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State v. Saldivar

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 5, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ISAAC LYLE SALDIVAR, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County, Melissa Moody, District Judge.

         The order of the district court granting defendant's motion to suppress is reversed and remanded.

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

          Eric Don Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for Respondent. Ben P. McGreevy argued.

          MOELLER, Justice.

         I. NATURE OF THE CASE

         The State appeals from an Ada County district court order granting Isaac Lyle Saldivar's motion to suppress evidence that he unlawfully possessed a firearm. During a pat-search, police discovered a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol in the left front pocket of Saldivar's pants. The police later learned that Saldivar was a parolee who was wanted on an active warrant. The district court determined that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct the pat-search. The district court further held that the inevitable discovery exception was inapplicable to the facts of this case and granted the motion to suppress. The State argues that the search was reasonable under the circumstances, and that even if it was not, the inevitable discovery exception applies to this case. It also argues that because of his parole status, Saldivar did not retain a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the pat-search. For the reasons stated below, we reverse.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 4, 2017, at approximately 5:30 a.m., Officers Trent Schneider and Joe Martinez were dispatched to an apartment in Boise to investigate a recent shooting. Dispatch advised the officers that one person had been shot at the apartment, other people in the apartment were intoxicated, and the gun used in the shooting was still inside the apartment.[1] It was dark outside when the officers approached the building from the front. As they approached the front door to the apartment, Saldivar came around from the back of the building carrying a tote. Because the gun was believed to still be at the premises and the shooter had not yet been identified, the officers ordered Saldivar to show them his hands, turn around, and get on the ground. Saldivar complied with these demands without conflict. At that point, Officer Schneider placed him in handcuffs and conducted a pat-search of Saldivar for weapons.

         The search revealed a gun in the front left pocket of Saldivar's pants. Unbeknownst to the officers at that time, Saldivar was on parole and had waived his rights concerning searches under the Fourth Amendment and the Idaho Constitution. After the pat-search, Officer Schneider conducted a warrant check on Saldivar and discovered that he had an outstanding arrest warrant. As a result, Saldivar was taken into custody and subsequently charged with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in violation of Idaho Code section 18-3316.[2]

         On February 16, 2018, Saldivar filed a motion to suppress on the basis that the officers lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous, and thus the search was unreasonable. The State argued that Saldivar did not have standing to challenge the search because he waived his right to do so as a condition of his parole, the search was reasonable in light of the circumstances, and, even if the search was not reasonable, the attenuation and inevitable discovery exceptions applied. During a hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Schneider testified that it is "standard operating procedure" to pat-search anyone who is handcuffed and that such searches are for "officer safety reasons only." He also testified that his concerns in this case were due to the shooting he was investigating, the fact that it was dark outside, and he could not see clearly.[3] Neither officer testified that they had reason to believe that Saldivar was dangerous, aside from the fact that he was near the residence where the shooting occurred.

         After the hearing on the motion to suppress, the district court granted the motion on the bases that the search was not reasonable under the circumstances, the officers could not retroactively justify the search based on a waiver they had no knowledge of before the search, and the attenuation and inevitable discovery doctrines did not apply. The State timely appealed.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court conducts a bifurcated review when it considers a motion to suppress. State v. Watts, 142 Idaho 230, 232, 127 P.3d 133, 135 (2005). This means that when a ruling on a suppression motion is challenged on appeal, "the Court accepts the trial court's findings of fact that are supported by substantial evidence, but freely reviews the application of constitutional ...


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