2015 Opinion No. 107
Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, Senior District Judge, Hon. Kevin Swain, Magistrate Judge.
District court decision reversing magistrate on motion to suppress, reversed and remanded.
Tri-City Legal, Boise, for appellant. Eric J. Scott argued.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General argued.
BURDICK, Justice. Chief
Justice J. JONES and KIDWELL, J., Pro tem, CONCUR.
This case is before the Court on a petition for review. The magistrate granted Neal's motion to suppress; on appeal the district court reversed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. We reverse the district court.
Shortly before midnight on November 14, 2012, Boise Police Officer Ryan Thueson began following Nathan David Neal in a patrol car. Thueson observed Neal drive his pickup onto, but not across, the line at the edge of the roadway (the " fog line" ) near the intersection of State Street and Ellen's Ferry Drive. Thueson continued to follow Neal until, about one mile further west, near the State Street intersection with Gary Lane, he saw Neal again drive onto, but not across, the line at the edge of the roadway. According to Officer Thueson's original report, at the time he observed Neal drive onto the fog line twice. Thueson learned later that there is no fog line near Gary Lane and the line actually marks a bicycle lane. Thueson stopped Neal after he turned right onto Gary Lane. This traffic stop led to Neal's arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was not ticketed for any traffic violations.
Neal filed a motion to suppress, claiming the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity to justify a traffic stop. The State argued the officer observed both a misdemeanor (Boise City Code section 10-10-17, which prohibits driving upon a bicycle lane) and an infraction (Idaho Code section 49-637, which requires drivers to maintain a single lane of travel), and that these observations justified the stop. The State also argued that observing these two instances of driving onto the line on the right, close to midnight, gave the officer reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated, which also justified the stop. Thueson observed no other traffic infractions, testifying that Neal's driving was otherwise " completely appropriate," and that the only thing that caused him to stop the vehicle was the two instances of Neal's driving onto the line to his right.
After a hearing and reviewing briefs, the magistrate granted Neal's motion to suppress. The magistrate held there was no traffic violation justifying the stop because Neal did not cross the line and enter another lane. The magistrate also held that driving onto an alleged fog line two times did not create a driving pattern outside the broad
range of normal driving behavior, so the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of DUI. Finally, the magistrate found there was no evidence the officer's observations occurred in Boise, so there was no violation of Boise City Code.
The State appealed, and the district court reversed. The district court held that " [a] vehicle has not maintained its lane and is not in its lane, if it is on the lane markings." Thus the district court found that the fog line is not part of the lane of travel. The district court also held that Neal had violated the Boise City ordinance prohibiting entry into a bicycle lane. Although the magistrate had found there was no evidence the incidents occurred in Boise, the district court found the conduct did occur in Boise. The district court held that by driving onto the bicycle lane marker, Neal violated a Boise City ordinance prohibiting driving in a bicycle lane. Thus, the district court found that the bicycle lane marker is part of the bicycle lane. The district court ultimately concluded that the officer had reasonable suspicion that both " the statute and ordinance were violated by Mr. Neal's driving upon the fog line and upon the bike lane marker."
The district court agreed with the magistrate that Neal's driving pattern was not sufficiently outside the normal range of driving behavior to constitute reasonable suspicion that he was driving while intoxicated, concluding that the suspected traffic violations justified the stop. The district court reversed the magistrate's decision granting Neal's motion to suppress. Neal appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that driving on, but not across, an alleged fog line on the roadway violates the state statute requirement that a vehicle remain within its lane. This Court granted Neal's petition for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a case comes before this Court on a petition for review following a Court of Appeals opinion, this Court, though giving serious consideration to the reasoning of the Court of Appeals, directly reviews the lower court's decision. State v. Herren, 339 P.3d 1126, 1129 (2014). " This Court does not review the decision of the magistrate court." Pelayo v. Pelayo, 154 Idaho 855, 859, 303 P.3d 214, 218 (2013). " Rather, we are 'procedurally bound to affirm or reverse the decisions of the district court.'" Id. (quoting State v. Korn, 148 Idaho 413, 415 n.1, 224 P.3d 480, 482 n.1 (2009)). We review the trial court's record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. Id. " The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which this Court exercises free review." Herren, 339 P.3d at 1129.
The issue on this appeal is whether the district court erred in concluding that Officer Thueson had reasonable articulable suspicion for the traffic stop. In the trial court, Neal moved to exclude all evidence gathered following the stop on the theory that the officer had no justification for stopping him and thus violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The magistrate granted the motion, and the district court reversed. Therefore the only issue before the Court is whether the officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity at the time of the stop.
" Traffic stops constitute seizures under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Henage, 143 Idaho 655, 658, 152 P.3d 16, 19 (2007); Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979). Nevertheless, " [l]imited investigatory detentions are permissible when justified by an officer's reasonable articulable suspicion that a person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime." State v. Morgan, 154 Idaho 109, 112, 294 P.3d 1121, 1124 (2013). Thus there are two possible justifications for a traffic stop--the officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed an offense, such as a traffic offense, or the officer has reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity, such as driving under the influence. In this case, the State offered three justifications for the officer's stop: (1) the officer had reasonable suspicion that Neal committed the offense of violating Idaho Code section 49-637
by driving onto the fog line; (2) the officer had reasonable suspicion that he committed the offense of driving in violation of Boise City Code section 10-10-17 by driving onto a bicycle marker line; and (3) the officer had reasonable suspicion Neal was driving under the influence because of his " driving pattern."
As to the violation of a Boise city ordinance, the magistrate found " there was no evidence this occurred in Boise." An appellate court must defer to the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. State v. Tucker, 132 Idaho 841, 842, 979 P.2d 1199, 1200 (1999). If the findings of fact are based on substantial and competent evidence, the appellate court may not disturb those findings. State v. Ray, 153 Idaho 564, 567, 286 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2012). The district court nevertheless found the conduct had occurred in Boise and considered the bicycle lane violation in analyzing the validity of the stop. The district court was an appellate court and thus could not substitute its own findings of fact for the magistrate's findings. The magistrate's finding that the state had not proved the incident occurred in Boise was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Therefore, we will not consider the Boise City code violation as justification for the stop.
The only arguments relevant to whether the stop was justified are those reflecting the facts known to the officer at the time he stopped Neal. " The test for reasonable suspicion is based on the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at or before the time of the stop." Morgan, 154 Idaho at 112, 294 P.3d at 1124. " Reasonable suspicion must be based on specific, articulable facts and the rational inferences that can be drawn from those facts." State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 811, 203 P.3d 1203, 1210 (2009). " The suspicion for the stop must be based upon objective information available to the officer when he decided to make the stop, and cannot be bolstered by evidence gathered following the stop." State v. Emory, 119 Idaho 661, 664, 809 P.2d 522, 525 (Ct.App. 1991).
A. Whether the stop was justified by reasonable suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
The State argues that because Officer Thueson, near midnight, observed Neal twice drive onto the line marking the right side of his lane of travel, he could reasonably suspect Neal was driving under the influence (DUI). Both the magistrate and the district court found that driving onto but not across the line twice in one mile was not sufficient to provide reasonable suspicion that Neal was driving while intoxicated. While a driving pattern may give rise to reasonable suspicion of intoxication, the test is whether the driving pattern falls outside " the broad range of what can be described as normal driving behavior." Emory, 119 Idaho at 664, 809 P.2d at 525 (" An officer may draw reasonable ...