Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Bliss

Supreme Court of Oregon

August 9, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Respondent on Review,
v.
JACOB REGINALD BLISS, Petitioner on Review.

          Argued and submitted November 9, 2017

          On review from the Court of Appeals (CC 14C41783) (CA A157214). [*]

          Ingrid A. MacFarlane, Chief Deputy Defender, Office of Public Defense Services, Salem, argued the cause and filed the brief for the petitioner on review. Also on the brief were Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, and Laura E. Coffin, Deputy Public Defender.

          Carson Whitehead, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause for the respondent on review. Rebecca M. Auten, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, filed the brief for the respondent on review. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Walters, Chief Justice, and Balmer, Kistler, Nakamoto, Flynn, Duncan, and Nelson, Justices. [**]

         [363 Or. 427] Case Summary: Before defendant's trial on drug charges, defendant moved to suppress evidence that was seized from his car during a warrantless search after he was stopped by a police officer for a traffic infraction. Defendant argued that, because he had been stopped for a traffic infraction rather than in connection with a crime, the police officer's failure to obtain a warrant was not excused by the automobile exception to the warrant requirement of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The trial court rejected that argument and declined to suppress the evidence, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Held: The warrantless search of defendant's car fell within the automobile exception to the warrant requirement because defendant's car was mobile at the time that the police officer lawfully stopped it for a traffic infraction and the officer had probable cause to believe that the car contained evidence of a crime at the time of the search.

         The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.

         [363 Or. 428] BALMER, J.

         In this criminal case, defendant sought to suppress evidence discovered in a warrantless search of his car, asserting that, because he had been stopped for a traffic infraction rather than in connection with a crime, the police officer's failure to obtain a warrant was not excused by the automobile exception to the warrant requirement of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution.[1] The trial court ruled that the automobile exception applied and that no warrant was necessary. It therefore declined to suppress the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Bliss, 283 Or.App. 833, 390 P.3d 1099 (2017). For the reasons set out below, we affirm the ruling of the trial court and the decision of the Court of Appeals.

         We review a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress for errors of law, and we are bound by the trial court's findings of historical facts if there is evidence in the record to support them. State v. Maciel-Figueroa, 361 Or. 163, 165-66, 389 P.3d 1121 (2017).

         In March 2014, a police officer stopped defendant for speeding after observing him driving 79 miles per hour in a 60-mile-per-hour zone. The officer approached the car and asked defendant for his license and registration. Defendant appeared to be very nervous and he was sweating heavily. A strong odor of marijuana emanated from the car. The officer's check of defendant's records revealed that defendant did not own the car, that the license plates on the car were registered to a different car, and that defendant was a state and federal parolee. While the officer questioned defendant, defendant repeatedly reached under the seat. Based on defendant's conduct in reaching under the seat, his nervous demeanor, the fact that he was on parole, and the odor of marijuana coming from the car, the officer became concerned that defendant was concealing a weapon [363 Or. 429] in the car. The officer asked defendant to step out of the car and then patted him down to check for weapons. The officer did not find any weapons on defendant's person, but he felt a small, thin pipe with a bulbous end and a two- to three-inch stem. The officer asked defendant if that object was a methamphetamine pipe, and defendant responded that it was. The officer removed the pipe from defendant's pocket and saw that it contained some burned residue in the bowl. The officer also found a small piece of wadded up plastic containing a powder residue. The officer believed that the residue in the pipe and plastic was methamphetamine. The officer arrested defendant and placed him in the patrol car.

         Because, in the officer's experience, users of illegal drugs often carry weapons and drugs in their cars, the officer then searched the car for weapons and other drugs. The officer found drug paraphernalia in the car and two packaged bags of marijuana in a backpack in the trunk. Finally, the officer searched defendant's wallet and found a small paper-fold containing a white powdered substance that the officer thought was methamphetamine.

         Defendant was charged with one count of delivery of marijuana, one count of possession of methamphetamine, and one count of possession of four ounces or more of marijuana. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the evidence that was found in the search of his person and his car, as well as the statement that he made to the officer confirming the existence of the methamphetamine pipe in his pocket. Among other things, defendant asserted that the warrantless search of his car for contraband was not justified by the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Defendant contended that the automobile exception applies only in cases in which a police officer encounters a moving vehicle in connection with the investigation of a crime. Therefore, defendant argued, because the officer had stopped defendant for a traffic infraction and only later, during the course of the stop, developed probable cause to search the car for evidence of a crime, the exception did not apply and a warrant was required.

         The trial court denied the motion to suppress, ruling that, because the police officer lawfully stopped the car [363 Or. 430] and lawfully developed probable cause to search the car for evidence of a crime, the warrantless search of the car was justified under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. The trial court also denied defendant's motion to suppress the evidence found on his person and defendant's statement concerning the methamphetamine pipe. The prosecutor dismissed the second and third counts against defendant, and, after a stipulated facts trial, the court convicted defendant of one count of delivery of marijuana.

         Defendant appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals, repeating his argument that the automobile exception does not apply when a defendant has been stopped for a traffic infraction and not in connection with a crime. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument and affirmed defendant's conviction. Bliss, 283 Or.App. at 842.

         On review, defendant continues to press his argument that, under this court's case law, Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution requires a police officer to obtain a warrant before searching a vehicle when the officer stops the vehicle for a traffic violation and only develops probable cause to search the vehicle for evidence of a crime during the stop. Notably, defendant does not argue that the initial traffic stop was unlawful, nor does he dispute that the officer had probable cause to conclude, at the time of the search and based on his observations and interactions with defendant, that the car contained contraband or evidence of a crime. Rather, his sole argument is that the automobile exception does not apply when the initial stop is for a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.