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State v. Pettit

Court of Appeals of Idaho

September 29, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IVAN DRAKE PETTIT, Defendant-Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 49

         Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Latah County. Hon. John R. Stegner, District Judge. Hon. John C. Judge, Magistrate.

         Order of the district court, on intermediate appeal from the magistrate's order granting a motion to suppress, affirmed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Mark W. Olson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Mark W. Olson argued.

          McCormick Law Office; Deborah L. McCormick, Moscow, for respondent. Deborah L. McCormick argued.

          HUSKEY, Judge.

         The State appeals from the district court's appellate decision affirming the magistrate's order granting Ivan Drake Pettit's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a driving under the influence investigation. The State argues: (1) there was not substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's finding that Pettit was not required by statute to use a turn signal at the intersection at issue; (2) alternatively, the statute is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Pettit's maneuver and even if it were, suppression is not the appropriate remedy; and (3) alternatively, the officer's mistake of law is objectively reasonable and constitutes a good faith exception to the warrant requirement. The district court's decision on appeal affirming the magistrate's order granting Pettit's motion to suppress is affirmed.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On May 20, 2015, an officer stopped a car driven by Pettit for failure to use a right turn signal at an intersection. When approaching the intersection while southbound, motorists choose from three adjacent lanes of travel: the leftmost lane which allows motorists to continue straight through the intersection to State Highway 8 East or to turn left to either Highway 95 North or Highway 8 North and the center and rightmost lanes which guide motorists to curve right and continue on Highway 95 South. The intersection's signage designates these options, with one straight- or left-turn sign and two right-turn-only signs. The signs are accompanied by traffic lights, which for the right-turn-only signs, display either red, yellow, or green arrows, indicating when it is appropriate to proceed through the intersection. Before reaching the intersection, motorists are confronted with at least two signs on the right side of the road that designate Highway 95 South to be on the right and Highway 8 East to be straight ahead. At some point north of the intersection, Highway 95 South is designated as South Jackson Street.

         Pettit was traveling on Highway 95 South and approached the intersection in the center lane. He was faced with a green arrow, which indicated to curve right through the intersection. Pettit remained in the center lane and, without using a right turn signal, curved right through the intersection. Because Pettit did not use a right turn signal, the officer stopped Pettit's vehicle. As a result of the stop, the officer obtained evidence which resulted in Pettit being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (second offense) and driving without privileges.

         Pettit pleaded not guilty to both charges and moved to suppress the evidence the officer obtained, arguing that a turn signal was not required at the intersection and, thus, the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Pettit's vehicle. The magistrate granted Pettit's motion to suppress, finding: (1) Idaho Code § 49-808(1) unambiguously did not require Pettit to use a right turn signal and, thus, the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Pettit's vehicle; (2) the officer's mistake of law was not reasonable because the statute is unambiguous; and (3)alternatively, the statute is unconstitutionally vague. The State appealed the magistrate's decision to the district court which affirmed the magistrate's decision on the same grounds, but declined to address whether the statute was unconstitutionally vague. The State timely appeals to this Court.

         II.

         STANDARD ...


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