Monday, August 06, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 123

Summary of Decision issued August 2, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Case Name: Marinaro v. State

Citation: 2007 WY 123

Docket Number: S-07-0014

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, Honorable Nicholas Kalokathis, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Dion J. Custis, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Patrick J. Crank, Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Paul S. Rehurek, Senior Assistant Attorney General

Date of Decision: August 2, 2007

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion or erred as a matter of law in denying the appellant’s motion to suppress the evidence found in his car during a traffic stop.

Facts/Discussion: During the course of a legal detention of an individual, law enforcement officers may pose questions to that person that are unrelated to the underlying purpose of the seizure and that are not independently justified by reasonable suspicion. Additionally, suspicionless questioning of a motorist by a law enforcement officer during the course of a traffic stop regarding weapons and contraband is not a Fourth Amendment violation so long as it does not extend the duration of the traffic stop. In the present action, the hearing transcript and the videotape of the traffic stop establish quite clearly that (1) the appellant does not challenge the validity of the initial traffic stop; (2) the brief questioning in the patrol car did not extend the period of detention necessary to write out the warning tickets; and (3) the appellant consented to the questioning in the patrol car, he consented to the questioning after he exited the patrol car, and he consented to the search of his car.
In examining the totality of the circumstances to determine whether these consents were voluntary, such factors as the way the requests were phrased by the officer, whether the individual was told he could refuse the request, and the presence of other coercive factors are examined. Once again, the hearing transcript and the videotape of the traffic stop in the present action to point out that: (1) the entire traffic stop was very brief (2) the trooper’s conduct throughout was professional, courteous, and completely non-coercive; and (3) all of the consents given by the appellant were unhesitant and immediate.

Holdings: The “coercive factors” present during this traffic stop are the same “coercive factors” that are present at every traffic stop: an armed and uniformed officer, plus the flashing lights on the patrol car. In the present case, the appellant knew that he was free to go because the trooper had told him he could go. His departure was stopped only by his consent to a non-demanding, relatively cordial request by the trooper to ask more questions. A reasonable person in the appellant’s position at that time would have felt that he could have said “no” and proceeded on his way. Thus, the evidence in this case was discovered via the voluntary consent of the appellant.


C. J. Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

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