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State v. Hernandez

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 2, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CESAR ZAVALA HERNANDEZ, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted September 29, 2017

          Washington County Circuit Court C152457CR; Beth L. Roberts, Judge.

          Leigh A. Salmon, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for appellant.

          Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Erin J. Snyder-Severe, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for respondent.

          Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: The state appeals an order granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in defendant's car after his arrest for interfering with a peace officer. Defendant was arrested after he repeatedly reached under his dashboard during a traffic stop despite a peace officer's orders that he not do that. The trial court concluded that the search was not a valid search incident to arrest on the ground that the officer could not reasonably have believed that he would find evidence of the crime of arrest because he already had all evidence necessary to establish a prima facie case for interfering with a peace officer. On appeal, the state argues that the search was a valid search incident to arrest because the officer looked under the dashboard to determine defendant's motive for disobeying the order. Held: The trial court erred in granting defendant's suppression motion. It was reasonable for the officer to believe that evidence of defendant's motive would be concealed in the location where defendant reached, and evidence bearing on defendant's motive for disobeying the officer's orders was reasonably [299 Or.App. 545] related to the crime of arrest. Therefore, the officer's search was a valid search incident to arrest.

         [299 Or.App. 546] ARMSTRONG, P. J.

         The state appeals an order granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in defendant's car following his arrest for interfering with a peace officer. Because we conclude that the officer's search was related to the crime of arrest and reasonable under the circumstances, we reverse and remand.

         When reviewing a trial court's decision on a motion to suppress, we are bound by that court's factual findings "if there is constitutionally sufficient evidence in the record to support those findings." State v. Ehly, 317 Or. 66, 75, 854 P.2d 421 (1993). Under that standard of review, the facts are as follows.

         Officer Mace stopped defendant for several traffic infractions. Defendant got out of his car after Mace stopped him, but he then sat back down in the driver's seat, leaving the door open. Because the car door remained open, Mace conducted the stop while standing in front of the "wedge" between the open door and the vehicle frame. During his interaction with Mace, defendant appeared extremely nervous; he misspelled his last name and told Mace that he had left his license in his truck, so he did not have it with him in the car that he was driving.

         Mace also saw defendant reach several times beneath the dashboard of the car. Mace testified that defendant appeared to be reaching toward the area under the driver's side of the dashboard where the fuse box would be located. Fearing for his safety, Mace told defendant to stop reaching under the dash. Defendant responded that he was reaching for his license, which contradicted his earlier statement that he had left his license in a different vehicle. Less than a minute later, defendant quickly reached under the dash for a fourth and final time. At that point, Mace grabbed defendant before defendant's hand disappeared from view under the dashboard because he feared that defendant was reaching for a weapon.

         Mace then removed defendant from the vehicle to arrest him for interfering with a peace officer and, with [299 Or.App. 547] the assistance of his partner, placed defendant against the side of the vehicle to handcuff him. While defendant was still pinned against the vehicle, Mace leaned in through the driver's side doorway and looked underneath the dash where defendant had been reaching. Mace saw a plastic baggie sticking ...


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