Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 136

Summary of Decision September 28, 2011

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

Case Name:  Dickey v. State of Wyo.           

Citation:  2011 WY 136

Docket Number: S-11-0036

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

Representing Appellant (Defendant):  Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellant Counsel; Kirk A. Morgan, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Public Defender Program

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General

 Date of Decision: September 28, 2011

Facts:  Sheriff’s deputies stopped a pickup truck driven by Appellant after observing it cross the center line on three occasions.  After gathering the appropriate documents from Appellant and her passenger, the deputies returned to their patrol car. Shortly thereafter, dispatch reported that Appellant and her passenger had no outstanding warrants, although both had a history of contacts with law enforcement regarding controlled substances.  At that point, knowing that the sheriff’s department did not have a canine unit on duty, the deputies called the local police department and requested that a drug dog be brought to the scene.

The deputy began writing a warning citation for Appellant’s failure to maintain a single lane of travel.  Before he issued the citation, the police officer arrived with his drug dog and conducted an exterior sniff of the truck.  Approximately thirteen and one-half minutes into the stop, the dog alerted to the presence of controlled substances.  The police officer searched the truck’s interior and discovered a purse underneath the passenger seat, which contained a syringe loaded with methamphetamine and a copy of Appellant’s birth certificate.  Appellant was taken into custody and charged with possession of a controlled substance, her third or subsequent such offense, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(i)(C) (LexisNexis 2011).

Appellant filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine found in her purse, claiming it was the product of an unlawful detention.  Appellant and the State later agreed that an evidentiary hearing would not be necessary to resolve the suppression motion and filed a stipulation to that effect.  They also stipulated that the district court could rely on the relevant pleadings, a video of the traffic stop, and an audio recording of Appellant’s preliminary hearing in deciding the merits of her motion.  After considering that information, the district court denied the motion. 

Appellant entered a conditional guilty plea to the possession charge, reserving the right to appeal the district court’s suppression ruling.  The district court sentenced her to eighteen to thirty-six months, which it suspended in favor of four years of supervised probation.  This appeal followed.

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it failed to suppress evidence obtained in violation of Appellants Fourth Amendment rights after law enforcement extended a traffic stop beyond the time reasonably required to complete the issuance of the citations, without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Holdings:  The Court affirmed the district court’s suppression ruling.  After examining the entire record and considering the length of the detention in conjunction with the investigative methods employed therein, the Court concluded that Appellant’s detention lasted no longer than necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop, and that its duration was reasonable.  The dog sniff occurred while Appellant was being lawfully detained and, as Appellant acknowledged, the use of the drug dog during her lawful detention did not violate any constitutionally protected right.  After the drug dog alerted to the presence of controlled substances, the officer and deputies had probable cause to search the vehicle.  Consequently, the district court did not err by denying Appellant’s motion to suppress the methamphetamine evidence. Affirmed.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

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