to a warrant, police found firearms and ammunition in a
locked gun safe during a search of Tina Berven and William
Witkowski's residence. The superior court suppressed
this evidence, ruling that the search exceeded the
warrant's scope, and we granted discretionary review. The
State argues that under the Fourth Amendment of the United
States Constitution, the superior court erred when it
concluded that the locked gun safe's contents were
outside the warrant's scope. We agree with the State
because the warrant authorized a search for firearms and
because firearms were likely to be found in the locked gun
safe. We also decline the Respondents' request to affirm
on the alternative basis that the Washington
Constitution's greater privacy protections under article
I, section 7 include that a premises search warrant must
expressly authorize the search of locked containers likely to
hold the search's object. Accordingly, we reverse the
superior court's ruling suppressing the evidence.
Search Warrant and Addendum
October 27, 2015, Deputy Martin Zurfluh obtained a search
warrant to search the Respondents' property, including
their residence, for evidence of possession of stolen
property and utility theft. The search warrant was limited to
a stolen power meter and its accessories. An arrest warrant
for Witkowski was also issued.
October 29, officers executed the search and arrest warrants.
After this search, Deputy Zurfluh requested an addendum to
the search warrant. In his affidavit, Deputy Zurfluh
explained that after entering the Respondents' residence,
police found drug paraphernalia, ammunition, one locked gun
safe, one unlocked gun safe, a rifle case, and surveillance
cameras. Deputy Zurfluh knew that the Respondents were felons
and were prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
search warrant addendum authorized police to search at the
Respondents' street address for evidence of unlawful
possession of a firearm, identity theft, unlawful possession
of a controlled substance, and unlawful use of drug
paraphernalia. The warrant addendum defined the area to be
searched for this evidence as the main residence, a shed, and
any vehicles and outbuildings at the street address.
addendum authorized the seizure of evidence including,
1. [f]irearms, firearms parts, and accessories, including but
not limited to rifles, shotguns, handguns, ammunition,
scopes, cases, cleaning kits, and holsters.
. . . .
4. Surveillance Systems used or intended to be used in the
furtherance of any of the above listed crimes.
. . . .
6. Any item used as a container for item 4.
Papers (CP) at 68 (emphasis added). Notably, the addendum did
not identify either of the gun safes as items to be seized,
although Deputy Zurfluh stated in his affidavit as part of
his description of the initial search that officers had found
two gun safes in the residence.
executing the warrant addendum, officers opened the locked
gun safe. They found firearms inside.
the second search, the State charged Respondents with
numerous counts including first degree unlawful possession of
a firearm. Witkowski was additionally charged with seven
counts of possession of a stolen firearm.
Suppression Motions and Hearing
Respondents moved to suppress all evidence found as a result
of the search. At the suppression hearing, Deputy Zurfluh
testified that the locked gun safe was located in the kitchen
and that it was about the size of a refrigerator. Deputy
Zurfluh suspected that there were firearms in the safe
because he had found ammunition in the home. In Deputy
Zurfluh's experience, tall, upright safes were typically
Zurfluh further testified that when officers opened the
locked gun safe, they found 11 loaded rifles and shotguns
with their serial numbers filed off, a handgun, a police
scanner, a large quantity of cash, ammunition, and cameras.
The unlocked gun safe was empty.
superior court suppressed the "evidence found inside the
gun safes" under the Fourth Amendment. CP at 100. The
superior court ruled that the addendum to the warrant
"did not include the gun safes or containers for
firearms" and that gun safes are not "personal
effects, " so that "[t]he search of the safe[s] did
not fall within the scope of the search warrant." CP at
99-100. The superior court later denied the State's
motions for reconsideration.
State filed motions for discretionary review in both
Respondents' cases. We granted the State's motions
for discretionary review and consolidated the cases.
Standard of Review
review de novo conclusions of law related to the suppression
of evidence. State v. Winterstein, 167 Wn.2d 620,
628, 220 P.3d 1226 (2009). We also review de novo whether a
search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution because it exceeded a warrant's scope and
whether article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution
has been violated. State v. Rankin, 151 Wn.2d 689,
694, 92 P.3d 202 (2004); see State v. Figeroa
Martines, 184 Wn.2d 83, 90, 94, 355 P.3d 1111 (2015).
State argues that the superior court erred under the Fourth
Amendment when it suppressed evidence found inside the locked
safe based on its determination that the search of the safe
fell outside the warrant addendum's scope. We agree.
Principles of Law
Fourth Amendment provides that
[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Const. amend. IV. When police execute a search warrant under
a valid warrant, the search must be strictly within the scope
of the warrant. Figeroa Martines, 184 Wn.2d at 94.
We evaluate warrants in a commonsense, practical manner, not
in a hypertechnical sense. State v. Perrone, 119
Wn.2d 538, 549, 834 P.2d 611 (1992).
Within the Scope of the Warrant
State argues that the locked gun safe was within the
warrant's scope because under the Fourth Amendment, when
the warrant authorized the search of the premises for
evidence of firearms, it authorized the search of the locked
gun safe. The Respondents argue that the search exceeded the
warrant's scope because the warrant excluded the locked
gun safe by negative implication and because Deputy Zurfluh
was aware of the locked gun safe but did not include it in
the search warrant. We agree with the State.
Principles of Law: Scope of the Warrant
lawful search of fixed premises generally extends to the
entire area in which the object of the search may be found
and is not limited by the possibility that separate acts of
entry or opening may be required to complete the
search." United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798,
820-21, 102 S.Ct. 2157, 72 L.Ed.2d 572 (1982). "Thus, a
warrant that authorizes an officer to search a home for
illegal weapons also provides authority to open closets,
chests, drawers, and containers in which the weapon might be
found." Ross, 456 U.S. at 821. Similarly, one
leading treatise summarizes the law as follows:
A search made under authority of a search warrant may extend
to the entire area covered by the warrant's ...