City of Missoula v. Kroschel

Decision Date12 June 2018
Docket NumberDA 17-0184
Parties CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Marcy Jane KROSCHEL, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

For Appellant: Anne Hamilton (argued), Brandon Shannon, Legal Intern, ASUM Legal Services, Missoula, Montana

For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Angela Suzanne Robertson-Bakken, Missoula County Attorney, Missoula, Montana

Justice Dirk Sandefur delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Appellant Marcy Kroschel (Kroschel) appeals the judgment of the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court affirming the judgment of the City of Missoula Municipal Court denying her motion to suppress evidence. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand addressing the following restated issues:

1. Did the Municipal Court correctly conclude that police had sufficient particularized suspicion to prolong an investigatory stop of Kroschel under the Fourth Amendment and §§ 46-5-401 and -403, MCA, after database checks returned no record on the name and date of birth provided?
2. Did the Municipal Court correctly conclude that police subjected Kroschel to interrogation that did not require an advisory and waiver of constitutional rights?
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶2 On August 29, 2015, Kroschel attended a University of Montana (UM) football game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana. UM Campus Police Officer Shannon Parsons was on uniformed foot patrol at the game with the specific duty assignment of patrolling and issuing citations for underage drinking in violation of § 45-5-624, MCA (minor in possession of intoxicating substance (MIP)). On the main stadium concourse (second level), Officer Parsons encountered Kroschel and Kaitlynn O'Connell walking toward the restroom. Parsons testified that she first noticed the two young women because she saw them walking arm-in-arm, unsteady on their feet, with O'Connell physically assisting Kroschel to the restroom. Suspecting that the two had been drinking underage and concerned about Kroschel's apparent level of intoxication, Parsons approached and asked if they were okay. When they responded that they were, Officer Parsons noticed an alcoholic odor emanating from them and asked for proof of identification. O'Connell produced identification showing that she was 21 years old. When Kroschel stated that she did not have identification because it was in her coat back at her stadium seat, Parsons asked Kroschel for her UM student ID number. Kroschel answered that she was no longer a UM student and could not remember her former ID number.

¶3 Officer Parsons then asked Kroschel for her name and date of birth. Kroschel gave a misspelled name ("Marcie Krochel") and a false date of birth indicating that she was 21. Parsons ran radio dispatch checks through the UM and CJIN1 databases which returned no record on the name and date of birth given by Kroschel. Officer Parsons later testified that, in her experience in dealing with young adults on the UM campus, the absence of a record on those databases often indicates a false name. At the Municipal Court suppression hearing, Parsons testified that she asked Kroschel for her true name and date of birth at least twice with the same result. Getting no satisfactory response, Parsons asked Kroschel to accompany her "to the station" for the purpose of ascertaining her identity.

¶4 Kroschel became highly emotional and uncooperative, refused to accompany Parsons to the station, and asserted that Parsons was interfering with her desire to go home. Officer Parsons then warned Kroschel that she was obstructing Parsons' investigation and warned further that, unlike the offense of MIP, the offense of obstructing a peace officer is a jailable offense. In her subsequent testimony, Parsons explained that her purpose in so warning Kroschel was not to threaten or coerce her but, rather, "to give her information so that she could make the decision to tell me her correct name and date of birth." When Kroschel attempted to walk away, Officer Parsons physically grabbed her by the elbow, told her that they were "going to the station," and then physically "guided" her to and down the stairway. On the way down, Kroschel began to walk compliantly and Parsons released her grip. Parsons did not formally arrest Kroschel but later testified that Kroschel was not free to go until Parsons could verify her true identity. Kroschel testified that she was crying, scared, and repeatedly told the officer that she did not want to go with her.

¶5 At the bottom of the stairway, as they approached a ground floor stadium gate, Parsons and Kroschel encountered another UM police officer on underage drinking patrol, Detective Chris Croft. Detective Croft then subjected Kroschel to a second round of questioning as to her true name and date of birth. As Croft questioned Kroschel, Officer Parsons ordered Kroschel's friend away, leaving Kroschel alone with the officers. Unable to confirm Kroschel's identity and age, and unsatisfied with her responses, the two police officers walked Kroschel to a secluded room in an adjoining concessions building connected to the stadium where they sat her down in a closed room for a third round of questioning about her true identity and date of birth.

