2015 Opinion No. 31
Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Charles W. Hosack, District Judge.
Order of the district court granting suppression motion, affirmed.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Theodore S. Tollefson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Theodore S. Tollefson argued.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Kimberly E. Smith, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Kimberly E. Smith argued.
LANSING, Judge. Chief Judge MELANSON and Judge GUTIERREZ CONCUR.
The State appeals from the district court's order granting defendant Dona Nichoeal Westlake's motion to suppress evidence found in her backpack which was in a motel room that police searched based on consent from a third party. The State contends that the court erred in concluding that under the totality of the circumstances, a third party lacked apparent authority to consent to a police search of the backpack. We affirm.
The Post Falls Police Department received a tip that a wanted individual, Raymundo Chavez, was in a room at a Coeur d'Alene motel. With a warrant for Chavez's arrest, three detectives and two FBI agents went to the motel. The officers initially watched the room from their vehicle for thirty minutes, during which time the only activity observed was a woman, later identified as Katherine Gallagher, entering the room. When the officers knocked, Gallagher opened the door, and the officers observed defendant Dona Westlake and a man (not Chavez) standing or sitting near the bed in the main room just inside the door. A detective asked Gallagher if it was her motel room and she said yes. He then asked whether Chavez was there and Gallagher said he was " in the back," referring to a separate bedroom in the motel suite. Upon a detective's request for permission to enter the suite, Gallagher consented. For officer safety purposes, an officer removed Gallagher, Westlake, and the man from the front room and placed them on a bench just outside of the motel room door. The remaining officers then went to the second bedroom, where they found Chavez sleeping. He was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in a patrol vehicle.
While in the motel suite, the officers saw drug paraphernalia. A detective then called Gallagher back into the front room while Westlake and the second man remained outside. A detective asked Gallagher for permission to search the premises, and she consented. Gallagher remained in the room during the search. In the course of the search, a detective found methamphetamine inside a pink backpack that was on the bed near where Westlake had been standing or sitting when police arrived. After finding the drug, the detective asked Gallagher whether the backpack was hers, and she said that it belonged to Westlake. The detective then questioned Westlake for the first time. She admitted that she owned the backpack and, when confronted with the drugs, stated that " it looks like meth." Westlake declined to say anything more. She was arrested and
charged with possession of methamphetamine, Idaho Code § 37-2732(c)(1).
Westlake moved to suppress the methamphetamine and her statements to police on the ground that the warrantless search of her backpack was unlawful. In response, the State argued that the warrantless search of her backpack was justified by Gallagher's consent to a search of the motel suite. It was uncontroverted that Gallagher had no actual authority to consent to a search of Westlake's backpack, but the State asserted that Gallagher had apparent authority to consent to the search because the officers reasonably believed that the backpack belonged to her.
The district court concluded, however, that the State had not demonstrated apparent authority. The court pointed out that the State presented no evidence indicating to the officers that the backpack belonged to Gallagher personally as opposed to anyone else in the room. The court found that the color of the pink backpack indicated that it likely belonged to a female and that because the backpack was located near defendant Westlake when the officers initially entered the motel room, " the most reasonable inference was that the backpack belonged to Westlake." The court granted the suppression motion, holding that the officers ...