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State v. McLeod

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 29, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Ty William McLeod, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable James T. Blanch No. 141902943

          Alexandra S. McCallum, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Karen A. Klucznik, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.

          HAGEN, Judge

         ¶1 Ty William McLeod appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress drug and paraphernalia possession evidence discovered during a traffic stop. The district court determined that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion to extend the detention. However, it denied the motion to suppress because the length of McLeod's detention did not exceed the amount of time reasonably necessary to complete an ordinary traffic stop. On appeal, the State concedes that the "denial of the suppression motion appears to have been based on an incorrect understanding of the law" but urges us to affirm on the alternative ground that the officers had reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop. We agree with the district court that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion. As a result, we decline to affirm on the alternative ground, and we reverse the district court's denial of the motion to suppress.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶2 A police officer was patrolling 200 South 500 West in Salt Lake City when he noticed a vehicle parked in the median of the street. The officer watched as McLeod exited the vehicle and jaywalked across the street. McLeod approached three people, who pointed out that the officer was nearby. McLeod then walked around the corner, out of the officer's sight. The officer waited for McLeod to return to his vehicle.

         ¶3 When McLeod returned, he got into his vehicle and pulled away from the median without signaling.[2] At that point, the officer initiated a traffic stop. The officer approached McLeod's vehicle and requested his driver license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. When McLeod was unable to produce those documents, the officer asked for his name and other identifying information.

         ¶4 The officer returned to his patrol car to complete a records check while a backup officer, who had arrived on the scene, watched McLeod. During the records check, McLeod continued "moving around quite a bit in his front seat." The backup officer told McLeod to stop moving around, and he complied.

         ¶5 The records check confirmed that McLeod had a valid driver license and that he did not have any outstanding warrants. The officer later testified that nothing in McLeod's record "raised concerns of violence" or suggested that the officer "should detain him further on . . . any other matters."

         ¶6 The officer also acknowledged that, "at that point, it was either write the citation or give him a warning [for the traffic violation]." But the officer did not write McLeod a citation, give him a warning for any offense, or tell him that he was free to leave. Instead, the officer returned to McLeod's vehicle and asked whether "he had anything illegal in the car." When McLeod said "No, " the officer asked if he could search the vehicle, and McLeod responded, "Sure."

         ¶7 As he prepared to step out of the car, McLeod reached underneath a pile of clothes on the passenger seat. Concerned that McLeod was reaching for a weapon, the officers ordered McLeod out of the vehicle and frisked him, which confirmed that McLeod did not have any weapons on his person.

         ¶8 The officer then asked McLeod a second time whether there was anything illegal in the vehicle. This time, McLeod admitted that he had a syringe in a shoe inside the car. Approximately ten minutes had elapsed from the beginning of ...


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