Monday, June 09, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 63

Summary of Decision issued June 9, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Speten v. State

Citation: 2008 WY 63

Docket Number: S-07-0253

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the John R. Perry, Judge.

Representing Appellant (Defendant): John Craig Abraham of Plains Law Offices, LLP, Gillette, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Teresa R. Nelson, Assistant Attorney General.

Facts/Discussion: Ms. Speten appealed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress as evidence methamphetamine discovered during a warrantless search of her purse.
Officers went to a commercial location to arrest Mr. Sandy. Speten was with Sandy at the time of his arrest. Speten was arrested as a result of the officers’ search of her purse. The officers stated they searched her purse to be sure she did not have any weapons and they found methamphetamine. The search was carried out without the Deputy having obtained a warrant. The Court reviewed the law governing warrantless searches as found in Hughes v. State, Pena v. State and Fenton v. State. They noted the list found in the case law is not exhaustive. Other constitutionally reasonable searches can include an inventory search of an impounded vehicle, a search of an arrestee’s companion, and the search of an arrestee’s shirt even if he is not wearing it. These holdings under state constitutional analysis were based upon officer safety concerns. The Court then reviewed the community caretaker function of law enforcement officers. In Lancaster v. State, the Court described how a community caretaker case may become an eventual arrest. The right to search or frisk for weapons arises out of the need for officer safety during an arrest, whether by warrant or not, is supported by probable cause or it arises out of the need for officer safety during an investigative detention. An officer safety concern does not necessarily exist at only one precise moment in time during an investigative detention and the Court believed the rationale of Terry would allow a limited search for weapons at any time during that detention that the officer safety concern becomes apparent.
The Court used the totality of the circumstances approach to judging reasonableness that is required for analysis under the State constitution. The Court found no facts that would support a conclusion that the greater protections of Article 1, Section 4 required reversal in the case.

Holding: Having concluded that the Deputy’s search of Speten’s purse was constitutional as a reasonable search for weapons during an investigative detention, the Court did not further consider any of the other theories and justifications discussed by the parties.


C.J. Voigt delivered the decision.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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