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State v. Lee

Supreme Court of Idaho

September 22, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TREVOR GLENN LEE, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 103

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Payette County. Hon. Susan E. Wiebe, District Judge.

         District court order denying motion to suppress, reversed.

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

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

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         Trevor Glenn Lee appeals the Payette County district court's denial of his motion to suppress. As part of his plea agreement, Lee reserved the right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion on appeal. The district court concluded the pat-down frisk was reasonable under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), but the officer exceeded the scope of the frisk by opening the containers found in Lee's pocket. However, the district court concluded the search of the containers was permissible as a search incident to Lee's arrest because, prior to the search, the officer had probable cause to arrest Lee for driving without privileges and the search was substantially contemporaneous with the arrest. The court of appeals agreed and affirmed the district court's denial of Lee's motion to suppress. We reverse.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On May 16, 2015, Officer Laurenson of the Fruitland Police Department observed Trevor Lee driving a pickup. Officer Laurenson suspected that Lee might be driving without a valid license due to a prior encounter and confirmed through dispatch that Lee's license was indeed suspended. Officer Laurenson then observed Lee park in a Maverik parking lot and enter the store. He later observed Lee exit the store and start to walk on the highway instead of getting back into his pickup. Officer Laurenson pulled in behind Lee, activated his patrol lights, and made contact with Lee.

         During the initial contact, Officer Laurenson asked Lee why he left his truck back at the Maverik store. Lee responded that he wanted to walk. Officer Laurenson then asked Lee for his driver's license. Lee said that he did not have his license on him while patting his pockets. Officer Laurenson told Lee not to touch his pockets and asked if he had any weapons. Once again, Lee began patting his pockets, mumbling some words. Officer Laurenson immediately told Lee not to touch his pockets and to go to the front of his patrol car. Lee did not move, asking "What did I do?" Officer Laurenson, once again, told Lee that he saw him driving with a suspended license. Officer Laurenson told Lee another three times to go to the patrol car, but Lee did not comply, arguing that he "was not driving." Finally, on the fifth request, Lee began to walk towards the patrol car. Once Lee made it to the patrol car, Officer Laurenson began a pat-down frisk for weapons. During the frisk, Officer Laurenson felt a large bulge in Lee's front pocket. Officer Laurenson felt that the bulge consisted of several cylindrical items, but one item felt longer, like a pocketknife. Officer Laurenson asked Lee for his consent to search his pocket; Lee denied his request, but Officer Laurenson, not knowing whether the item he felt was indeed a knife, told Lee that he was going to anyway. Officer Laurenson pulled each item out one at a time until he reached and pulled out the last object, a pocketknife. Officer Laurenson handcuffed Lee and told him that he was being "detained right now." Officer Laurenson advised Lee that he was "going to get a citation for driving without privileges" and in the meantime, that he was "going to sit in the back of [the] car."

         Once Lee was detained, Officer Laurenson examined the containers because, based on his experience and training, he believed the containers contained evidence of drug activity. Officer Laurenson opened the container that he found to be the "most worn" and discovered a green leafy substance. He then opened the other container and discovered a powdery residue. Officer Laurenson arrested Lee and charged him with Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Paraphernalia, and Driving without Privileges.

         Lee moved to suppress the evidence found during the search. The district court denied Lee's motion to suppress. The court concluded Officer Laurenson was justified in conducting a frisk under Terry. However, the court concluded that Officer Laurenson exceeded the scope of a Terry frisk when he opened the containers because he did not believe the containers contained weapons. Nonetheless, the court held that the search of the containers was permissible as a search incident to Lee's arrest because Officer Laurenson had probable cause to arrest Lee based on the driving offense, and the search was substantially contemporaneous with the arrest.

         The parties entered into a plea agreement, pursuant to which Lee pled guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance and the State dismissed the misdemeanor charges. The court imposed a unified sentence of four years, with eighteen months determinate. The court then suspended the sentence and placed Lee on probation for three years. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to suppress and judgment of conviction. Lee timely petitioned for review to this Court.

         II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Regarding the Terry frisk, was the district court correct in holding that the frisk was reasonable, but that the officer exceeded the permissible scope under Terry?
2. Under the search incident to arrest exception, was the district court correct in holding that the search of the containers was permissible because the officer had probable cause to arrest Lee for driving without privileges prior to the search regardless of whether the officer intended to arrest Lee before finding the drug paraphernalia?

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When addressing a petition for review, this Court will give "serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the decision of the lower court." State v. Schall, 157 Idaho 488, 491, 337 P.3d 647, 650 (2014). In reviewing an order denying a motion to suppress evidence, this Court applies a bifurcated standard of review. 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 but will freely review the trial court's application of constitutional principles to the facts found. Id. Findings of fact are not clearly erroneous if they are supported by substantial and competent evidence. State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009).

         IV. ...


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