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State of Idaho v. Mark A. Whitman

June 20, 2012

STATE OF IDAHO,
PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MARK A. WHITMAN,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Elmore County. Hon. Richard D. Greenwood, District Judge.

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

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 521

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED OPINION AND SHALL NOT BE CITED AS AUTHORITY

Order denying motion to suppress, affirmed.

Mark Whitman appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Idaho State Trooper Bailey observed a GMC Suburban pulling into a gas station. As Trooper Bailey was leaving the gas station, he drove past the vehicle and noticed it was pulling a trailer without a license plate. Later, the same vehicle passed Trooper Bailey and he initiated a traffic stop because the trailer lacked a license plate and functioning tail lights. Once the vehicle was stopped, the trooper identified Whitman as the driver. Trooper Bailey believed that he had seen a different man driving the vehicle in the gas station parking lot, so he asked Whitman if he was alone. Whitman paused, before stating that he was alone in the vehicle. Trooper Bailey then observed a bullet in the middle console, and asked if there were any firearms inside the vehicle, to which Whitman hesitated and then replied there were no firearms. Suspicious of the responses given by Whitman, Trooper Bailey scanned the interior of the vehicle, at which point he noticed "some brown hair sticking out of a blanket in the rear compartment of the [S]uburban." Trooper Bailey commanded the individual to show his hands and present himself. The man, identified as Michael Maddox, was asked to sit in the front passenger seat of the Suburban while Trooper Bailey initiated driver's checks on both names. The checks revealed that Maddox had multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest. Maddox was then taken into custody and Whitman was detained in the backseat of a police car. Trooper Bailey, assisted by a deputy, then searched the vehicle. During the search, a brown briefcase was discovered containing: (1) a loaded handgun, which was later determined to be stolen; (2) a plastic bag with a white crystal residue, later determined to be methamphetamine; and (3) a scale. Under the vehicle's rear seats, two other handguns were discovered and in the rear compartment a glass pipe in a jacket.

As a result of the traffic stop and the items found within the vehicle, Whitman was charged with aiding and abetting grand theft by receiving or possessing stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, resisting or obstructing officers, and possession of paraphernalia. Whitman moved to suppress the evidence, in which he asserted that the recently- issued case, Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009), prohibited the type of search conducted by the police in this case.*fn1

The State opposed Whitman's motion to suppress, arguing, inter alia, that the search of the automobile was "justified as a protective Terry frisk of the vehicle" and that the evidence would have inevitably been discovered. The district court denied the suppression motion. Whitman conditionally pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance and resisting or obstructing officers, reserving the right to challenge the district court's denial of his suppression motion. The district court imposed a seven-year term, with three years determinate on the controlled substance charge, and a sentence of one year on the resisting or obstructing officers charge. The district court suspended execution of both sentences, and placed Whitman on probation for a period of four years. Whitman timely appealed.

II.

ANALYSIS

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. ...


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