District Court, Silver Summit Department The Honorable Paige
Petersen No. 151500325
A. Talbot, Tamara L. Kapaloski, Dawn M. David, and Brandon T.
Christensen Attorneys for Appellant.
D. Reyes and Jeanne B. Inouye, Attorneys for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judge Jill M.
Pohlman concurred. Judge Gregory K. Orme dissented, with
Michael J. Miller appeals the district court's denial of
his motion to suppress evidence of marijuana discovered
during a traffic stop. Miller entered a plea to one count of
possession of a controlled substance with intent to
distribute, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his
motion to suppress. He argues that the traffic stop was
impermissibly prolonged without reasonable suspicion when the
officer conducting the traffic stop asked him to walk back to
the patrol car, engaged him in unrelated questioning before
and during the citation process, and waited to run a records
check until later in the stop. Because none of these actions
unconstitutionally extended the stop, we affirm.
At 10:41 p.m., a Utah Highway Patrol Trooper (the officer)
stopped Miller for driving seventy miles per hour on I-80,
five miles per hour above the posted limit. After Miller gave
the officer his driver license and the car rental agreement,
the officer asked Miller to come back to his patrol vehicle.
The officer testified that he asks drivers to come back to
his patrol vehicle in 90% of traffic stops because he
sometimes needs to gather additional information from
drivers. In addition, by having Miller sitting in the
passenger seat of the patrol vehicle and conversing with him,
the officer "could try and gain suspicion while actively
filling out a citation."
Miller followed the officer back to the patrol vehicle.
Although Miller had a crutch with him and "was limping a
little bit," the district court found that "it
didn't take him an excessive amount of time to get back
to the patrol [vehicle]." Once Miller was in the
passenger seat, the officer stood at the passenger door and
asked Miller, "What'd ya do to your ankle?"
Miller told the officer how he came to be injured, and the
officer asked no follow-up questions. Within one minute, the
officer "was back on his side of the car and he began to
fill out the citation."
Over the next seven minutes, the officer filled out the
citation while conversing with Miller. The officer asked
Miller "some questions about his license and the car and
where he rented it." But "the majority of the
conversation was the defendant making conversation with the
[officer] about various topics[, ] such as children and
marriage and relationships." In reviewing the dashboard
camera recording of the conversation, the district court
found that Miller initiated much of the conversation and that
the questions the officer asked "did not take up much of
that time." The court also credited the officer's
testimony that "during this time he was filling out the
After finishing all but one section of the citation, the
officer informed Miller that he needed to call Miller's
information into dispatch. In his testimony, the officer
explained that the final section of the citation requires him
to identify the offenses or traffic code violations committed
and whether he will issue a ticket or a warning. The officer
"leave[s] the violations part, the offenses part blank
until [he hears] back from dispatch in case there's any
other offenses that [he] might be adding to the
citation." The district court accepted the officer's
testimony that "he needed to hear back from dispatch
before he could complete the citation."
The officer testified that, approximately eleven minutes
after he officer initiated the stop, he called into dispatch
for a "license records and criminal-history check."
On the dashboard camera recording, an automated voice
announces, "License is valid." The officer's
statements to dispatch are largely inaudible, but he
testified that he asked the dispatch operator to run a
criminal-history or "Triple I" check, which he
typically requests only when the driver has roused his
suspicions. The parties also agree that the officer's
request included a check for outstanding warrants. While
waiting for dispatch to respond with additional information,
the officer deployed his police service dog around
Approximately sixty seconds after the call to dispatch, the
dog alerted the officer to the presence of a controlled
substance. Several minutes after the dog signaled the alert,
dispatch responded with the results of the criminal-history
check. A subsequent search of Miller's car uncovered
seventy-one pounds of marijuana.
Motion to Suppress
The State charged Miller with one count of possessing a
controlled substance with intent to distribute and one count
of speeding. After a preliminary hearing at which the officer
testified, Miller was bound over for trial.
Miller moved to suppress all evidence discovered during the
search of his vehicle, arguing that the "search and
seizure went well beyond the time necessary to conduct and
conclude a routine traffic stop involving a speeding ticket
for going 5 over." In support of the motion, Miller
relied on the officer's testimony at the preliminary
hearing and did not request an opportunity to present further
The district court denied the motion to suppress. In an oral
ruling, the district court addressed "whether the
unrelated investigations[, ] which were some of the
questioning and the dog search, . . . had the effect of
extending [the] stop." First, the court concluded that
the officer did not measurably extend the stop by conversing
with Miller in the patrol vehicle. The court found that the
officer "said much less than [Miller]" and the
questions he did ask "were going on simultaneously with
him filling out a portion of the citation."
Second, the court concluded that the dog sniff did not
measurably extend the stop. Because the officer could not
finish the citation until he heard back from dispatch on the
records check, the court found that he could not have
completed the mission of the traffic stop within the sixty
seconds it took for the dog to alert the officer to the
presence of drugs. The court also rejected Miller's
argument that it was impermissible for the officer to fill
out a portion of the citation before calling dispatch:
Is it possible that [the officer] could have shaved off some
time if he had called dispatch first? It's possible, but
that [would be] speculation on my part . . . . [And] that
would basically be the Court holding that the [officer] has
to call dispatch immediately upon getting back to his car.
And that's micromanaging. That would be the Court telling
the officer the order in which he has to perform the duties
that are related to and permissible steps at a traffic stop.
The court concluded that the officer "was reasonably
diligent in pursuing the mission of the traffic stop"
and that "his unrelated questioning and the dog sniff
did not measurably extend the stop, but took place during the
time that he was conducting a permissible investigation that
was related to the reason for the stop."
Following the denial of his motion to suppress, Miller pled
guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to
distribute, reserving his right to appeal the district