¶6 Alone with two police officers behind a closed door in a secluded room, Kroschel continued to give the same misspelled name and false date of birth in response to Detective Croft's repeated questioning. Kroschel later testified that it was clear that she was not free to leave. Kroschel eventually relented and gave the officers her true name and date of birth. Another UM database check confirmed that she was in fact a 20-year-old UM student. After issuing Kroschel a notice to appear before the Missoula Municipal Court on the misdemeanor offenses of MIP and obstructing a police officer, Officer Parsons released Kroschel without further incident.

¶7 Kroschel appeared before the Municipal Court and later moved for suppression of the State's evidence of her age, date of birth, and the fact that she gave false information to police, on the asserted ground that the police unreasonably prolonged the initial investigative stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 11 of the Montana Constitution, and § 46-5-401, MCA. Kroschel further asserted that police subjected her to a custodial interrogation without a rights advisory in violation of the Fifth Amendment and Article II, Section 25 of the Montana Constitution. In denying the motion, the Municipal Court first ruled that Officer Parsons validly stopped and briefly questioned Kroschel on the main stadium concourse based on particularized suspicion of criminal activity as permissible under the Fourth Amendment. The Court ruled further that, though the stop ripened into a custodial interrogation which generally requires a constitutional rights advisory under the Fifth Amendment, no rights advisory was necessary in this case because the information sought by police (name, age, and date of birth) was merely non-incriminating, "basic biographical data." At a subsequent non-jury trial, the Municipal Court found Kroschel guilty of being a minor in possession of alcohol but not guilty of obstructing a peace officer. Kroschel timely appealed the Municipal Court's suppression ruling to the District Court. The District Court affirmed2 and Kroschel now timely appeals to this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶8 On appeal from a municipal court of record, district courts function as intermediate courts of appeal with the scope of review "confined to review of the record and questions of law." Sections 3-5-303 and 3-6-110(1), MCA ; State v. Luke , 2014 MT 22, ¶ 9, 373 Mont. 398, 321 P.3d 70.3 On appeal of a lower court judgment following intermediate appeal, we review the lower court record independently of the district court as if appealed directly to this Court without district court review. State v. Maile , 2017 MT 154, ¶ 7, 388 Mont. 33, 396 P.3d 1270 ; Stanley v. Lemire , 2006 MT 304, ¶¶ 25-26, 334 Mont. 489, 148 P.3d 643. Upon independent review of the lower court record, our standard of review is whether the lower court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous, whether its conclusions of law are correct, and, as applicable, whether the lower court abused its discretion. State v. Davis , 2016 MT 206, ¶¶ 5-6, 384 Mont. 388, 378 P.3d 1192. Accord State v. Kasparek , 2016 MT 163, ¶ 6, 384 Mont. 56, 375 P.3d 372 (standard of review of a lower court ruling on a motion to suppress evidence is whether the court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous and whether the court correctly applied the governing law).

DISCUSSION

¶9 1. Did the Municipal Court correctly conclude that police had sufficient particularized suspicion to prolong the investigatory stop of Kroschel under the Fourth Amendment and §§ 46-5-401 and -403, MCA, after database checks returned no record on the name and date of birth provided?

¶10 The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 11 of the Montana Constitution similarly prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. As a procedural component of these protections, government searches and seizures must generally occur pursuant to a judicial warrant issued on probable cause. U.S. Const. amend. IV ("no Warrants" for search or seizure "shall issue, but upon probable cause") and Mont. Const. art. II, § 11 ("No warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing shall issue ... without probable cause"). A constitutional seizure of a person occurs when a government officer "in some way" restrains a person's liberty by means of physical force or show of authority that, under the totality of the circumstances, would cause an objectively reasonable person to believe that the person is not free to leave...

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