom agreed to give a statement to police. He admitted that he and Pfeifer were going to rob Proctor, but he denied knowing that Pfeifer was going to shoot him. Pfeifer pleaded guilty. The state charged Grissom with felony murder, and he went to trial.
Despite being the car's driver, wearing Proctor's clothing after the murder, and his statement to police, Grissom testified that he did not participate in the robbery. He explained his failure to notify police as reflecting his fear of Pfeifer. He said that he kept Proctor's clothing as evidence of the crime. Twenty-six other witnesses testified during the one week trial, and the jury deliberated for almost three days before convicting him.
Grissom argues that the search warrant executed at his apartment did not describe the premises to be searched with particularity because it misidentified his address as 2547 South Lander, rather than 2547 14th Ave. South.
Warrants must particularly describe the place to be searched. *fn1 In other words, the description must be sufficient to ensure that the officer executing a warrant can, with reasonable effort, ascertain and identify the place intended. *fn2 When a warrant has a wrong address, courts determine whether the premises to be searched are otherwise sufficiently identified so as to enable officers to locate them with certainty. *fn3 In this regard, courts consider (1) whether the warrant includes a physical description of the premises; (2) if the executing officer personally knows the location or its occupants; and ...