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State v. Hoskins

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 13, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
JUSTIN K. HOSKINS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bannock County. Robert Naftz, District Judge.

         District court decision denying motion to suppress, reversed, judgment of conviction vacated, and case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

          Eric D. Frederickson, State Appellant Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Kimberly A. Coster, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender, argued.

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

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         Justin K. Hoskins appeals the Bannock County district court's denial of his motion to suppress. The State argued that Hoskins lacked standing to object to the search based on consent and the district court denied the motion on that basis. On appeal, all parties agree the district court's ruling on standing was erroneous. Nevertheless, the State argues that the district court's decision can be affirmed based on the plain-view doctrine. Hoskins objects and argues that the State forfeited this argument by failing to raise it below. Hoskins prevailed at the Court of Appeals and this Court granted the State's timely petition for review.


         In September 2016, Idaho State Trooper Spencer Knudsen observed a Pontiac Grand Am driving with a cracked windshield and pulled it over. He asked the driver for the vehicle's registration and insurance as well as identification for the vehicle's three occupants. The occupants produced various forms of identification, but were unable to provide registration or insurance for the vehicle. The identification revealed that Jovette Archuleta was the driver of the vehicle, Amber Alvarez was seated in the passenger's seat, and Hoskins was seated alone in the back seat.

         Trooper Knudsen relayed information on the vehicle and its occupants to dispatch for a records check. Before long, dispatch informed Trooper Knudsen that the vehicle's license plates actually belonged to a Chevrolet Malibu registered to Archuleta. Dispatch also notified Trooper Knudsen that all of the vehicles' occupants had prior drug convictions. Returning to the Pontiac, Trooper Knudsen asked Archuleta to step out of the car to speak with him. Once she had, he questioned her about whether the car contained anything illegal. After she stated that she didn't believe so, Trooper Knudsen asked for permission to search the car. Archuleta explained that Alvarez actually owned the car, not she. Knudsen then requested that Alvarez exit the vehicle to speak with him. Knudsen also asked Alvarez whether there were any drugs in the vehicle, and, eventually, for her consent to search the vehicle. Reluctant, Alvarez explained that she had just bought the car and was worried that if Trooper Knudsen found anything illegal in the car, it might get the seller in trouble. Trooper Knudsen assured Alvarez that the seller would not get in trouble, but made clear that if she did not consent, he would get consent from Archuleta. Soon after, Alvarez gave her permission to search the vehicle.

         Before searching the vehicle, Trooper Knudsen directed Hoskins to get out of the backseat. The district court described the ensuing moments as follows:

As Hoskins began to exit the car, Trooper Knudsen instructed him to leave his personal items on the backseat. During the subsequent search of the car and questioning of [Hoskins], Trooper Knudsen found marijuana in a cigarette package left in the car by [Hoskins]. Upon closer examination, Trooper Knudsen discovered a baggie containing methamphetamine.

Hoskins was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with a sentencing enhancement based on a prior drug conviction.

         Hoskins promptly filed a motion to suppress the evidence taken from the traffic stop. He argued that the traffic stop "evolved into an illegal detention and seizure of the Defendant's person" and cited State v. Newsom, 132 Idaho 698, 979 P.2d 698 (1998), for the proposition that his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated after he "was instructed to leave his wallet and personal items inside the vehicle in which he was riding as a passenger."

         At the evidentiary hearing, the State called Trooper Knudsen to testify about stopping the vehicle, calling for additional back up, and asking Hoskins to leave his personal belongings in the car. He testified that he asked Hoskins to leave his items in his car because his training and experience taught him that people sometimes keep drugs and weapons in such containers. The State also inquired about how he received permission to search the vehicle and how he questioned Hoskins about whether the vehicle contained anything illicit. Trooper Knudsen testified about how Hoskins eventually told him that there might be marijuana in a cigarette package and that Hoskins later claimed ownership over the package. Based on his testimony, Trooper Knudsen removed the marijuana so that he could return the cigarettes to Hoskins but, upon removing the marijuana, he found a second baggie containing methamphetamine.

         Hoskins's lawyer cross-examined Trooper Knudsen about the same topics, but focused on the duration of the stop and Trooper Knudsen's process of obtaining consent from Alvarez. Before Trooper Knudsen stepped down, the Court asked him about why he called for back-up and who gave the consent to search the vehicle. For his part, Hoskins offered into evidence video footage of the stop taken from the dash-board camera in Trooper Knudsen's patrol vehicle. The evidence was admitted upon stipulation by the State. The court then directed the parties to submit briefs on the matter addressing two issues:

THE COURT: Okay. That's what I want you to focus then on. So those are the two issues. Coerced consent, and then the idea that things can't be required to be left in the vehicle with regard to items [directed to be left in the car by a police officer].

         The State requested that it be allowed to file its brief after Hoskins so that the State would be able to address Hoskins's arguments. The court acquiesced.

         In his brief, Hoskins argued that: (1) he had standing to contest the search of his personal items; (2) the traffic stop was unlawfully prolonged and any consent was obtained by coercion; and (3) the search of his personal items was illegal under Newsom.

         In response, the State contended that (1) Hoskins could challenge the stop of the vehicle but not the search of the vehicle because he had no ownership interest in it; (2) the traffic stop was not unlawfully prolonged; and (3) the search of Hoskins's personal effects was not illegal because it was within the scope of validly obtained consent.

         The district court denied Hoskins's motion to suppress. The court ruled that Hoskins did not have standing to contest the search of the vehicle because the vehicle was searched pursuant to validly obtained consent. The court ruled that Alvarez's consent was not the result of coercion and that Trooper Knudsen was justified in initially stopping the vehicle and then extending the stop. Shortly thereafter, Hoskins pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The Court imposed a unified sentence of three years, with one year fixed, but suspended the sentence and placed Hoskins on probation.

         Hoskins timely appealed and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals which reversed the district court's denial of the motion to suppress and vacated the judgment of conviction. This ...

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