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State v. Cox

Court of Appeals of Idaho

January 16, 2020

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
SPENCER EDWARD COX, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Steven J. Hippler, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Brian R. Dickson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Mark W. Olson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.


         Spencer Edward Cox appeals from the judgment of conviction entered upon his conditional guilty plea for possession of methamphetamine in violation of Idaho Code § 37-2732(c). Specifically, Cox appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. We affirm.



         The district court set forth the underlying facts after an evidentiary hearing on Cox's motion to suppress:

On January 8, 2018, at approximately 1:48 a.m., Officer Jason Green, with the Boise Police Department, was driving through the parking lot of the Super 8 hotel in Boise when he noticed what appeared to be a person sleeping in the driver's seat of a running four-door sedan. Earlier, around 11:00 p.m. on January 7, Officer Green had noticed the same car pull into the parking lot and the occupant did not emerge from the car. At approximately 12:30 a.m., Officer Green returned to the parking lot and noticed the same car located in a different parking spot. Thus, when he returned again at 1:48 a.m. to see the car in yet another parking spot with the engine running, he decided to investigate. He had previously been informed by Super 8 management that they did not wish to have anyone sleeping in their parking lot. This is a known high crime area and a common location of illegal drug transactions.
Officer Green called Officer Marshall Plaisted for assistance. They both approached the car on foot and, while standing at the door, Officer Green noticed the driver's seat was down and a male, later identified as [Cox], lying asleep in the driver's seat. He also noticed that there was a small baseball bat with the hilt of the bat next to [Cox's] hand as well as a large folding knife in between his legs in his lap. While standing there, Officer Green shined his flashlight inside of the vehicle and on [Cox], who did not respond. Officer Johnson then arrived on scene to assist. Officer Johnson stood at the front passenger side door while Officer Plaisted stood at the rear driver's side door.
Officer Green then knocked on the driver's side window with his flashlight. [Cox] startled awake and opened the driver's side door.[1] Officer Green asked him to place his hands on the steering wheel. [Cox] was quite excitable, speaking quickly and acting agitated. Officer Green had to continually remind [Cox] to keep his hands on the steering wheel. [Cox] appeared to Officer Green as though he was under the influence of a stimulant. Officer Green reached into the vehicle to remove the knife from between [Cox's] legs.
Once Officer Green took the knife, he told [Cox] he was going to remove him from the vehicle by holding his left hand. Officer Green did so to prevent [Cox] from grabbing any additional weapons, such as the baseball bat. [Cox] stepped out while Officer Green was holding his left hand and, once out, Officer Green then took [Cox's] right hand and held both hands behind [Cox's] back while standing next to the open driver's side door. Officer Green did not shut the driver's side door after [Cox] exited, nor did [Cox] ask him to shut the door or otherwise attempt to shut the door. It is the practice of Boise Police Department officers to "leave things as they lie," meaning that if the officer opens a door or window to a vehicle, (s)he will subsequently close it. If the detainee opens the door or window, officers will leave it open unless asked to close it by the detainee.[2]
After Officer Green performed a pat search for weapons, he had [Cox] walk to the front bumper of his patrol car. Once at the patrol car, Officer Green obtained [Cox's] information verbally and ran it through dispatch. While Officer Green and [Cox] were standing next to his patrol vehicle, Officer Plaisted walked his certified narcotic detection canine, Geno, around the vehicle. Geno and Officer Plaisted have been working together for four years, although Officer Plaisted has been a certified canine handler for seven years. From his experience working with Geno, Officer Plaisted is familiar with Geno's changes in behavior when he detects an odor of narcotics, including rapid sniffing, head snapping toward the odor, closed mouth and drooling. Geno's final response is to sit. To ensure that Geno's sit is indeed a final response, Officer Plaisted will attempt to direct Geno away from the odor. If Geno remains seated, Officer Plaisted knows the sit is an alert because Geno is trained to stay with the odor.
Here, Officer Plaisted approached [Cox's] vehicle with Geno and he saw that it was still running, with all the windows rolled up, the heater on, and the driver's door open. He walked Geno to the passenger side of the vehicle[;] Geno commenced an exterior sniff, moving in a counter-clockwise direction while Officer Plaisted walked beside him. As Geno rounded the front of the car, Geno pulled hard on the leash towards the open door. Officer Plaisted noticed a change in Geno's behavior at this point, as Geno began drooling and sniffing quickly, with his mouth closed and his head pulling toward the open door. Geno began sniffing the driver's door pocket and sat down in the area between the open door and the interior compartment. Officer Plaisted attempted to redirect Geno's attention, giving him ...

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