Certification from the Court of Appeals Third District, Salt
Lake The Honorable Ann Boyden No. 141900017
D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeffrey S. Gray, Asst. Solic. Gen.,
Mikelle C. Daugherty, Salt Lake City, for appellant
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
(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) ...