State v. Beauchesne

Decision Date04 March 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2004–011.,2004–011.
CourtNew Hampshire Supreme Court
Parties The STATE of New Hampshire v. John BEAUCHESNE.

Kelly A. Ayotte, attorney general (Jane E. Young, senior assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

Dawnangela Minton, assistant appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief, and Andrew S. Winters, assistant appellate defender, of Concord, orally, for the defendant.


Following a bench trial on stipulated facts, the defendant, John Beauchesne, was convicted of possession of cocaine, see RSA 318–B:2 (2004), possession of marijuana, see RSA 318–B:26 (2004), and resisting detention, see RSA 642:2 (1996). On appeal, he challenges his convictions for possession of cocaine and marijuana, arguing that the Superior Court (O'Neill , J.) erroneously denied his motion to suppress the cocaine and marijuana. The defendant does not challenge his conviction for resisting detention. We reverse and remand.

The trial court found the following facts. On September 27, 2002, Detective Peter Morelli of the Derry Police Department was on duty patrolling downtown Derry. Detective Morelli was in an unmarked cruiser, wearing street clothes and "on the lookout for ‘drug crime.’ " Although Detective Morelli testified that he previously had investigated drug transactions in the area he was patrolling, he also testified that a drug transaction was no more likely to occur there than any other area in Derry.

At approximately 6:30 p.m., Detective Morelli observed two men standing in an alley off Railroad Avenue. One man was straddling a bike. The defendant was facing the man on the bike. Detective Morelli saw the defendant hand something small and "unidentifiable" to the man straddling the bike, then turn and walk toward the street.

Believing that he had just witnessed a drug transaction, Detective Morelli stopped and exited his cruiser, made eye contact with the defendant and motioned for the defendant to approach him. The defendant did not respond and walked away. Detective Morelli then yelled to the defendant, identifying himself as a police officer and ordering the defendant to stop.

The defendant again did not respond and continued walking away.

Detective Morelli followed the defendant on foot. When he saw that the defendant was running away, Detective Morelli again yelled that he was a police officer and ordered the defendant to stop. The defendant continued to run and Detective Morelli followed him. Detective Morelli eventually caught up with the defendant and attempted to grab him. The defendant, however, fell to the ground. During his fall, the defendant either dropped or threw a plastic bag containing a green vegetative matter, which Detective Morelli was able to identify immediately as marijuana. Detective Morelli then fell over the defendant.

Detective Morelli arrested the defendant for resisting detention and possessing marijuana. Detective Morelli subsequently searched the defendant's person and discovered a quantity of cocaine.

The defendant moved to suppress the cocaine and marijuana obtained as a result of the seizure because Detective Morelli lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion when he first ordered the defendant to stop. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that under California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 626, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991), the defendant was not seized until he "fell and thus submitted to the detective's show of authority," at which time Detective Morelli had reasonable, articulable suspicion that the defendant had committed a crime.

On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in ruling that, under Part I, Article 19 of the State Constitution, the defendant was not seized until he submitted to Detective Morelli's show of authority. To that end, the defendant argues that we should not adopt the holding in Hodari D. , which requires submission to a show of authority, for determining when a seizure occurs under the State Constitution. In addition, the defendant argues that because he was seized for State constitutional purposes when Detective Morelli ordered him to stop, the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the cocaine and marijuana because the detective lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion at the time of the seizure.

I. Preservation

We must first determine whether the defendant preserved the State constitutional issue. The State argues that because the defendant never argued that the Hodari D. rule should be rejected as a matter of State constitutional law, the defendant did not preserve the issue of whether Part I, Article 19 of the State Constitution provides greater protection than the Fourth Amendment. We disagree.

