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State of Idaho v. Steven Clay anderson

September 14, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Cassia County. The Honorable Michael R. Crabtree, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

2012 Opinion No. 123

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order denying motion to suppress is affirmed.

During a traffic stop, police officers searched Steven Clay Anderson's vehicle based on a drug dog's alert on the exterior of the vehicle, as well as other suspicious circumstances. The district court denied Anderson's motion to suppress evidence found during the search, holding that probable cause did not dissipate when the same dog failed to alert a second time when placed inside the vehicle. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. We granted review and affirm.


At approximately 11:00 p.m. on February 28, 2008, Anderson was stopped for a traffic violation by Cassia County Deputy Sheriff Antonio Bernad. Prior to the stop, Bernad observed Anderson driving a van in an erratic manner. The van nearly sideswiped another vehicle attempting to pass on the right, forcing the passing vehicle to swerve to avoid collision. Bernad activated his emergency lights and followed Anderson. When the van did not immediately stop, Bernad activated his siren. The van traveled another block before pulling over.

Bernad approached the van and asked for Anderson's driver and vehicle information. Anderson told Bernad that the van belonged to his brother and that Anderson had taken the license plates from his own car and put them on the van. Bernad later confirmed that the plates checked out to another vehicle. Anderson also told Bernad that he did not have insurance for the van. He explained that he was driving erratically because he was paying attention to a bar of what he described as platinum, which he told Bernad he had mined. With Anderson's permission, Bernad looked into the driver door of the van and saw a metal bar between the seats. When asked if he was on probation, Anderson told Bernad that he was not but that he "did have charges pending for a controlled sales and delivery charge."

Bernad informed Anderson that he would be issuing citations*fn1 and directed him to stay in the driver's seat and keep his hands on the wheel where the officer could see them. While writing the citations and running information checks on Anderson, Bernad observed Anderson moving around inside the van and not keeping his hands on the wheel as directed. Based on what Bernad described as Anderson's "furtive movements," as well as Anderson's pending drug charges, Bernad called in a drug dog unit to investigate possible drug activity. In further violation of Bernad's instructions, Anderson then opened the driver's door of the van and appeared to be attempting to exit the van. The officer ordered Anderson to get out and stand at the back of the van to get him away from any possible weapons in the vehicle. He searched Anderson for weapons and found two pocket knives.

Bernad resumed writing Anderson's citations, and Rupert Police Department Officer Weber arrived at the scene with a drug dog and began circling the van. Weber informed Bernad that the dog had alerted on the passenger side door, and Bernad directed that the dog be put inside the van while Bernad finished writing the citations. The dog failed to alert a second time while inside the van. Bernad completed Anderson's citations and--after questioning him about the contents of the van--the officers manually searched the vehicle and discovered a rifle.

Anderson was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a felon under I.C. § 18- 3316. He moved to suppress evidence of the firearm found in the search of the van on the basis that the traffic stop was unreasonably extended and that the officers lacked probable cause to support the warrantless search, arguing that probable cause dissipated when the drug dog failed to alert inside the car. The district court denied the motion on both grounds, finding that the stop was not unreasonably prolonged and that "when the drug dog indicated on the passenger side door of Anderson's van, the officer's [sic] had probable cause to search the van." Further, the court stated, "Anderson has presented no authority, and this Court has located no authority, for the proposition that probable cause is dissipated for a search if the dog indicates on one part of the vehicle but does not later alert on another part of the vehicle."

Anderson entered a conditional guilty plea, was sentenced, and filed a timely appeal from the denial of his suppression motion, raising only the probable cause issue on appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's judgment. Anderson sought, and we granted, review.


I. Did the district court err in determining that probable cause, based in part on a drug dog's alert outside Anderson's vehicle, did not dissipate when the dog ...

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