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State v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 19, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL STEVEN EVANS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted November 25, 2015

         Coos County Circuit Court 13CR1127 Michael J. Gillespie, Judge.

          Peter Gartlan, Chief Defender, and Meredith Allen, Deputy Public Defender, Office of Public Defense Services, fled the opening brief for appellant. Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Meredith Allen, Deputy Public Defender, Office of Public Defense Services, fled the reply brief.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Susan G. Howe, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Hadlock, Chief Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case summary: Defendant appeals a judgment convicting him of unlawful possession of methamphetamine. Defendant assigns error to the trial court's admission of evidence that was obtained by a state trooper during the traffic stop of a vehicle in which defendant was a passenger. He argues that the state trooper discovered the evidence only after violating defendant's state and federal constitutional right against unlawful seizure by questioning the driver, after the traffic stop was completed and outside the defendant's presence, about her black eye and whether defendant had assaulted her. Held: The trooper did not violate defendant's Article I, section 9, right against unlawful seizure, because defendant, as the passenger in the vehicle, was never "seized." The trooper did not make a show of authority as to defendant and did not restrain defendant's liberty by questioning the driver about whether defendant had assaulted her. The trooper also did not violate defendant's Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizure, because the trooper had reasonable suspicion to extend the traffic stop to investigate domestic assault by defendant against the driver.

          ORTEGA, P. J.

         Defendant appeals his conviction for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, ORS 475.894. He assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence that was obtained after a state trooper, according to defendant, unlawfully extended a traffic stop of the truck in which defendant was a passenger. He contends that he was the subject of an unlawful seizure during the stop, under both Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution[1] and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, [2] and that the evidence was obtained only as a result of the trooper's violation of defendant's rights against unlawful seizure. We conclude that defendant was not unlawfully seized under either Article I, section 9, or the Fourth Amendment, and therefore affirm the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress.

         The parties do not dispute the following facts. At about 2:30 p.m., Trooper Crutchfield was patrolling Coos River Highway, near Coos Bay, when she saw a pickup truck crossing over the fog line on the right side of the highway. Crutchfield initiated a traffic stop for the violation of failure to drive within a lane, ORS 811.370, approached the driver's side of the truck, and recognized the driver as someone Crutchfield had encountered in her previous employment as a corrections officer. As Crutchfield explained the reason for the stop, she noticed that the driver was "clearly visibly upset, " appeared to have been crying, and had a black eye that "appeared to be older in color." Crutchfield asked the driver about the black eye, and defendant, seated on the passenger side of the truck, answered that the driver had fallen off a ladder, an explanation that the trooper disbelieved because it was inconsistent with the injury.

         Crutchfield continued to address her questions to the driver, who admitted that she did not have a valid license, and defendant handed Crutchfield the truck's registration, stating that the truck belonged to him and was not insured. Crutchfield returned to her car with the truck's registration and contacted dispatch about both the driver's and defendant's driving privileges, to determine if one of them could drive the truck away. She determined that the two shared the same last name.

         Based on her observations of the driver and defendant's response to Crutchfield's question about the black eye, Crutchfield was concerned that the driver might have been physically assaulted by defendant and might be in danger of being physically harmed again. Consequently, when Crutchfield returned to the driver with the truck's registration, she asked the driver to step out of the truck so that they could have a conversation outside of defendant's hearing. Once the driver had gone to the back of the truck with Crutchfield, she asked the driver if defendant had hit or hurt her. Crutchfield wanted to offer her services, and even offered to "take her myself, " but the driver declined help. During their "lengthy conversation, " though, Crutchfield noticed that the driver had "physical signs on her that were consistent with *** prolonged methamphetamine use." Crutchfield was aware, from her previous contacts with the driver, that she had used methamphetamine in the past, and asked the driver if she was using the drug. The driver admitted that she was and that there were used syringes in the truck under the driver's seat, and she gave Crutchfield permission to retrieve those items.

         Crutchfield then returned to the truck and explained to defendant what the driver had said about the used syringes and that she had given Crutchfield permission to retrieve those items. Crutchfield asked defendant if the syringes belonged only to the driver or if defendant claimed ownership of them as well. Defendant admitted that the syringes belonged to both him and the driver and gave Crutchfield consent to retrieve the items under the driver's seat and to search the rest of the truck.

         Crutchfield's search under the driver's seat produced a black bag containing not only the used syringes, but metal spoons with a white residue and cotton pieces. The spoons were later sent to the Oregon State Police forensics lab where the white residue tested positive for methamphet-amine, and defendant was ultimately indicted for one count of possession of methamphetamine. After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of that charge.

         Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, arguing primarily that Crutchfield violated defendant's state and federal constitutional rights against unlawful seizure when, after she completed the traffic stop, she investigated, without reasonable suspicion, whether the driver had been the victim of domestic assault by defendant. Defendant argued that, because the evidence was obtained as the result of the unlawful seizure of defendant, it should be suppressed. The state responded that, for the purposes of Article I, section 9, defendant, as the passenger in the traffic stop, was never "seized, " because Crutchfield never exhibited a show of authority against, or used physical force on, defendant. The state ...


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