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State v. Burgess

Court of Appeals of Idaho

September 14, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CORA LEE BURGESS, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Richard S. Christensen, District Judge.

         Order granting motion to suppress, affirmed.

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

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Kimberly A. Coster, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Kimberly A. Coster argued.

          GRATTON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         The State appeals from the district court's order granting Cora Lee Burgess's motion to suppress evidence found inside her vehicle subsequent to a traffic stop. The State argues the district court erred in ruling the police abandoned the purpose of the initial traffic stop by unlawfully prolonging the stop to verify the passenger's probationary status.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Shortly before midnight, officers stopped Burgess's vehicle for failing to stop before entering a roadway. One officer approached Burgess's side of the vehicle and after calling in the stop, another officer approached the passenger side. The officers talked with Burgess and her passenger for approximately three minutes, gathering identifications, licenses, vehicle registration, and insurance. Burgess had recently purchased the vehicle and had yet to get insurance. As the officers were gathering information, a third officer arrived. After collecting the information from Burgess and the passenger, the initiating officer asked if either was on probation and both responded in the negative. The officers then returned to their patrol car to check Burgess's information and her passenger's information using the in-car computer.

         The video recording of the traffic stop shows that within a minute, the computer announced a separate "return" for each person, relating to warrant and driving status. Burgess's record check was completed. However, instead of beginning the citation process, the officers waited another "minute or two" in order for dispatch to verify the passenger's probationary status. After receiving a negative probation response as to the passenger, one officer walked to the vehicle and requested that Burgess exit the vehicle while the officer prepared a citation for failure to have insurance. As Burgess exited the vehicle, the other officer approached the vehicle and began questioning the passenger. Five minutes later, just as Burgess was being handed her citation, the passenger door was opened, the passenger stepped out, and was handcuffed. The passenger had admitted, during that time, to having drugs and paraphernalia. Burgess was then instructed to "hang back" while the situation with the passenger was resolved. Thereafter, Burgess consented to a search of the vehicle. A clutch containing contraband was found within the vehicle. Burgess was charged with possession of methamphetamine.

         Burgess filed a motion to suppress all evidence, arguing that her detention was unreasonably prolonged by police in violation of the Constitutions of the United States and state of Idaho.[1] In her motion, Burgess argued her detention was unlawfully prolonged twice. First, when the officer abandoned the initial purpose of the traffic stop and detoured to investigate the passenger. Second, when the officer restricted her from leaving the scene after issuing her ticket as the passenger's backpack was searched. The district court identified the dispositive issue as "whether delaying moving forward with a traffic stop is lawful in order to verify a passenger's probation status." The district court granted the motion to suppress, ruling that the officers abandoned the purpose of the stop when they waited for dispatch to verify the passenger's probationary status and that the detour unlawfully prolonged the traffic stop.[2] The State timely appeals.

         II.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 ...


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