from Pike Circuit Court (CC-18-107)
WINDOM, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Leterrence Berry appeals his guilty-plea conviction for
possession of a controlled substance, see §
13A-12-212(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975, and his sentence of 24
months in prison. That sentence was suspended and he was
ordered to serve 24 months of supervised probation. Before
pleading guilty, Berry preserved and reserved his right to
appeal the circuit court's denial of his motion to
suppress evidence discovered and seized as the result of a
April 6, 2017, a be-on-the-lookout bulletin was issued to
officers with the Troy Police Department for a female who had
been reported by her family as a missing person. Lt. Matthew
Raiti located the missing female's vehicle in a motel
parking lot. Lt. Raiti spoke to the motel clerk, who directed
him to room 120. Lt. Raiti knocked on the door to Room 120
but received no response. Lt. Raiti knocked again and heard
noise coming from inside the motel room. The officer could
see through a gap in the curtains a male walking toward the
door while a female, who matched the description of the
missing female, walked toward the bathroom.
male opened the door, and Lt. Raiti spoke to him about the
missing female. Berry identified himself to Lt. Raiti. Lt.
Raiti gave Berry's name to police dispatch and learned
that there were two outstanding warrants for Berry's
was placed under arrest, and Lt. Raiti performed a search
incident to arrest. In Berry's right front pocket, Lt.
Raiti found 15 Alprazolam pills; 3 blue oval pills, which he
could not identify; and cash. After confirming that the
female in the motel room was the missing female, Lt. Raiti
took Berry to the police station for processing. There Berry
was given copies of the outstanding warrants for his arrest.
argues on appeal, as he did below, that his arrest was
illegal because Lt. Raiti did not have possession of the
arrest warrants at the time Berry was placed under arrest.
Thus, Berry asserts, that his arrest was illegal and that the
drug evidence was due to be suppressed as the product of an
Lt. Raiti was the only witness and the facts are not in
dispute. Therefore, this Court will review de novo the
circuit court's denial of Berry's motion to suppress.
See State v. Otwell, 733 So.2d 950, 952
(Ala.Crim.App.1999) (citing State v. Hill, 690 So.2d
1201 (Ala. 1996); Barnes v. State, 704 So.2d 487
Lt. Raiti knew of the existence of warrants for Berry's
arrest, he did not possess them at the time Berry was
arrested. This fact alone, of course, does not render
Berry's arrest illegal. Law-enforcement officers are
authorized to arrest individuals with or without a warrant.
§ 15-10-1, Ala. Code 1975. Even so, an officer's
authority to arrest without a warrant is limited. Section
15-10-3, Ala. Code 1975, establishes the circumstances under
which an officer may arrest an individual without an arrest
warrant. Many of these circumstances are inapplicable here,
though, because there was no indication that Berry had
committed an offense at the time of his arrest. The State
asserted that the arrest was lawful pursuant to §
15-10-3(a)(6), which states that an officer may arrest a
person without a warrant, on any day and at any time
"[w]hen the officer has actual knowledge that a warrant
for the person's arrest for the commission of a felony or
misdemeanor has been issued, provided the warrant was issued
in accordance with this chapter. However, upon request the
officer shall show the warrant to the arrested person as soon
as possible. If the officer does not have the warrant in his
or her possession at the time of arrest the officer shall
inform the defendant of the offense charged and of the fact
that a warrant has been issued."
argues that his arrest did not comply with §
15-10-3(a)(6) because his outstanding arrest warrants were
not issued for the "commission of a felony or
misdemeanor." Indeed, Lt. Raiti testified that the
arrest warrants were issued by the Troy Municipal Court for
"possession of marijuana second and ... driving while
[his license was] revoked," (R. 12), both of which are
misdemeanor offenses. See §§ 13A-12-214(b)
and 32-6-19(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. However, Lt. Raiti later
clarified that the warrants were capias warrants.
"Capias" is "[a]ny of various types of writs
that require an officer to take a named defendant into
custody[, and] is often issued when a respondent fails to
appear or when an obligor has failed to pay child
support." Black's Law Dictionary, 249-50
(10th ed. 2014). Lt. Raiti did not specifically identify the
acts or omissions that led to the issuance of Berry's
capias warrants, but did explain that capias warrants are
typically issued after "they've been in front of a
judge and have pled guilty or been found guilty and
essentially they owe money to the Court or ... [are] not
complying with conditions of their probation." (R. 18.)
Lt. Raiti agreed on cross-examination that, despite his
earlier testimony, neither capias warrant was a warrant of
arrest for second-degree possession of marijuana or driving
while his license was revoked.
a police officer arrests without a warrant, and the defendant
objects to the introduction of evidence seized as an incident
to the arrest, 'the burden is on the State to show that
the arrest was lawful' pursuant to §
15–10–3. Duncan v. State, 278 Ala. 145,
161, 176 So.2d 840, 855 (1965)." Ex parte
Brownlee, 535 So.2d 218, 219 (Ala. 1988). It is unclear
from the record why the capias warrants were issued for
Berry's arrest. Stated differently, the State failed to
demonstrate that Lt. Raiti had "actual knowledge that a
warrant for [Berry's] arrest for the commission of a
felony or misdemeanor" had been issued. §
15-10-3(a)(6) (emphasis added).