Since State v. Ball, 124 N.H. 226, 232, 471 A.2d 347 (1983), we have consistently followed the "primacy" approach to adjudication of constitutional issues. See Williams, In the Glare of the Supreme Court: Continuing Methodology and Legitimacy Problems in Independent State Constitutional Rights Adjudication , 72 Notre Dame L.Rev. 1015, 1018 (1997). This means that when a defendant specifically invokes the State Constitution, we will consider those constitutional claims before addressing federal claims. State v. Dellorfano, 128 N.H. 628, 632, 517 A.2d 1163 (1986). Nonetheless, decisions from the United States Supreme Court are important in our State constitutional analysis. We scrutinize these decisions and, if they are logically persuasive and well reasoned, paying due regard to precedent and policies underlying specific constitutional guarantees, such decisions may properly claim persuasive weight as guideposts when interpreting State constitutional guarantees. See Brennan, State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights , 90 Harv. L.Rev. 489, 502 (1977). As our former colleague, Justice Souter, observed, "If we place too much reliance on federal precedent we will render the State rules a mere row of shadows; if we place too little, we will render State practice incoherent." State v. Bradberry, 129 N.H. 68, 83, 522 A.2d 1380 (1986) (Souter, J., concurring).

Given the significance of State constitutional analysis, the defendant must raise the State constitutional issue in the trial court and the defendant's brief must specifically invoke a provision of the State Constitution. Dellorfano, 128 N.H. at 632, 517 A.2d 1163. The State does not argue that the defendant's brief does not specifically invoke a provision of the State constitution. Instead, the State argues that the defendant did not adequately raise the Part I, Article 19 issue in the trial court because at no point did trial counsel explicitly urge the trial court not to follow Hodari D.

The defendant raised the State constitutional issue in both his written motion and at the suppression hearing. The defendant's motion to suppress relied upon Part I, Article 19 of the State Constitution to argue that Detective Morelli lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion when he ordered the defendant to stop. At the suppression hearing, defense counsel relied upon State v. Riley, 126 N.H. 257, 490 A.2d 1362 (1985), and State v. Quezada, 141 N.H. 258, 681 A.2d 79 (1996), to argue that the seizure occurred when the detective ordered the defendant to stop. This argument, on these facts, was squarely at odds with Hodari D. and essentially asked the trial court not to rely on Hodari D. Indeed, in response to the defendant's argument, the State invoked Hodari D. to argue that the defendant was not stopped until he fell and submitted to Detective Morelli.

In its order, the trial court noted that the defendant "invoke[d] the protections of both Part I, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." The trial court then denied the defendant's motion, relying upon Hodari D. and Part I, Article 19, thereby apparently concluding that Hodari D. was the governing rule under both the State and Federal Constitutions. On this record, we conclude that the defendant sufficiently raised the State constitutional issue in the trial court.

The State also argues that the Hodari D. issue raised in the defendant's brief was not raised in his notice of appeal and thus should not be considered on appeal. Sup.Ct. R. 16(3)(b) ; see State v. Blackmer, 149 N.H. 47, 49, 816 A.2d 1014 (2003). The issue raised in the defendant's notice of appeal is "[w]hether the Court erred in denying the defendant's motion to suppress where no reasonable suspicion existed to conduct an investigatory stop[.]" New Hampshire Supreme Court Rule 16(3)(b) provides that "[t]he statement of a question presented will be deemed to include every subsidiary question fairly comprised therein." Here, a subsidiary question as to whether there was reasonable suspicion for the investigatory stop is whether, or at what point, there was an investigatory stop. Thus, the issue briefed is subsidiary to the issue in the notice of appeal and is properly before us. See State v. Jimenez, 137 N.H. 450, 452, 629 A.2d 785 (1993).

II. Seizure

Turning to the merits of this appeal, the defendant argues that he was subject to an unlawful seizure because Detective Morelli lacked reasonable suspicion when he first ordered the defendant to stop. Accordingly, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the cocaine and marijuana as fruits of the unlawful seizure.

In reviewing the trial court's rulings, we accept its factual findings unless they lack support in the record or are clearly erroneous. State v. Wallace, 146 N.H. 146, 148, 772 A.2d 892 (2001). Our review of the trial court's legal conclusions, however, is de novo . Id.

It is well settled that "[i]n order for a police officer to undertake an investigatory stop, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion—based on specific, articulable facts taken together with rational inferences from those facts—that...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT