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State v. Cohagan

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 24, 2017

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

         2017 Opinion No. 94

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

         The district court order denying the motion to suppress is reversed and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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

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

          HORTON, JUSTICE.

         Matthew Elliot Cohagan appeals the Canyon County district court's denial of his motion to suppress. Following the denial of his motion, Cohagan entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine. The appeal was originally assigned to the Idaho Court of Appeals, which reversed the district court. This Court granted the State's timely petition for review. We reverse the district court's order denying Cohagan's motion to suppress.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On February 26, 2014, Officers Curtis and Otto observed Matthew Elliot Cohagan on the southwest corner of 12th Avenue South and 7th Street South in Nampa, Idaho. As they drove by, Officer Curtis thought Cohagan resembled an individual who had an outstanding arrest warrant. Officers Curtis and Otto turned their vehicle around to get a better look at Cohagan. However, by the time they drove back through the intersection, Cohagan had entered a grocery store located on the same corner.

         The officers entered the grocery store and Officer Otto, without Officer Curtis present, made contact with Cohagan. Officer Otto requested Cohagan's driver's license, and Cohagan complied. After inspecting Cohagan's license, Officer Otto determined that Cohagan was not the individual Officer Curtis suspected had an outstanding arrest warrant. Both officers then left the store.

         Before leaving the parking lot, however, the officers received a radio request to go back into the grocery store and retrieve surveillance video for an unrelated incident. While Officer Otto went to obtain the requested video, Officer Curtis decided he wanted to confirm Officer Otto's identification of Cohagan. Officer Curtis stated that he felt Cohagan might have given Officer Otto false identification and, because Officer Otto was new to the force, Officer Curtis wanted to confirm that Cohagan was not the person he suspected had an outstanding arrest warrant. Officer Curtis found Cohagan shopping in one of the aisles. Officer Curtis testified that as he approached Cohagan he recognized that Cohagan was not the individual he suspected. However, Officer Curtis decided he still wanted to ask Cohagan his name and look at his identification.

         Officer Curtis activated his lapel camera and made contact with Cohagan. The video shows that Officer Curtis asked if he could see Cohagan's identification. Cohagan replied "absolutely man" and handed his identification to Officer Curtis. Officer Curtis then took Cohagan's identification, told Cohagan that he resembled another man they were looking for, and asked Cohagan if he had any outstanding warrants. Cohagan stated that he did not. Officer Curtis replied that he was going to check to see if Cohagan had any warrants and radioed dispatch to run a warrant check.

         While Officer Curtis waited for dispatch to respond to the warrant check, Cohagan asked if he could continue shopping. Officer Curtis told Cohagan that he could, and Cohagan began walking away. Seconds later, however, Officer Curtis appeared to receive notice from dispatch that Cohagan might have a warrant and stated, "Hey, come here, they're telling me you might have a warrant. I don't want you running around the store here." Officer Curtis then quickly caught up to Cohagan, put his hand on Cohagan's shoulder, and told Cohagan to walk to the front of the store. On the way to the front of the store, Officer Curtis and Cohagan were joined by Officer Otto, and the three of them then stood at the front of the store and waited until the warrants were confirmed. Once the warrants were confirmed, Cohagan was escorted out of the store and arrested. 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.

         Cohagan was charged with possession of methamphetamine. He promptly filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized as a result of his arrest. The State conceded that Cohagan was illegally seized when Officer Curtis retained his license to run a warrant check, but argued that suppression was unwarranted because the discovery of methamphetamine was sufficiently attenuated from the illegal seizure. The district court denied Cohagan's motion to suppress because it found that the discovery of the outstanding warrant was an intervening circumstance that sufficiently purged the discovery of the methamphetamine from the taint of the illegal seizure.

         Following the denial of his motion, Cohagan entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals reversed. We granted the State's timely petition for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"In cases that come before this Court on a petition for review of a Court of Appeals decision, this Court gives serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the decision of the lower court." State v. Oliver, 144 Idaho 722, 724, 170 P.3d 387, 389 (2007). "This Court thus acts as if the case were on direct appeal from the district court." State v. James, 148 Idaho 574, 576, 225 P.3d 1169, 1171 (2010). "In reviewing a district court order granting or denying a motion to suppress evidence, the standard of review is bifurcated." Id. (quoting State v. Purdum, 147 Idaho 206, 207, 207 P.3d 182, 183 (2009)). "This Court will accept the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous." Id. "However, this Court may freely review the trial court's application of constitutional principles in light of the facts found." Id.

State v. Garcia-Rodriguez, No. 44443, 2017 WL 2569786, at *2 (Idaho June 14, 2017).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Cohagan asserts the district court erred in denying his suppression motion. Specifically, Cohagan argues that the evidence seized when he was arrested should have been suppressed because it was "the direct result of the illegal detention because Officer Curtis detained [him] so that he could run a warrant check."

         A. Whether the district court erred in denying Cohagan's suppression motion under the Fourth Amendment.

         The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend IV. It has been incorporated through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to apply to the states. Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 654-55 (1961).[1] Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is subject to the exclusionary rule, which requires unlawfully seized evidence to be excluded from trial. E.g., Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 485 (1963); State v. Page, 140 Idaho 841, 846, 103 P.3d 454, 459 (2004). The exclusionary rule requires the suppression of both "primary evidence obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure" and, pertinent here, "evidence later discovered and found to be derivative of an illegality, ...


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