Johnson v. State, 675 So.2d 512, 513
(Ala.Crim.App.1995), this Court held that, because the
appellant's arrest warrant, which was issued for contempt
of court, "was not for the commission of a felony or a
misdemeanor, the arresting officer could not legally arrest
the appellant without personally possessing the arrest
warrant." Here, Lt. Raiti did not possess the arrest
warrants and the State failed to carry its burden to
demonstrate that Lt. Raiti had actual knowledge that the
arrest warrants had been issued for the commission of a
felony or misdemeanor. This Court holds that Berry's
arrest, as was the arrest in Johnson, was unlawful.
State asserts on appeal that, even if Berry's arrest was
unlawful under § 15-10-3, the drug evidence was still
admissible under the good-faith exception. "The good
faith exception provides that evidence obtained in violation
of the Fourth Amendment by officers acting in objectively
reasonable reliance on a warrant issued by a neutral and
detached magistrate need not be excluded from the State's
case-in-chief even if the warrant is ultimately found to be
invalid." Ex parte Morgan, 641 So.2d 840, 843
(Ala. 1994) (citing United States v. Leon, 468 U.S.
897 (1984)). Here, though, Lt. Raiti was not relying on the
judgment of another. Instead, it was Lt. Raiti's own
mistake of law in failing to comply with §
15-10-3(a)(6). Further, the language of § 15-10-3(a)(6)
is straightforward and unambiguous. Under the circumstances,
Lt. Raiti's mistake of law was unreasonable. See
Morgan, 641 So.2d at 843 (assessing reasonableness of
officer's mistake of law in determining whether the
good-faith exception should apply). See also Heien v.
North Carolina, 574 U.S. 54 (2014) (although in the
context of whether a Fourth Amendment violation even
occurred, the Court looked to the clarity of the statutes at
issue in assessing the reasonableness of an officer's
mistake of law). An officer's objectively unreasonable
mistake of law cannot justify application of the good-faith
State failed to carry its burden to show that Berry's
arrest was lawful. This Court has recognized that the
"Constitution of the United States, as interpreted by
the Supreme Court, compels a holding that evidence seized as
a result of an unlawful arrest is inadmissible."
State v. Phillips, 517 So.2d 648, 652
(Ala.Crim.App.1987) (citing Wong Sun v. United
States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963); Lawrence v.
Henderson, 478 F.2d 705 (5th Cir. 1973); Ingram v.
State, 45 Ala.App. 108, 226 So.2d 169 (1969)).
Therefore, the circuit court erred in denying Berry's
motion to suppress the drug evidence found in his possession
incident to his arrest.
and McCool, JJ., concur. Cole, J., dissents, with opinion,
which Minor, J., joins.
main opinion reverses the circuit court's denial of
Frederick Leterrence Berry's motion to suppress drug
evidence found in his possession incident to his arrest,
concluding that "[t]he State failed to carry its burden
to show that Berry's arrest was lawful." __ So. 3d
at __. Because the main opinion conflicts with cases from
this Court, the Alabama Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court
of the United States, I respectfully dissent.
noted in the main opinion, in April 2017 the Troy Police
Department was searching for a female who had been reported
missing by her family. While looking for her, Lt. Matthew
Raiti saw her vehicle in the parking lot of a Motel 6. After
speaking with the clerk at the front desk of the motel, Lt.
Raiti went to room 120 and knocked on the door but received
no response. Lt. Raiti knocked again and heard "some
noises" coming from inside the room. He then looked
through the window and saw a "black male walk towards
the front of the room and then a white female walk into the
restroom." (R. 9.) Lt. Raiti was "pretty sure"
that the female was the missing person.
black male then opened the door and spoke with Lt. Raiti. Lt.
Raiti told the male why he was at the motel and asked him for
his name, to which the male responded, "Frederick
Berry." (R. 11.) At that point, Lt. Raiti ran
Berry's name "through NCIC and through
dispatch." (Id.) Lt. Raiti did this because, he
said, it was "common practice"; he was looking for
a missing person; and he did not know if the female had been
kidnapped; thus, he explained, "it's pretty
imperative I know who I'm speaking with." (R.
responded to Lt. Raiti's request, informing him that
Berry had two active capias warrants from the Troy Municipal
Court--"[o]ne was for possession of marijuana second and
one was driving while [his license was] revoked." (R.
12-13, 15.) "Once [Lt. Raiti] was able to find out
[they] had the warrants and [he] confirmed the information on
the warrants .... So all the information was verified as
good. And at that point, [he] placed [Berry] under
arrest." (R. 13.) Lt. Raiti then searched Berry and
found 15 Alprazolam pills in his right front pocket. Lt.
Raiti continued into the motel room where he located the
missing female ...