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State v. Andersen

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 29, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
BRIANNA NICOLE ANDERSEN, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County, Hon. Benjamin R. Simpson, District Judge.

         The order of the district court is reversed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for Appellant. Kale D. Gans argued.

          Eric Don Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for Respondent. Andrea W. Reynolds argued.


         The State of Idaho appeals from the decision of the district court granting Brianna Nicole Andersen's motion to suppress statements that she made to a police officer. The district court granted Andersen's motion based on its finding that Andersen's statements were made without Miranda warnings during a custodial interrogation and that Andersen's statements were not voluntary. We reverse.


         At approximately midnight on October 1, 2016, Coeur d'Alene police officers responded to an apartment after receiving a 911 call from Andersen reporting that that "there was a male who was unconscious, not breathing and unresponsive in the bathroom area of the residence." Officer Nielsen was the first police officer to enter the residence. There were four people inside, including Andersen. Officer Nielsen found a young man, later determined to be Ryan Stebbins, lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. He determined that Stebbins was breathing and had a pulse and observed a used syringe lying on the bathroom counter. Officer Nielsen testified at Andersen's preliminary hearing that he believed Mr. Stebbins might have been under the influence of heroin and that the syringe was for "a narcotic analgesic of some kind."

         Several more officers responded to the scene-Officers Niska, Schatz, Rodgers, Cohen and Sergeant Schneider. Paramedics arrived at the residence approximately five minutes after the police officers' arrival. While Officer Nielsen was in the bathroom with Stebbins, other officers began interviewing the other persons in the apartment.

         Sergeant Schneider assigned Officer Niska to question Andersen. Officer Niska asked Andersen, "Why don't you come talk to me?" Andersen and Officer Niska went into an open area adjacent to the bathroom. Andersen sat down in an armchair. She was neither handcuffed nor told that she was under arrest. No weapons were drawn and Andersen was not threatened. Andersen was not advised of her Miranda[1] rights at any point during the interview.

         Officer Niska asked Andersen for her identification, which she did not have on her person. Officer Niska then requested Andersen's name and identifying information, which Officer Niska relayed to dispatch. Officer Niska then questioned Andersen at length about what transpired. Andersen initially reported that the occupants of the residence had been downstairs in the basement eating pizza when Stebbins went upstairs. Then "they heard a loud thump, and . . . they found him unconscious."

         Sergeant Schneider joined in the questioning after approximately ten minutes. In comparison to Officer Niska, his questions and tone were aggressive. The first question he asked Andersen was, "So, you use too, or just him?" Andersen responded that she had been clean for two and a half years. Sergeant Schneider interrupted, asking, "Where did you put the dope?" Andersen responded that she didn't have anything. Sergeant Schneider indicated disbelief at her answer, telling Andersen, "Stop it . . . no you are, you are." He continued to question her, stating at one point, "You're worried about getting in trouble because you've got dope." Andersen denied using drugs and that she had been in the bathroom with Stebbins. Sergeant Schneider responded, "More lies. You were in the bathroom with him." Andersen continued to defend herself, telling the officers they could "search [her] stuff."

         Andersen asked Stebbins, who by this time was in the living room, if he was okay. She made a movement as if to rise, and both officers forcefully instructed her to "stay seated." Sergeant Schneider then accused Andersen of hiding the drugs and not telling the truth, sarcastically suggesting that "some magic heroin fairy" had hidden the heroin. Andersen made another movement and was again told to "stay seated."

         After Sergeant Schneider disengaged from the questioning, Officer Niska questioned Andersen for a considerable time. At one point, Officer Niska told Andersen to, "Quit lying . . . enough with the B.S. So, what really happened?" Andersen then told Officer Niska that she had been in the bathroom with Stebbins and, after he passed out, she had flushed a syringe ...

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