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State v. Edgar

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 23, 2017

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Michael John Edgar, Appellant.

         Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Lynn W. Davis No. 141400828

          Emily Adams, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge J. Frederic Voros Jr. authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          OPINION

          VOROS, Judge

         ¶1 Michael John Edgar appeals his convictions for various drug offenses arising from a traffic stop. He contends that his trial counsel performed ineffectively in not challenging the length of his detention. Specifically, he argues that the officers on the scene unduly prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion that drugs were in the car-in effect slow-walking the business of the stop to buy time for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On March 15, 2014 police pulled Edgar over for a traffic violation at 7:35 p.m. and asked for his license, insurance, and registration. The responding officer noticed that Edgar's pupils were constricted, his voice raspy, his hands shaky. The officer further noticed that Edgar had a hard time getting his license out of his wallet and that Edgar's facial features "appeared to be loose" and "relaxed." At 7:39 the responding officer called for backup to perform a DUI investigation and for a canine unit.

         ¶3 At 7:44 the backup officer arrived; he questioned Edgar until 7:46. The backup officer also noticed that Edgar's voice was "very raspy" and that "he appeared to be very nervous, he was looking around, " and he was "very distracted." Both officers then left Edgar's car to assist some pedestrians on the sidewalk for about one minute. The responding officer then moved his patrol car behind the backup officer so that the backup officer could capture the field sobriety test on his dash camera. The officers returned to Edgar's car at 7:50 and explained to him why they believed they needed to conduct field sobriety tests.

         ¶4 At 7:52 the canine unit arrived and the responding officer briefed the dog handler on the situation. At 7:55 the dog handler asked Edgar to step out of his car so the dog could perform the sniff. The dog sniff took approximately two minutes; the dog alerted on the passenger and driver side doors.

         ¶5 At 7:57 the backup officer began the field sobriety tests; they ended at 8:01. The officers searched the car and found drugs, drug paraphernalia, and a hatchet. The officers arrested Edgar, searched him, and found more drugs.

         ¶6 A jury convicted Edgar of two counts of possession or use of a controlled substance, second degree felonies; use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon, a class A misdemeanor.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7 Edgar contends that his attorney was ineffective for not moving to suppress the evidence found pursuant to an unconstitutionally prolonged traffic stop. Specifically, Edgar argues that his counsel should have argued that the police unconstitutionally prolonged the detention "from the time they formed reasonable suspicion that Edgar was driving impaired ...


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