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State v. Ashworth

March 3, 2010

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LARRY J. ASHWORTH, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Clearwater County. Hon. John H. Bradbury, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gutierrez, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 13A

AMENDED OPINION

THE COURT'S PRIOR OPINION DATED MARCH 1, 2010, IS HEREBY AMENDED

Order granting motion to suppress evidence, reversed.

The state appeals from the district court's order granting Larry J. Ashworth's motion to suppress evidence. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Deputy Dustin Pulley received a call from dispatch saying that Ashworth's neighbor had reported hearing two gunshots coming from inside Ashworth's residence. Ashworth's neighbor called back a few minutes later, stating that Ashworth had left his residence driving a blue truck and was intoxicated and heading to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting being held at the Weippe Senior Center.

Deputy Pulley and Detective Mitch Jared located a truck matching the neighbor's description in the parking lot of the senior center. They knocked on the door of the center, and the AA meeting leader responded. The officers inquired as to Ashworth and the AA meeting leader informed them that Ashworth was "four sheets to the wind, and really drunk," but assured them that everything was "under control" and that the AA group could "handle this." Detective Jared instructed the AA meeting leader to step aside, and the officers entered the building. After questioning Ashworth, they instructed him to follow them outside.

Once outside, Ashworth admitted that he had been drinking and had driven to the senior center. In addition, he smelled strongly of alcohol, had unsure balance and slurred speech, and failed several field sobriety tests administered by the officers. He was arrested for driving under the influence, Idaho Code § 18-8004, and ultimately tested well over the legal limit after breath alcohol tests were administered.*fn1

Due to the fact that he had received a prior DUI conviction and his alcohol concentration had been in excess of .20, Ashworth was charged with felony DUI, I.C. § 18-8004C. He moved to suppress all evidence arising from his detention, arguing that the officers did not possess reasonable, articulable suspicion that he had committed a crime such that their investigatory stop of him, leading to his seizure, was justified. After a hearing, the district court granted the motion, finding that Ashworth possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the AA meeting at the senior center and that while reasonable suspicion to detain Ashworth was present, the officers did not have probable cause to believe that he had acted in contravention of the DUI statute, and therefore, no exigency justified entry by the officers into the senior center. The state now appeals the court's grant of Ashworth's motion to suppress.

II. ANALYSIS

The state argues that the district court erred in granting Ashworth's motion to suppress, specifically contending that Ashworth did not possess a reasonable expectation of privacy while he attended the AA meeting at the senior center and therefore, there was no police infringement on his Fourth Amendment rights. The state also contends that even if there existed a reasonable expectation of privacy, the officers' entry was justified by exigent circumstances. Since we conclude that the first issue is dispositive, we do not reach the second.

The standard of review of a suppression motion is bifurcated. When a decision on a motion to suppress is challenged, we accept the trial court's findings of fact which are supported by substantial evidence, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Atkinson, 128 Idaho 559, 561, 916 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ct. App. 1996). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess the credibility of witnesses, resolve factual conflicts, weigh evidence, and draw factual inferences is vested in the trial court. ...


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