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State v. Garcia-Rodriguez

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 14, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
VICTOR GARCIA-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 34

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

         The district court's order granting Garcia-Rodriguez's motion to suppress is affirmed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          Eric Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Maya Waldron argued.

          HORTON, Justice.

         The State of Idaho appeals from the district court's order suppressing evidence against Victor Garcia-Rodriguez. On April 10, 2014, Garcia-Rodriguez was pulled over after an Idaho State Police trooper witnessed Garcia-Rodriguez's car briefly cross over the fog line while exiting Interstate 84. This stop ultimately led to Garcia-Rodriguez's arrest. A search incident to arrest uncovered methamphetamine on his person, and Garcia-Rodriguez was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia. Garcia-Rodriguez filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the district court granted. We affirm.


         In the early afternoon of April 10, 2014, Idaho State Police Trooper Steve Otto encountered Garcia-Rodriguez as both were driving eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 168, south of Jerome. Garcia-Rodriguez exited the interstate. As he did so, Otto noticed the right tires of Garcia-Rodriguez's car briefly cross over the right fog line of the exit ramp. Garcia-Rodriguez then activated his turn signals. Initially, he signaled a right hand turn before turning on his left hand blinkers. Garcia-Rodriguez turned left off of the exit ramp and onto Lincoln Avenue. Otto testified that he was concerned that Garcia-Rodriguez was impaired or having vehicle issues. Otto followed Garcia-Rodriguez as he traveled down Lincoln toward a Shell gas station. After Garcia-Rodriguez signaled his indication to turn into the gas station, Otto turned on his overhead lights and made a traffic stop.

         Garcia-Rodriguez pulled into a parking spot at the gas station, and Otto parked directly behind him. Otto observed a Hertz rental sicker as he approached Garcia-Rodriguez's car and thus knew that it was a rental car. After Otto made contact with Garcia-Rodriguez, it became immediately apparent that there was a language barrier. Otto told Garcia-Rodriquez he stopped him for driving over the fog line and asked him for identification. Garcia-Rodriguez presented a Mexican consular identification card with a Gooding address. Otto began questioning Garcia-Rodriguez about the car and insurance. He eventually asked Garcia-Rodriguez to exit the car because he felt Garcia-Rodriguez was acting nervous and avoiding the center console while searching for the papers Otto had requested.

         Otto asked Garcia-Rodriguez to empty his pockets, and Garcia-Rodriguez took out a cell phone, wallet and a set of keys. Otto called for a Spanish-speaking officer and ran checks on Garcia-Rodriguez, but those checks did not return any information. Otto did not attempt to determine if Garcia-Rodriguez had ever previously failed to appear for a court appearance. Otto located someone to translate and asked Garcia-Rodriguez for consent to search his vehicle, which Garcia-Rodriguez gave. Otto searched the center console and found approximately $10, 000 in cash inside of a shaving kit. Otto then placed Garcia-Rodriguez in handcuffs and placed him in the patrol car, but stated that Garcia-Rodriguez was not under arrest. Soon after, four more officers arrived on the scene and began to discuss how to search the vehicle because Garcia-Rodriguez's consent was no longer valid.

         Eventually, a Spanish-speaking trooper arrived and, approximately 45 minutes after the traffic stop, advised Garcia-Rodriguez of his Miranda rights and began asking him questions about the money. Otto got his drug dog out of his patrol car and walked the dog around Garcia-Rodriguez's car. Otto stated that his dog alerted but it was "really weak, " and no drugs were subsequently located in Garcia-Rodriguez's car. Approximately 75 minutes after the stop, Otto arrested Garcia-Rodriguez for failure to purchase a driver's license. Otto conducted a search incident to arrest and found methamphetamine in Garcia-Rodriguez's front pants pocket.

         On April 11, 2014, the State charged Garcia-Rodriguez with methamphetamine trafficking and possession of paraphernalia. On June 10, 2014, Garcia-Rodriguez filed a motion to suppress all evidence against him. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the initial stop, the continued detention and the eventual arrest were all unlawful. The State timely appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the district court. We then granted Garcia-Rodriguez's petition for review.

         II. ...

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