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State v. Caudill

Court of Appeals of Idaho

March 12, 2014

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
VESTAL DEAN CAUDILL, Defendant-Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

2014 Unpublished Opinion No. 413

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

Judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance,

Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Sally J. Cooley, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Nicole L. Schafer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

MELANSON, Judge

Vestal Dean Caudill appeals from his judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Specifically, he alleges that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

The district court made the following findings of fact after a hearing on Caudill's motion to suppress. Shortly after midnight, an officer observed Caudill's vehicle stop and the headlights turn off after the vehicle traveled some distance on a rural gravel road. The officer parked on the road facing the front of Caudill's vehicle and activated the patrol car's rear amber flashers. The officer did not block Caudill's vehicle from being able to leave or activate the patrol car's overhead emergency lights. The officer approached Caudill's vehicle and asked how he was doing. After a brief exchange, the officer asked Caudill for identification, which Caudill provided without objection. A check of Caudill's driver's license revealed that he had an active warrant for his arrest. During a search incident to Caudill's arrest, the officer discovered in Caudill's pocket a glass pipe containing a white and brown residue. Subsequent testing confirmed the residue as methamphetamine. Caudill was charged with possession of a controlled substance. I.C. § 37-2732(c)(1).

Caudill filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search as being the result of an illegal seizure. The district court denied the motion, finding that the encounter was consensual. The district court also noted that, although the consensual encounter became a Fourth Amendment seizure when the officer took Caudill's license to perform a warrant check, the limited detention was reasonable because it was brief and followed a lawful contact. Caudill subsequently entered an Alford[1] plea to possession of a controlled substance, preserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court sentenced Caudill to a unified term of three years, with a minimum period of confinement of one year; suspended the sentence; and placed him on probation. Caudill appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

Caudill argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress by determining that the initial encounter with the officer was consensual and that Caudill's detention during the license check was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.[2] 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 Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and its counterpart, Article I, Section 17 of the Idaho Constitution, guarantee the right of every citizen to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, not all encounters between the police and citizens involve the seizure of a person. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16 (1968); State v. Jordan, 122 Idaho 771, 772, 839 P.2d 38, 39 (Ct. App. 1992). For example, a seizure does not occur simply because a police officer approaches an individual on the street or other public place and asks if the individual is willing to answer some questions or puts forth questions if the individual is willing to listen. Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434 (1991); Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497 (1983). Further, even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular individual, they may generally ask the individual questions and ask to examine identification. State v. Fry, 122 Idaho 100, 102, 831 P.2d 942, 944 (Ct. App. 1991). So long as police do not convey a message that compliance with their requests is required, the encounter is deemed consensual and no reasonable suspicion is required. Id. Only when an officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, restrains the liberty of a citizen may a court conclude that a ...


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