656 A.2d 409 (N.H. 1995), 93-820, State v. Sterndale

Docket Nº:93-820.
Citation:656 A.2d 409, 139 N.H. 445
Opinion Judge:BROCK, C. J.
Party Name:The STATE of New Hampshire v. Kimberly STERNDALE.
Attorney:Jeffrey R. Howard, Atty. Gen. (Cynthia L. White, Asst. Atty. Gen., on the brief and orally), for State., Kinghorn & Maynard, P.A., Nashua, (Eric R. Wilson on the brief and orally), for defendant. Jeffrey R. Howard, attorney general (Cynthia L. White, assistant attorney general, on the brief and ...
Judge Panel:All concurred.
Case Date:March 23, 1995
Court:Supreme Court of New Hampshire
 
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Page 409

656 A.2d 409 (N.H. 1995)

139 N.H. 445

The STATE of New Hampshire

v.

Kimberly STERNDALE.

No. 93-820.

Supreme Court of New Hampshire.

March 23, 1995

[139 N.H. 446] Jeffrey R. Howard, Atty. Gen. (Cynthia L. White, Asst. Atty. Gen., on the brief and orally), for State.

Kinghorn & Maynard, P.A., Nashua, (Eric R. Wilson on the brief and orally), for defendant.

BROCK, Chief Justice.

In this interlocutory transfer, the State appeals a ruling of the Superior Court (Murphy, J.) granting the defendant's motion to suppress certain evidence. The State argues that the search that uncovered the evidence was proper: (1) as a search incident to arrest; (2) under the exigent circumstances exception to the State constitutional warrant requirement; or (3) under the automobile exception to the State constitutional warrant requirement. We affirm and remand.

On April 26, 1993, Officer Kirk Gautier of the Nashua Police Department was on routine patrol in a marked police cruiser. At approximately 6:40 p.m., Officer Gautier observed an automobile make an abrupt turn

Page 410

without using its directional signal. Gautier followed the car and estimated its speed to be forty-two miles per hour. He activated the blue lights atop his police cruiser, and the vehicle slowed down but did not stop immediately. Gautier observed the driver, the sole occupant of the car, bend down and to the right and return to an upright position. Gautier then saw the driver turn to the right, grab a brown object and place it toward the rear of the vehicle.

The automobile Gautier was following came to a stop at the intersection of Walnut and High Streets in Nashua. Officer Gautier approached the car and asked the driver, the defendant, for her license and registration. She responded that she had neither, at which point [139 N.H. 447] Gautier explained that he had stopped her for speeding. While speaking with the defendant, Gautier detected what he believed to be the odor of burning or burnt marijuana, which he brought to her attention. The defendant, according to Officer Gautier, admitted that she had just smoked a "joint," or marijuana cigarette.

Gautier then asked the defendant what she had put under the seat when she bent down and to the right. The defendant replied that she had not put anything under the seat. Thereupon the officer directed the defendant to exit the vehicle and step to the sidewalk with him, where they were met by Officer George McCarthy, who had arrived at the scene to assist Officer Gautier. While the defendant waited with Officer McCarthy, Officer Gautier returned to the defendant's car and looked under the passenger seat, where he found an ashtray containing partially burnt marijuana cigarettes...

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