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State v. Arenas

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 16, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
OSVALDO GUADALUPE ARENAS, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 75

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Blaine County. Hon. Robert J. Elgee, District Judge.

         Order denying motion to suppress and judgment of conviction, reversed in part, affirmed in part, and case remanded.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, Interim State Appellate Public Defender; Jenny C. Swinford, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          HUSKEY, Judge.

         Osvaldo Guadalupe Arenas appeals from his judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, arguing the district court erred when it denied, in part, Arenas' motion to suppress the statement he made to officers during a search incident to arrest. Arenas argues the district court erred because Arenas made the statement during a custodial interrogation without the requisite Miranda[1] warnings. The State argues Arenas' claim is moot. We hold Arenas' claim is not moot, and Arenas was subject to custodial interrogation in violation of his Miranda rights. We reverse in part and affirm in part the order denying the motion to suppress and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         During a traffic stop, an officer discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for Arenas. At that time, a second officer arrived on the scene. The first officer informed Arenas of the arrest warrant, requested Arenas exit the vehicle, and placed Arenas under arrest pursuant to the warrant. The officer asked Arenas if he had anything on him. Arenas responded, "No." The officer handcuffed Arenas and patted him down. The officer testified that during the pat down he felt a "familiar object" in Arenas' pocket, and the officer said, "I thought you had nothing on you, dude." Arenas responded that the object was a "meth pipe." The officer retrieved the pipe from Arenas' pocket, placed Arenas in the back of the patrol vehicle, and proceeded to search Arenas' vehicle where the officer found paraphernalia and methamphetamine. The second officer testified he gave Arenas his Miranda rights and informed Arenas that if he brought drugs into jail, he would be charged with another felony. Arenas admitted to having methamphetamine tucked inside his waistline.

         The State charged Arenas with felony possession of methamphetamine, Idaho Code Section 37-2732(c)(1), and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia, I.C. § 37-2734A. Arenas moved to suppress evidence, arguing: (1) his initial detention was illegal; (2) the search of his person and vehicle was not sufficiently attenuated from the illegal stop; (3) his statement to the officer that the object in his pocket was a "meth pipe" and the physical evidence of the pipe itself are inadmissible under Miranda; and (4) the search of his vehicle was unlawful.

         After a hearing, the district court granted Arenas' motion to suppress in part and denied it in part. The district court's findings and conclusions were as follows. The district court concluded there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop. However, the district court found the valid arrest warrant was a sufficient intervening circumstance to break the causal chain and sufficiently dissipate the taint of the illegal stop. Next, the district court found Arenas was not given Miranda warnings prior to the officer's statement: "I thought you had nothing on you, dude." However, the district court did not suppress Arenas' statement that the object in his pocket was a "meth pipe" and the physical evidence of the pipe itself, reasoning the pipe was discovered during the course of the search incident to arrest and the officer's statement was not "any more likely to elicit an incriminating response than if the officer had said 'I know what that is.'" Finally, the district court suppressed any evidence found during the search of Arenas' vehicle because the search was "not justified based on the warrant exception to a search incident to arrest, or any exception under Gant."[2]

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, Arenas conditionally pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, I.C. § 37-2732(c)(1), reserving the right to appeal the district court's partial denial of Arenas' motion to suppress. The district court imposed a five-year sentence, with three years determinate, suspended the sentence, and placed Arenas on probation. Arenas timely appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 ...


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