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State v. Schmitz

Court of Appeals of Oregon

August 28, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
CECIL L. SCHMITZ, Defendant-Appellant. 299 Or.App. 170

          Argued and submitted January 17, 2019

          Wheeler County Circuit Court 16CR49015; Karen Ostrye, Judge.

          John P. Evans, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Lauren P. Robertson, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Powers, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and James, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine. Defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence, arguing that the initial stop was not justified by the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement, and that the extension of the stop was not justified by reasonable suspicion of drug possession. Held: The trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion to suppress. The initial stop was justified by the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, but the extension of the stop after the sheriff determined that there was no medical emergency was not justified by reasonable suspicion of drug possession.

          [299 Or.App. 171] POWERS, P. J.

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine, ORS 475.894, assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, defendant challenges both the initial stop and whether the extension of that stop was justified by reasonable suspicion of drug possession. As explained below, we conclude that, although the stop was justified by the emergency aid exception, the extension of the stop was not justified by specific and articulable facts particularized to defendant beyond defendant's intoxication. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         We review a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress for legal error and are bound by the court's express factual findings if evidence in the record supports them. State v. Ehly, 317 Or. 66, 75, 854 P.2d 421 (1993). "In addition, if the trial court did not make findings on all pertinent historical facts and there is evidence from which those facts could be decided more than one way, we will presume that the trial court found facts in a manner consistent with its ultimate conclusion." State v. Stevens, 311 Or. 119, 126-27, 806 P.2d 92 (1991). We describe the facts in a manner consistent with that standard.

         An employee at RJ's Restaurant called the Wheeler County Sheriffs Office to report a man, later identified as defendant, parked in a car across the street from the restaurant who was "rocking back and forth, back and forth, * * * [and] hitting his head on the steering wheel." The employee stated that she "wasn't sure if it was a medical situation, [or] if it was a drug situation, but [she] just called law enforcement and said they needed to come down and take a look at this guy." Wheeler County Sheriff Humphreys responded to the call.

         Upon arriving at the scene, Humphreys stopped his truck across the intersection from defendant's car for a short period of time to observe defendant. Humphreys testified that defendant "would like dip his whole body * * * it appeared to me like leaning over into the passenger seat, and then he came back up-and this was really quick-he [299 Or.App. 172] straightened himself out *** extending his whole body." Humphreys suspected a medical issue, specifically that defendant was having a seizure or experiencing a medical condition. Humphreys then pulled his truck nose-to-nose with defendant's car, leaving enough room for defendant to pull around the truck, and activated his overhead lights because his truck was partially blocking a lane of traffic.

         Humphreys initially asked defendant, "Do you need an ambulance?" The record does not indicate whether or not defendant responded. Although defendant was no longer arching and rocking his body when Humphreys initially made contact, Humphreys explained that he immediately suspected, based on his interaction with defendant and on his observation of defendant, that defendant was under the influence of a stimulant, specifically methamphetamine. At that point, Humphreys concluded that there was not an immediate medical emergency, so he returned to his truck, put on his body armor, activated the body camera, and returned to defendant's car.

         Humphreys asked defendant if he was okay or if he was injured, and defendant explained that he was having back and leg problems and was on some medication. Suspecting that defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine based on his jerky movements, head shaking, and body vibrations, Humphreys asked for identification. Defendant replied that it was in the trunk and, after Humphreys patted him down for weapons, he went to get it. As defendant rifled through his wallet, Humphreys noticed that defendant's body was shaking and that he was mumbling. Humphreys told defendant that he was acting "strung out" and that his eyes were "pinprick."

         Humphreys then asked for consent to search the car, which defendant gave, and he ultimately found a zippered cloth bag that had a methamphetamine pipe in it. Humphreys arrested defendant and subsequently found a plastic bag in ...


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