Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Summary 2009 WY 1

Summary of Decision issued January 13, 2009

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

Case Name: Wilson v. Wyoming

Citation: 2009 WY 1

Docket Number: S-08-0020

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, the Honorable Scott W. Skavdahl, Judge.

Representing Appellant Wilson: Tina N. Kerin, Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Public Defender; John D. King, Acting Faculty Director, Diane E. Courselle, Faculty Director, and Andy F. Sears, Student Intern, University of Wyoming Defender Aid Program.

Representing Appellee State: Bruce A. Salzburg, Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Assistant Attorney General.

Facts/Discussion: Wilson contended that the district court erred when it found that a police officer’s use of a patrol car computer to search for outstanding warrants did not constitute search and seizure. He also argued that the district court erred when it declined to find a search of Appellant’s person unconstitutional because the evidence did not support a finding that police used excessive force during the encounter.

Seizure: Initial Contact: Appellant claimed he was seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when the officer stopped him on the street and asked for his name. Under both the federal and Wyoming state constitutions, a person has been seized only if in view of all circumstances surrounding the incident a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave. The Court has stated previously that a request for identification is not by itself a seizure. In Wilson v. State (1994), the Court found that a consensual encounter with police remained consensual when a police officer requested identification and ran a computerized warrant check using that information. The seizure occurred only after the citizen complied with the officer’s order not to leave while the check was being completed.
Search: Warrant Check: In Meek the Court stated that requesting an NCIC check was not sufficient to implicate constitutional rights. The situation in the instant case is similar. The search was complete within seconds while Appellant was in a consensual conversation with the officer. Appellant was in no way detained or restricted.
Suppression: Excessive Use of Force: The Court’s review of the record indicated that the district court had almost no evidence before it that would have allowed it to conclude that the force used by officers was excessive under the circumstances.

Conclusion: The district court did not err when it determined that Appellant’s initial contact with police was consensual and that running Appellant’s name through a warrant check computer did not constitute a search for constitutional purposes. The district court did not err in declining to find a search unconstitutional where the evidence presented did not support a conclusion that officers used excessive force in the conduct of that search.


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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