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State v. Malloy

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 11, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Robert Dennis Malloy, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Todd M. Shaughnessy No. 161903789

          Andrea J. Garland and Elise C. Lockwood, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Jeffrey S. Gray, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Robert Dennis Malloy entered a conditional guilty plea under rule 11(j) of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure to one count of driving under the influence in exchange for the State dismissing one count each of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession or use of a controlled substance. On appeal, Malloy contends the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the paraphernalia and controlled-substance evidence that he alleges was discovered in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Because the officer had the authority to open the door to Malloy's vehicle to investigate whether Malloy was an impaired driver, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 After receiving a report from an eyewitness, police dispatch notified an officer of "a DUI accident" in a fast food parking lot. The caller who reported the accident told dispatch that the driver had fallen asleep and hit a light pole. According to the caller, the driver then awoke, backed away from the pole, and fell asleep again. The officer arrived at the scene and parked behind the vehicle described in the report. Still on the scene, the eyewitness provided his identifying information and confirmed his report. The eyewitness also told the officer that he thought the driver was unconscious and might be dead.

         ¶3 The officer approached the vehicle and peered into the window "just long enough" to see that the driver was "kind of slumped, slouched forward" and appeared to be unconscious. Without knocking or announcing his presence, the officer opened the door to check on the welfare of the driver, Malloy. According to the officer, upon opening the door, Malloy awoke and the officer observed a drug pipe on the floor between Malloy's feet.

         ¶4 After waiving his Miranda[1] rights, Malloy explained to the officer that he had taken some narcotics for foot pain. Malloy underwent a series of field sobriety tests, which showed "[i]ndications of drug impairment." Malloy was arrested for driving under the influence and a search incident to arrest revealed that Malloy was in possession of heroin. Malloy was charged with driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a controlled substance.

         ¶5 Malloy moved to suppress the possession charges, arguing that the officer searched his vehicle without probable cause in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. He argued that the emergency aid doctrine was the "appropriate analysis to apply" but that "the intrusion [was] not justified under the facts of this case." He further argued that the officer should have knocked on the door or window of the vehicle, because doing so would have provided a "simple, non-intrusive" means of attempting to determine whether a medical emergency existed, and if Malloy "had not stirred or responded, those facts would have supported [the officer's] search of the vehicle." In its opposition, the State argued that the emergency aid exception to the Fourth Amendment allowed the officer to open the door to Malloy's vehicle and investigate whether he required medical attention.

         ¶6 Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied Malloy's motion to suppress. The court concluded that the evidence-including "the nature of the information that was provided to the officer in connection with being dispatched on the call, coupled with the information that was provided to the officer on scene," and the officer's own observation of a driver who appeared unresponsive-"warranted . . . a minimal intrusion of simply opening the door" to see if Malloy required emergency aid.[2]

         ¶7 A few months later, Malloy entered a conditional guilty plea under rule 11(j) of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure in which he agreed to plead guilty to driving under the influence and reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. In exchange, the State offered to dismiss the possession charges, which the ...


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