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State v. Fuller

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 26, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ANTONIA KATE FULLER, Defendant-Respondent.

         2018 Opinion No. 41

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Lansing L. Haynes, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is affirmed.

          Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Sally J. Cooley argued.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         In this appeal, the State challenges the Kootenai County district court's decision to grant Antonia Kate Fuller's motion to suppress evidence seized during a traffic stop. Because we conclude the traffic stop was unconstitutional, we affirm the district court's order suppressing the evidence.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 6, 2015, Deputy Harvey Ballman of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department was patrolling the area near the intersection of Highways 95 and 53 in Kootenai County. At approximately 10:50 p.m., Deputy Ballman was traveling westbound on Highway 53 when he observed a vehicle, driven by Fuller, traveling a few car lengths in front of him. As Deputy Ballman followed Fuller, the roadway began to make a right-hand curve. When Fuller continued on the roadway and drove her vehicle around the right-hand curve, Deputy Ballman observed the front passenger-side tire of Fuller's vehicle drive onto and temporarily across the solid white line on the right-hand side of the roadway (i.e., the fog line). Deputy Ballman then initiated a traffic stop, citing Fuller's failure to maintain her lane of travel as required under Idaho Code section 49-637(1).

         During the traffic stop, Deputy Ballman discovered that Fuller did not have a valid driver's license or liability insurance. Deputy Ballman placed Fuller under arrest for violations of Idaho Code sections 49-301(1) and 49-1232 before conducting an inventory search of her vehicle. That search revealed methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Accordingly, he expanded the arrest for violations of Idaho Code sections 37-2732(c)(1) (possession of a controlled substance) and 37-2734A (possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia). Fuller was never cited for a traffic offense.

         Fuller's preliminary hearing was held on January 28, 2016, at which Deputy Ballman testified that he observed Fuller's tire "touch[] the [fog] line multiple times and cross[] the [fog] line." He explained that he initiated the traffic stop due to Fuller's failure to maintain her lane of travel under section 49-637(1) when her tire crossed the fog line.[1] Fuller was thereafter charged with two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to purchase a driver's license, and failure to provide proof of insurance.

         Fuller moved to suppress the seized evidence on the grounds that it was fruits of an unlawful traffic stop in violation of the United States and Idaho Constitutions. During a hearing on the motion, the parties stipulated that the front passenger-side tire of Fuller's vehicle crossed the fog line once and that she did not have her turn signal on at the time. Although the district court accepted the parties' stipulation, the district court reviewed a dashboard camera video recording from Deputy Ballman and explained as follows:

I have to say that I'm balancing that against the Court's observations of the dash-cam. I could not exactly tell whether there was a complete crossing of that fog line. I mean, it looked pretty close, but whether, you know, some of the tire remained touching the fog line or not, the tires, I was just unsure, but it was pretty close to crossing the whole line.

         After considering the parties' arguments, the district court ultimately concluded Deputy Ballman did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that section 49-637(1) was violated. The district court thus granted Fuller's motion to suppress. The State now appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We apply a bifurcated standard when reviewing a motion to suppress. State v. Danney, 153 Idaho 405, 408, 283 P.3d 722, 725 (2012). The trial court's findings of fact are accepted if supported by substantial and competent evidence. Id. Conversely, we will freely review the application of constitutional principles to the factual findings. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause so as to apply to the states, guarantees that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV; see also Idaho Const. art. I, § 17. "Traffic stops constitute seizures under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Henage, 143 Idaho 655, 658, 152 P.3d 16, 19 (2007) (citing Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653 (1979)). Yet, "[l]imited investigatory detentions are permissible when justified by an officer's reasonable articulable suspicion that a person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime." State v. Morgan, 154 Idaho 109, 112, 294 P.3d 1121, 1124 (2013). As such, two possible justifications for a traffic stop exist: (1) the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the driver has committed an offense, such as ...


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