2014 Opinion No. 86
Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, District Judge; Hon. L. Kevin Swain, Magistrate.
District court appellate decision reversing magistrate court order suppressing evidence, affirmed, and case remanded.
Tri-City Legal; Eric J. Scott, Nampa, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
Nathan David Neal appeals from the order of the district court, rendered in its appellate capacity, concluding that a police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop Neal's vehicle. He argues that he did not violate traffic laws when his vehicle tires touched the line marking the edge of the lane.
A police officer stopped Neal's vehicle for a traffic violation after the officer observed the vehicle drive onto, but not across, the white line marking the right-hand edge of the traffic lane. Upon speaking with Neal, the officer noticed signs of intoxication that ultimately led to his being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, Idaho Code § 18-8004. Neal filed a motion to suppress evidence acquired during the traffic stop. He argued that the stop was unconstitutional because when the stop was initiated, the officer lacked reasonable suspicion that Neal had violated a traffic law or was driving while intoxicated.
At an evidentiary hearing on the suppression motion, Neal testified that he was driving down a four-lane street early in the morning when he saw the officer's vehicle behind him. He set his cruise control to the posted speed limit and focused "strictly on maintaining [his] lane of travel." He testified that his tires did not touch the fog line at any point. He disputed an officer's report indicating that his vehicle touched the fog line as he approached Gary Lane contending, inter alia, that the road did not have a fog line in the vicinity of the Gary Lane intersection. He conceded, on cross-examination, that there was a bike lane to the right of Neal's traffic lane, marked with a white line, in that location. The officer testified that Neal had driven on the fog line at one location and then later on the white line demarcating a bike lane. He conceded that Neal had not driven over either line. After seeing Neal drive on the line a second time, the officer initiated a traffic stop.
The State argued that the stop was justified because Neal's driving onto the white fog line or onto the line demarcating the bike lane violated Idaho Code § 49-637(1), which provides:
Whenever any highway has been divided into two (2) or more clearly marked lanes for traffic the following, in addition to all else, shall apply:
(1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.
Alternatively, the State argued that Neal's driving pattern, touching the white line twice, gave rise to reasonable suspicion that ...