Opinion No. 10
from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. George A. Southworth, District
granting motion to suppress, affirmed in part and reversed in
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen,
Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Kenneth K.
D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Reed P.
Anderson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for
respondent. Reed P. Anderson argued.
State appeals from the district court's order granting
Taylor James Fairchild's motion to suppress evidence of
methamphetamine. The State argues: (1) the officer had
reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop; and
(2) even if the officer lacked reasonable suspicion,
discovery of a valid arrest warrant attenuated the evidence
from any unlawfulness. The district court's order
granting Fairchild's motion to suppress is affirmed in
part and reversed in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
citizen contacted the sheriff's office to report what he
thought was odd behavior. The citizen identified himself by
name and provided his address. He asked, "I was
wondering if I could have somebody sent out[?] I'm a
little concerned about a transaction or something going down
behind my house." He further explained, "two cars
just come up really fast and pull around and meet up and they
get out and they're just both just sitting in the truck
together . . . [.] It could be nothing but too often things
happen back there and the way they pulled up so fast it looks
like [unintelligible]." The location was the dead-end of
a paved street after the last entrance to the neighborhood,
which terminated at the edge of private, field property.
Beyond the paved dead-end, a dirt path continued into the
field. The paved dead-end provided no access to any other
area unless a vehicle turned around and left the way it came.
citizen further provided a description of the vehicles,
including their license plate numbers. One of the vehicles
was a Dodge Ram pickup and the other was a dark-colored
Hyundai. An officer was dispatched to the area. While en
route, the officer ran the license plate numbers and learned
the pickup was registered to an individual the officer knew
was a drug user. The officer testified that because two
vehicles were involved, he requested an assisting officer to
respond to the scene as well.
the officer arrived, he saw the two vehicles driving away.
The pickup drove away from the officer into the privately
owned field. The Hyundai, driven by Fairchild, drove towards
the officer away from the dead-end on the paved road. As it
did so, the officer turned on his overhead lights and
motioned the driver to stop. Fairchild stopped.
officer walked over to Fairchild and asked for identification
and Fairchild provided his driver's license. The officer
communicated the information on the driver's license to
dispatch. Dispatch reported an outstanding warrant for
Fairchild, but stated it needed to confirm the warrant's
existence and validity by viewing the original paperwork.
While dispatch was confirming the warrant, the officer asked
Fairchild questions. The questions included asking where
Fairchild was coming from and whether he had interactions
with the driver of the pickup. Fairchild said he was in the
area, having spent the night with a friend who lived nearby,
and denied any contact with the driver of the pickup. The
officer then explained why he was in the area and continued
to ask Fairchild why he was there. Fairchild continued to
deny any contact with the pickup driver.
the officer asked Fairchild if he was on probation and
Fairchild indicated that he was, for a paraphernalia charge.
The officer asked Fairchild to step out of the car and asked
Fairchild if he would consent to a search. Fairchild stepped
out of the car. The officer conducted a pat-down frisk, but
also reached into Fairchild's pocket. After reaching into
Fairchild's pocket, the officer found a small baggie of a
white, powdery substance which was later confirmed to be
methamphetamine. The officer then arrested Fairchild, placed
him in handcuffs, and read him his
assisting officer, who had since arrived on the scene,
watched Fairchild as the original officer retrieved gloves
from his patrol car. While at his patrol car, the original
officer again contacted dispatch which confirmed that a valid
warrant for Fairchild's arrest existed. The officer
resumed searching Fairchild, discovering a second baggie of
what was later confirmed to be methamphetamine.
was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He
filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine evidence,
reasoning that the officer did not have a reasonable
suspicion to stop Fairchild. But even if the stop was valid,
Fairchild argued, the stop subsequently exceeded the scope of
the purpose of the original stop when the officer detained
Fairchild while the officer ran a check for warrants.
Finally, Fairchild argued there was no intervening
circumstance that purged the taint of the initial
illegality--either the stop or the continued detention--and
specifically requested the drugs found in Fairchild's
pocket incident to arrest be suppressed.
State argued that even if there was no reasonable,
articulable suspicion to stop and/or detain Fairchild, the
evidence found was attenuated from the alleged police
misconduct. The State specifically argued, "Assuming an
illegal stop in Defendant's case, the discovery of the
evidence was not the result of exploitation of the
illegality. Rather, the taint of the unlawful conduct was
sufficiently dissipated to allow admission of the
hearing on the motion to suppress, the district court asked
the parties if the fact that the officer received information
that there may have been a warrant, but did not receive
verification that the warrant was valid and still in effect
until after he had already searched Fairchild, made any
difference concerning the attenuation doctrine. Based on this
question, the State was permitted to submit an affidavit
about this issue.
the State submitted additional briefing about the
applicability of the attenuation doctrine after the officer
was informed of the warrant but before the warrant had been
confirmed. According to the State, "Dispatch notified
the officer of a warrant against the Defendant. The officer
received that notification prior to finding the first baggie
of white crystal substance. However, Dispatch then had to
confirm that the warrant was still valid and not just in
their database." Further, "When notified of a
warrant, they (i.e. law enforcement) would detain at that
point, pending confirmation . . . ." The State goes on
There are two pieces of potential evidence in this case: two
baggies of white crystal substance. The first baggie was
found after the officer was notified of a warrant against
Defendant. The second baggie was found after the officer
received confirmation of that warrant from Dispatch. The
State earlier argued that assuming law enforcement performed
an illegal traffic stop of Defendant, the discovery of the
evidence is admissible pursuant to the attenuation doctrine.
The State recognizes that the Court may find it more
difficult to apply the attenuation doctrine to the first
baggie of substance inasmuch as the warrant had not yet been
confirmed by Dispatch and Defendant was apparently not yet
under arrest for that warrant.
the State argued that the first baggie was admissible under
the inevitable discovery doctrine.
district court granted Fairchild's motion to suppress,
concluding the officer's investigatory stop was not
justified by reasonable suspicion, but even if the stop was
lawful, the frisk resulting in the discovery of the first
baggie exceeded the scope of a limited pat-down. Next, the
district court determined the attenuation doctrine did not
apply to the discovery of the second baggie of
methamphetamine. As a result, the district court granted
Fairchild's motion to suppress both baggies of
methamphetamine. The State timely appeals. The district court
case was stayed pending the outcome of this appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 ...