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State of Idaho v. Terry R. Smith

December 28, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Caribou County. Hon. Mitchell W. Brown, District Judge.

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

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 776

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk


Order granting motion to suppress evidence, reversed.

The State of Idaho appeals from the district court's order granting Terry R. Smith's motion to suppress evidence. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.


An officer stopped Smith's vehicle for speeding. The officer approached the passenger side of Smith's vehicle and knocked. Smith rolled his window down six to seven inches. The officer requested that Smith roll his window all the way down, and Smith complied. The officer informed Smith of the reason for the stop and instructed Smith to present his driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. While Smith was in the process of retrieving the requested documents, the officer observed multiple maps in the glove compartment and center console of the vehicle. The officer inquired about Smith's travels. Smith responded that he had been on vacation. Upon questioning about where Smith had been vacationing, Smith hesitated for approximately two seconds, looked to the floor, and responded that he had been visiting friends in Utah and Nevada. During the course of this conversation, the officer noticed that Smith's vehicle had a lived-in appearance and that there did not appear to be sufficient luggage for Smith to be on vacation. This portion of the stop lasted between five to seven minutes. The officer returned to his patrol vehicle and ran two records checks incident to the traffic stop. The first check, which took approximately one minute, was on Smith's Colorado license to determine whether Smith had any outstanding warrants or whether his license was suspended. The officer was able to conduct this check on his in-car computer. The check revealed that Smith did not have any outstanding warrants and that his Colorado license was valid. The second check was a nationwide check that had to be called into dispatch and took approximately five minutes. While the officer ran these checks, he requested the assistance of a backup officer because he believed, at that point, he had reasonable suspicion to believe Smith was involved in criminal activity.

While waiting for the results of the nationwide check from dispatch, the officer returned to Smith's vehicle and asked Smith to exit. Smith complied. The officer conducted a pat-down search for weapons and again asked Smith about his travels. The officer determined that Smith was being evasive in his answers and was not maintaining eye contact. The officer also observed that Smith's eyes were glassy and glazed-over, which he believed to be a common indicator of marijuana use. Based upon this observation, the officer's knowledge that Colorado allows possession of marijuana for medical purposes and that Smith's license and registration were from Colorado, the officer asked Smith whether he used medical marijuana. Smith admitted that he had a medical marijuana card, denied smoking marijuana, but acknowledged that he ingested it with food. The officer requested Smith's consent to search his vehicle. Upon Smith's refusal, the officer had Smith stand with a backup officer while he returned to his patrol vehicle to retrieve his drug detection dog to conduct a drug sniff. As the officer was returning to his patrol vehicle, the results of the nationwide check came back from dispatch. The officer then deployed the drug dog, which immediately alerted to the odor of marijuana in Smith's vehicle. Based upon the alert, the officer conducted a search of Smith's vehicle, which revealed eight pounds of marijuana. The time that elapsed between the initial stop of Smith's vehicle and his arrest was approximately fifteen minutes.

The state charged Smith with trafficking in marijuana, I.C. § 37-2732B(1)(B). Smith filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his vehicle, asserting that the officer unlawfully extended the traffic stop beyond its original purpose. The district court granted Smith's motion. The state appeals.


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).


The state argues that the district court erred by granting Smith's motion to suppress. In the order granting Smith's motion to suppress, the district court recognized that Smith did not challenge the basis for the traffic stop of his vehicle and focused its inquiry on Smith's claim that the officer unlawfully ...

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