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State v. Martinez

Supreme Court of Utah

May 2, 2017

State of Utah, Appellant,
v.
George M. Martinez, Jr., Appellee.

         On Certification from the Court of Appeals

         Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Ann Boyden No. 141900017

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeffrey S. Gray, Asst. Solic. Gen., Mikelle C. Daugherty, Salt Lake City, for appellant

          Joan C. Watt, Ralph W. Dellapiana, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Justice Pearce authored the opinion of the Court in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Durham, and Justice Himonas joined.

          OPINION

          Justice Pearce, Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 A Utah Highway Patrol Trooper stopped a vehicle for an improper lane change and asked both the driver and George Matthew Martinez, a passenger, for identification. The trooper ran a warrant check and learned that Martinez had an outstanding arrest warrant. The officer searched Martinez incident to his arrest and discovered a glass pipe with methamphetamine residue inside. The State charged Martinez with possession of a controlled substance, but the district court granted Martinez's motion to suppress the evidence. The district court concluded that the trooper had violated Martinez's Fourth Amendment rights when he asked to see Martinez's identification and ran a warrants check without reasonable suspicion that Martinez had committed or was about to commit a crime. The State appeals the district court's suppression order, arguing that an officer may ask a passenger to supply his identification and run a background check on him during a routine traffic stop. We hold that officer safety concerns justified the negligibly burdensome extension of the traffic stop and reverse the district court's order.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremy Horne stopped a car after the driver failed to properly signal a lane change. Martinez was a passenger in the vehicle. Trooper Horne explained the reason for the stop and asked the car's driver for his license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. While the driver was collecting his documents, Trooper Horne also asked Martinez for identification.

         ¶3 Trooper Horne gathered documentation from both the driver and Martinez and returned to his patrol car. He conducted a records check of both the driver and passenger using his in-car computer system. He entered the driver's driver license number first and then immediately entered Martinez's driver license number. According to Trooper Horne, after entering a number, it generally took "less than five seconds or so" to retrieve information regarding warrants, license status, and a photo. Trooper Horne first learned that the driver's license was valid and that the driver had no outstanding warrants. "Immediately after" that, Trooper Horne reviewed Martinez's inquiry results and learned that Martinez had an outstanding arrest warrant.

         ¶4 Trooper Horne returned to the car-now two to three minutes into the stop-and arrested Martinez. When Trooper Horne asked Martinez if he had anything illegal on his person, Martinez admitted that he did and produced a glass pipe, which later tested positive for methamphetamine residue. After Martinez's arrest, Trooper Horne gave the driver a "verbal warning and allowed him to leave." The driver chose to stay, however, to help Martinez locate a battery for his hearing aid. The driver left twenty-two minutes after the initial stop.

          ¶5 The State charged Martinez with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Martinez moved the district court to suppress the evidence Trooper Horne collected, arguing that the officer had violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Martinez claimed that "'[a]ny further temporary detention' for investigative questioning after fulfilling the original purpose for the traffic stop constitutes an illegal seizure, unless an officer has probable cause to arrest or a reasonable suspicion of a further illegality." (Quoting State v. Hansen, 2002 UT 125, ¶ 31, 63 P.3d 650). Because Trooper Horne asked for Martinez's identification without reasonable suspicion, Martinez argued, the information Trooper Horne obtained as a result of that illegal inquiry should be suppressed.

         ¶6 The district court granted Martinez's motion to suppress evidence after concluding that Trooper Horne had violated Martinez's Fourth Amendment rights when he asked to see Martinez's identification. It concluded that "[i]nvestigation of the passenger without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is beyond the scope of a routine traffic stop."

         ¶7 The State appeals the district court's suppression order, arguing that an officer may ask a passenger to supply his identification and run a background check during a routine traffic stop as long as it does not unreasonably extend the stop's duration. The State's argument is consistent with United States Supreme Court precedent. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶8 The district court's determination presents us with a mixed question of law and fact. We disturb the district court's findings of fact only when they are clearly erroneous. See State v. Worwood, 2007 UT 47, ¶ 12, 164 P.3d 397. But the deference we afford the district court's application of the law to those factual findings depends upon

(1) the degree of variety and complexity in the facts to which the legal rule is to be applied; (2) the degree to which a trial court's application of the legal rule relies on "facts" observed by the trial judge, such as a witness's appearance and demeanor, relevant to the application of the law that cannot be adequately reflected in the record available to appellate courts; and (3) other policy reasons that weigh for or against granting [deference] to trial courts.

Murray v. Utah Labor Comm'n, 2013 UT 38');">2013 UT 38, ¶ 36, 308 P.3d 461 (alteration in original) ...


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