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State v. Wass

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 22, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
SHAWN WILLIAM WASS, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 73

Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Christopher S. Nye, District Judge.

         The judgment of conviction is affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, attorney for appellant. Andrea Reynolds argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for respondent. John C. McKinney argued.

          JONES, Justice

         I. Nature of the Case

         Shawn William Wass ("Wass") appeals from the judgment entered upon his conditional guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine). He asserts on appeal that the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress his admission to the arresting officer that he was in possession of syringes.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         At approximately 12:37 A.M. on August 9, 2015, Officer Dan Drake ("Officer Drake") of the Canyon County Sheriff's Office was patrolling the Sportsman's access on 21319 Midland Boulevard. He observed a purple Hyundai Elantra in the parking area, which is closed during the night. Officer Drake approached the vehicle. Grace Stanbery ("Stanbery") was sitting in the passenger seat. Wass was standing behind the vehicle. Officer Drake spoke briefly to Wass, who admitted that he and Stanbery had been drinking two hours prior. Officer Drake asked both parties for identification. Stanbery provided an Idaho driver's license. Wass gave Officer Drake his name, but claimed that he did not have any identification on him. Officer Drake asked Wass if there was anything illegal in the vehicle. Wass answered that there was not. Officer Drake asked Wass and Stanbery for permission to search the vehicle. Both refused. Officer Drake then returned to his vehicle to enter the identifying information he had been given into his mobile computer. The mobile computer alerted Officer Drake that Wass had two active outstanding warrants. Officer Drake reapproached the vehicle and administered a field sobriety test on Wass. During the field sobriety test, Wass placed his wallet on the hood of the vehicle. Wass then admitted that he had identification in his wallet and that he had lied to Officer Drake because he was concerned that there might be an outstanding warrant. Officer Drake informed Wass that there were actually two outstanding warrants and placed him in wrist restraints. Officer Drake again asked Wass if there was anything illegal in Wass' vehicle. This time Wass admitted that there were syringes in the vehicle. At the time of this admission, Wass had not been informed of his Miranda rights. Officer Drake later testified that he immediately realized at that time that he had made "a mistake."

         After Wass told him that there were syringes in the vehicle, Officer Drake placed Wass in his police vehicle. Officer Drake approached Wass' vehicle but did not enter it. He visually inspected the vehicle but was unable to see anything illegal. After approximately two minutes, Officer Drake returned to his police vehicle. Officer Drake informed Wass of his Miranda rights. Wass affirmed that he understood his rights. Officer Drake then asked Wass if, with those rights in mind, Wass still wanted to tell him about anything illegal in Wass' vehicle. Wass again stated that there were syringes in the vehicle. Officer Drake searched Wass' vehicle where he recovered a black spoon with white residue, three syringes, a cotton arm sleeve, two small pieces of cotton, and an aluminum foil bindle containing marijuana. One of the syringes was loaded with a white clear liquid. The syringe containing the clear liquid tested positive for methamphetamine.

         On August 20, 2015, the State filed an Information alleging felony Possession of Methamphetamine. On October 5, 2015, Wass filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to Officer Drake with respect to the presence of syringes in his vehicle and any physical evidence recovered as a result of those statements. Wass argued that he was not informed of his Miranda rights prior to being questioned.

         At a hearing on October 22, 2015, the district court denied the motion to suppress. It held as follows:

[T]he question is whether the drug evidence must be suppressed because the first -- because of the first unwarned statements about the syringes or does the second statements after the - - does the Miranda ...

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