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State v. Snapp

Court of Appeals of Idaho

January 31, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,

         2018 Opinion No. 4

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

         Order denying a motion to suppress, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Ben P. McGreevy, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Ben P. McGreevy argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          HUSKEY, JUDGE.

         James Edward Snapp, Jr. appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to suppress evidence of methamphetamine. Snapp argues: (1) officers unlawfully searched the curtilage of his residence without a warrant, and the open view doctrine is inapplicable to the circumstance; (2) Snapp had a reasonable expectation of privacy in a bag containing methamphetamine because he did not abandon it; and (3) the plain view exception to the warrant requirement did not apply to the seizure and search of the bag. We affirm the district court's order.


         While on patrol shortly after midnight, an officer observed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, estimating it was traveling at forty miles per hour in a twenty-miles-per-hour zone. To confirm the vehicle's speed, the officer followed the vehicle so he could use his radar. Without using a turn signal, the vehicle turned right onto a long, paved, private driveway, which turned to dirt after 100 yards. The officer believed the vehicle turned onto public property. The officer's radar indicated the vehicle was traveling at thirty-seven miles per hour. The officer activated his overhead lights, but the vehicle did not stop. Instead, the vehicle continued on the driveway, rounded an outbuilding, and pulled up to a residence. The officer observed the vehicle's driver-side door open while the vehicle was still moving and the driver of the vehicle toss a dark-colored item toward the residence.

         After the vehicle stopped moving, the officer approached the driver, Snapp, and inquired about the item Snapp threw from the car toward the residence. Snapp denied throwing anything. The officer handcuffed Snapp, placed him in his patrol vehicle, and, together with backup officers who had arrived, searched the area near the residence where Snapp threw the item. At the suppression hearing, the officer testified he focused his area of search to where Snapp threw the item, beginning ten feet away from the residence, moving closer to the residence as he searched, and using a flashlight. The officer testified there was a pathway leading to the front door. He also testified that he was not manipulating things in the yard, digging through wood piles, moving weeds, or looking under anything. However, Snapp's wife, who observed the officers from the residence, testified the officers were rifling and digging through items in the yard, moving items like wood and weeds. After five to ten minutes, the officer found the item about a foot from the residence, three feet from the pathway to the front door, and behind some weeds, which the officer testified was within reaching distance from the pathway. The item was a black, zippered handbag about the size of a football that contained a large Ziploc baggy filled with what was later determined to be 119.5 grams of methamphetamine.

         Snapp was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine and/or amphetamine under Idaho Code § 37-2732B(a)(4). Snapp filed a motion to suppress the evidence of methamphetamine, arguing it was obtained as the result of a warrantless search. The district court denied Snapp's motion. Snapp then entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court imposed a unified sentence of seven years, with three years determinate. Snapp timely appealed.


         The standard of review of a suppression motion is bifurcated. When a decision on a motion to suppress is challenged, we accept the trial court's findings of fact that are supported by substantial evidence, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Atkinson, 128 Idaho 559, 561, 916 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ct. App. 1996). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess the credibility of witnesses, resolve factual conflicts, weigh evidence, and draw factual inferences is vested in the trial court. State v. Valdez-Molina, 127 Idaho 102, 106, 897 P.2d 993, 997 (1995); State v. Schevers, 132 Idaho 786, 789, 979 P.2d 659, 662 (Ct. App. 1999).

         III. ...

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