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State v. Cantrell

March 16, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Deborah A. Bail, District Judge.

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

2010 Opinion No. 18

Order of the district court denying motion to suppress, affirmed.

Isaac James Cantrell appeals from his judgment of conviction entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of trafficking in marijuana, Idaho Code § 37-2732B(a)(1). Specifically, Cantrell challenges the district court‟s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of his vehicle. We affirm.


Officer Eric Johnson stopped Cantrell after observing him drive the wrong way on Main Street and then again on 12th Street, both one-way streets, in Boise. Officer Tony White, who is a member of the Boise STEP program, a specialized task force which evaluates drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, heard Officer Johnson call out the stop over the radio and believed that he might need some assistance. Officer White arrived approximately one minute after the stop and observed Cantrell‟s vehicle as well as Officer Johnson‟s patrol car both parked facing the wrong way on 12th Street. Officer Johnson indicated that the driver might be under the influence of alcohol, and Officer White initiated an investigation.

Officer White testified that he asked Cantrell to exit the vehicle and inquired about where he was coming from and where he was going, to which Cantrell responded that he was coming from downtown. When asked whether he had been drinking, Cantrell responded that he had four beers but was unable to tell Officer White where he had been drinking or where he was going. Cantrell‟s eyes were bloodshot and glossy, and his speech was "thick." He struggled with the divided attention tests as he was having trouble processing simple instructions. Officer White performed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, which Cantrell failed. While performing the test, Cantrell commented that he knew "where this was going to lead" and ultimately refused to comply with any other field sobriety tests. Officer White determined that based upon Cantrell‟s driving pattern, his admission of consuming alcohol, and his failure of the HGN test, he would place Cantrell under arrest for driving under the influence.

After Cantrell was placed under arrest and secured inside a patrol car, Officer White asked Officer Johnson to call a tow truck to impound the vehicle. Officer White then conducted a search incident to Cantrell‟s arrest for DUI. He testified that as part of the investigation he would look in the vehicle for any open containers or other signs of alcohol use. Officer White began his search at the driver‟s seat where he located a Tupperware container underneath the seat. Inside the Tupperware container were four individually-wrapped sandwich bags which contained a green leafy substance later identified as marijuana. Upon discovering the marijuana, Officer White went back and read Cantrell his Miranda rights. When asked whether he understood, Cantrell stated "yes." Officer White then proceeded to ask several questions which resulted in Cantrell admitting that he had a bong, which was located in the trunk. Cantrell also admitted ownership of the Tupperware container with the marijuana inside. Officer White proceeded to open the trunk and immediately smelled a strong odor of marijuana. Inside the trunk was a large, green duffel bag, and inside the bag Officer White located a large quantity of marijuana. He also located paraphernalia.

Cantrell was ultimately charged with trafficking in marijuana and driving under the influence. Cantrell filed a motion to suppress all of the evidence obtained from the search of his vehicle as well as his statements to Officer White. The district court denied the motion to suppress, specifically finding probable cause for the stop, probable cause for the DUI arrest, a proper search of the vehicle conducted incident to the arrest, a voluntary waiver of Miranda rights, and a proper inventory search.*fn1 Cantrell was convicted on both counts, and the district court sentenced Cantrell to one year determinate on the trafficking count and two years probation on the DUI. Cantrell appeals.


The district court, relying on New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981), determined that Officer White could search the vehicle incident to Cantrell‟s arrest and, therefore, there was no basis for suppression of the marijuana discovered as a result of the search. The district court also determined that even if a search incident to arrest was not permissible, because the vehicle was searched as part of the impounding process, the discovery of the additional marijuana in the trunk was inevitable. Cantrell argues that the warrantless search of his vehicle incident to his arrest was invalid under the recent United States Supreme Court case, Arizona v. Gant, _, U.S. _, 129 S.Ct. 1710 (2009). He also contends that because the State failed to offer evidence that the impoundment of his vehicle was reasonable, the State failed to prove that the marijuana would have inevitably been discovered.

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 that 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. State v. Valdez-Molina, 127 Idaho 102, 106, 897 P.2d 993, 997 (1995); State v. Schevers, 132 Idaho 786, 789, 979 P.2d 659, 662 (Ct. App. 1999).

A. Search Incident to ...

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