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State v. Cohagan

Court of Appeals of Idaho

December 5, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MATTHEW ELLIOT COHAGAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          2016 Opinion No. 78

          Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Thomas J. Ryan, District Judge.

         Order denying motion to suppress, reversed; judgment of conviction, vacated.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Maya P. Waldron, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Jessica M. Lorello, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         Matthew 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 of conviction.

         I.

          FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         We 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, Idaho.
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 identification.
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 warrants.
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.

         The 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.

          II.

         ANALYSIS

         The 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).

         Cohagan 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.[1] 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 ...


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