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State v. Meeker

Court of Appeals of Oregon

July 25, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JACOB HENRY MEEKER, aka Jacob H. Meeker, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted December 21, 2016

          Clatsop County Circuit Court 14CR22164; Philip L. Nelson, Judge.

          Kali Montague, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. Also on the briefs was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Jamie Contreras, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. On the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Nani Apo, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DeVore, Presiding Judge, and Garrett, Judge, and Powers, Judge. [*]

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for possession of heroin, ORS 475.854, and possession of a controlled substance in Schedule III, ORS 475.752(3)(c), assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it determined that the seizure of defendant was justified by the officer safety exception to the warrant requirement under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. Held: The trial court erred in determining that the seizure was justified by the deputy's reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that defendant might pose an immediate threat of serious physical injury to the deputy. The deputy did not articulate sufficient facts specific to defendant that could have given rise to an objectively reasonable concern for his safety.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [293 Or.App. 83] POWERS, J.

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for possession of heroin, ORS 475.854, and possession of a controlled substance in Schedule III, ORS 475.752(3)(c), assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it determined that the seizure of defendant was justified by the officer safety exception to the warrant requirement under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. We agree. The trial court erred in determining that the seizure was justified by the deputy's reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that defendant might pose an immediate threat of serious physical injury to the deputy. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         We review the denial of defendant's motion to suppress for legal error and, in doing so, "we are bound by the trial court's factual findings if there is any constitutionally sufficient evidence in the record to support them." State v. Maciel-Figueroa, 361 Or. 163, 165-66, 389 P.3d 1121 (2017). To the extent that the trial court did not make express findings regarding disputed facts, we will presume that the court found the facts in a manner consistent with its ultimate conclusion, provided that the evidence would support such findings. Id. at 166. We describe the facts below in a manner consistent with those standards of review.

         Deputies Armstrong and Walker were both driving in separate patrol vehicles toward a rock quarry to complete some night training. On the way to the quarry, a vehicle in front of them turned onto a gravel logging road. Armstrong thought that the vehicle turning onto the road was suspicious because it was a small vehicle and it turned onto a gravel logging road, but both deputies continued driving toward the quarry. When the deputies reached the quarry, they discovered that the gate to the quarry was locked, so the deputies turned around, headed back in the direction they came, and turned onto the gravel logging road to do their training.

         Both patrol vehicles turned onto the gravel road, a narrow road slightly wider than two vehicles. Armstrong was in the lead vehicle, with Walker about three car-lengths [293 Or.App. 84] behind. Armstrong saw the small vehicle stopped, facing toward him, with its headlights on. As Armstrong continued to drive toward the vehicle, the vehicle started moving and slowly passed him. As the vehicle passed Armstrong's vehicle, both defendant and Armstrong started to roll down their windows, but Armstrong did not attempt to stop the vehicle.

         Then, as the small vehicle approached Walker's vehicle, Walker rolled down his window without turning on his overhead lights, spotlight, or siren. Walker asked defendant, in a conversational tone, if defendant would be willing to talk to him. Defendant said that he would, so Walker pulled his vehicle forward a few more feet so that there was enough room to get out of his vehicle. As Walker walked back toward defendant's vehicle, he observed defendant quickly reach toward the passenger side of the vehicle. Because it was dark, Walker was unable to see what defendant was reaching for and was unable to see into the vehicle. In a commanding tone, Walker then ordered defendant to show him his hands. Walker testified that he requested to see defendant's hands because he feared for his safety:

"Being that it's a-there's no streetlights or anything in that area, very little ambient light that night, I couldn't see inside the cab. That area is a common area ...

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