Opinion No. 78
from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Thomas J. Ryan, District Judge.
denying motion to suppress, reversed; judgment of
D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Maya P.
Waldron, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Jessica M. Lorello,
Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
Elliot Cohagan appeals from his judgment of conviction for
possession of a controlled substance and the district
court's order denying Cohagan's motion to suppress
all evidence seized as a result of his unlawful detention.
Cohagan specifically argues that, because the evidence was a
direct result of his unlawful detention, the exclusionary
rule prohibits the admission of the evidence, and therefore
the district court erred in denying Cohagan's motion to
suppress. For the reasons explained below, we reverse the
district court's order and vacate Cohagan's judgment
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
incorporate the district court's findings of fact from
its order denying Cohagan's motion to suppress:
On February 26, 2014, shortly after noon, [a senior officer]
came into contact with the defendant, Matthew Elliot Cohagan.
He and [a junior officer] were driving southbound on 12th
Avenue South and [the senior officer] testified that he saw
the defendant standing on the southwest corner of 12th Avenue
South and 7th Street South in Nampa, Idaho. [The senior
officer] thought that the defendant resembled another
individual [M.M.] who had an outstanding arrest warrant. To
further check this out, [the officers] turned around to get a
better look at the defendant. However, by the time they drove
through the intersection, the defendant had entered the
[grocery store] on 12th Avenue and 7th Street in Nampa,
The officers entered the [grocery store] and [the junior
officer] made first contact with the defendant inside.
According to [the senior officer], [the junior officer] asked
for his identification and the defendant complied. His
identification showed that he was Matthew Elliot Cohagan and
not the individual that [the senior officer] believed he
resembled. After this consensual contact, both officers left
[the grocery store].
Before they left the parking lot, [the senior officer]
testified that dispatch or another officer wanted them to go
back into [the grocery store] to obtain surveillance video
for an unrelated incident. He stated that while [the junior
officer] went to obtain the video, he went to find the
defendant because he wanted to confirm [the junior
officer's] identification of the defendant. [The senior
officer] felt that the defendant may have given [the junior
officer] a fake identification so he wanted to confirm for
himself that the defendant was not the individual that he
initially believed him to be. [The senior officer] found the
defendant shopping in one of the aisles. At the outset of
this encounter, [the senior officer] activated his lapel
video camera and recorded his contact with the defendant.
The video was admitted into evidence as Exhibit No. 1.
According to the video, [the senior officer] approached the
defendant and asked for the defendant's name and his
identification. The defendant handed his identification to
[the senior officer]. [The senior officer] told the defendant
that he resembled another man that the officers were looking
for. [The senior officer] then asked the defendant if he had
any outstanding warrants. The defendant stated that he did
not and told [the senior officer] that [the junior officer]
had already spoken with him. [The senior officer] replied,
"Let me check if you don't have any warrants."
[The senior officer] also told the defendant to keep his
hands out of his pockets. Then [the senior officer] asked
defendant a second time if he had any outstanding warrants.
During the entirety of this contact and questioning of the
defendant, [the officer] held onto the defendant's
While [the senior officer] waited for dispatch to respond to
the warrant check, the defendant asked if he could continue
shopping. [The senior officer] told the defendant that he
could but seconds later, he quickly caught up to the
defendant and told him to walk with him to the front of the
store and to relax. At this time in the video, dispatch still
had not confirmed whether or not the defendant had any
While walking to the front of the store, the defendant placed
his hands in his pockets. [The senior officer] reached out
and grabbed the defendant's arm and told him to keep his
hands out of his pockets. The defendant stated, "Listen,
I'm gonna ask you please don't do this in the
store." [The senior officer] replied again by telling
the defendant to keep his hands out of his pockets. At this
point, it is evident from the video that dispatch still had
not confirmed any warrants.
On the video, [the junior officer] and the defendant stood
inside [the grocery store] at the front of the store and
waited until the warrants were confirmed. As the three men
walked out of the store, the defendant started walking faster
and [the junior officer] told the defendant, "You
don't want to do this in the store." On the video,
it appears that dispatch confirmed the existence of an
outstanding arrest warrant. While still inside the store,
[the senior officer] told the defendant to put his hands
behind his back and told the defendant that he was under
arrest. As they exited the store, the video reveals yelling
and an obvious struggle before the video shuts off.
[The senior officer] testified that there was indeed a
struggle as the three men left the store and his lapel camera
was knocked off. [The senior officer] stated that the
struggle started when the defendant attempted to get away
from them so [the officer] tripped the defendant and all
three men went down to the ground just outside the front
doors of the grocery store.
Officers were able to handcuff the defendant. During the
search incident to arrest, officers discovered a yellow box
containing a glass-smoking device with white crystal residue
that tested positive for methamphetamine. According to the
Probable Cause Affidavit, inside the box was a bag that
contained 2.3 grams of methamphetamine.
State charged Cohagan with possession of a controlled
substance and a persistent violator enhancement. Cohagan
filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized as a result of
his unlawful detention. The State conceded an unlawful
seizure occurred when the senior officer held onto
Cohagan's driver's license to run a warrants check.
The State argued, however, that any resulting taint from the
unlawful seizure was cured upon the discovery of the
outstanding warrant. In its memorandum decision, the district
court acknowledged that "it is undisputed that [the
senior officer's] contact with the defendant in the
grocery store transformed from a consensual contact to an
unlawful detention." However, the district court
concluded that the discovery of the outstanding warrant was
an intervening factor attenuating the taint from the unlawful
seizure. The district court therefore denied Cohagan's
motion to suppress. Cohagan pled guilty to possession of a
controlled substance and, in exchange, the State dismissed
the persistent violator enhancement. Cohagan timely appeals.
standard of review of a suppression motion is bifurcated.
This Court accepts the trial court's findings of fact
that are supported by substantial evidence, but freely
reviews the application of constitutional principles to the
facts as found. State v. Holland, 135 Idaho 159,
161, 15 P.3d 1167, 1169 (2000); State v. Spencer,
139 Idaho 736, 738, 85 P.3d 1135, 1137 (Ct. App. 2004). At a
suppression hearing, the power to assess the credulity 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).
argues that because the evidence seized was a direct result
of a Fourth Amendment violation, it must be suppressed. The
United States and Idaho Constitutions prohibit unreasonable
searches and seizures of persons or property. U.S. CONST. amend
IV; IDAHO CONST. art. 1, § 17. If evidence is obtained
in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the exclusionary rule
bars the admission of such evidence. Wong Sun v. United
States, 371 U.S. 471, 484 (1963). However, suppression
is not justified unless "the ...