State v. Brumfield, 26388.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Idaho
Citation42 P.3d 706,136 Idaho 913
Docket NumberNo. 26388.,26388.
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Michael BRUMFIELD, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date18 December 2001

Molly J. Huskey, Interim State Appellate Public Defender; Richard J. Hansen, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Richard J. Hansen argued.

Hon. Alan G. Lance, Attorney General; T. Paul Krueger II, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. T. Paul Krueger II argued.


Michael Brumfield appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence found in the trunk of the car in which he was a passenger. Additionally, Brumfield argues that the district court abused its discretion by imposing an excessive sentence and denying his Idaho Criminal Rule 35 Motion for reduction of the sentence.


On October 1, 1999, Lieutenant Mark Black of the Bannock County Sheriff's Department was "running radar" on Interstate 15 in his marked police vehicle. At approximately 2:00 p.m., Black observed a Nissan Altima without a front license plate pass by his position. Black pursued the car to determine if it was from a state that required only one license plate. After catching up to the car, which had slowed to 55 miles per hour in a 75 mile per hour zone, Black observed from the rear license plate that the car was from Arizona, a state which requires only one plate. Pulling alongside the car, Black observed that the driver of the vehicle was sitting up close to the steering wheel, while a passenger in the front seat was sitting low in the seat and puffing "excessively" on a cigar. Black called in a registration check on the vehicle. After Black had followed the car for several miles, dispatch informed Black that the car was not reported to be stolen but that the car's registration in Arizona had been suspended. On the basis of the registration suspension, Black initiated a stop of the vehicle at approximately 2:12 p.m.

When Black approached the automobile, he could smell a cigar odor. Black ordered the driver, Gilbert Houston, to exit the vehicle. Black questioned Houston about who owned the car, then patted him down for weapons, and asked if Houston was involved in "gang-banging."1 Black next explained the reason for the stop, asked for Houston's driver's license, and inquired about Houston's destination. Houston said that the car belonged to the passenger's brother. With respect to his destination, Houston first said he was headed to North Dakota, then abruptly changed his story to say that he was traveling to Montana to attend his uncle's funeral. After this conversation, Black called dispatch to request a driver's license and arrest warrant check on Houston and to summon backup.

Next, Black ordered the passenger, Michael Brumfield, out of the vehicle. Black patted Brumfield down, inquired about "gang banging," and then explained the reason for the stop. Brumfield explained that the car's registration had been suspended for failure to show proof of insurance. He said that his brother, Tony Brumfield, who owned the car, was supposed to have obtained reinstatement of the registration by presenting proof of insurance to the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles. Brumfield showed Black a current proof of insurance card in Tony Brumfield's name. Black then asked dispatch to verify with Arizona the reason for the suspension, but he received no additional information. When Black asked about Brumfield's travel destination, Brumfield said that he and Houston were traveling to Montana to attend the funeral of Brumfield's grandmother. Black requested a driver's license and warrant check on Brumfield. At approximately 2:21 p.m., dispatch responded to the earlier request about Houston, reporting that his license was valid and that there were no outstanding warrants for his arrest.

While waiting for dispatch to return the information on Brumfield, Black asked Brumfield if there were any drugs or weapons in the car. Brumfield replied that there were none. Black then asked both Brumfield and Houston for permission to search the car. Both refused, but when Black asked if he could search just the luggage located in the back seat, both consented. As Black began searching the luggage he discovered in the back seat a bag of cooked pork chops. Next, Black asked Brumfield what was in the trunk, and Brumfield replied that he "had no idea."

At approximately 2:26 p.m., Black told Brumfield and Houston that he suspected there were drugs in the car, and he called for a drug dog to a sniff their vehicle. Several minutes later, dispatch notified Black that Brumfield's driver's license was suspended but there were no active warrants for his arrest.

The drug canine handler, Deputy Young, came from a location thirty miles away and arrived at approximately 3:00 p.m. Young's drug dog alerted on the trunk of the vehicle. At that point, Brumfield and Houston were handcuffed for "officer safety and for investigative purposes." Using the car keys, Black opened the trunk and found six large packages of marijuana. Brumfield and Houston were arrested. The next day, Brumfield admitted to Black that he had known about the marijuana in the trunk.

Brumfield was charged with trafficking in marijuana, Idaho Code § 37-2732B(a)(1)(C), and filed a motion to suppress evidence resulting from the vehicle stop. The district court denied the motion. Thereafter, Brumfield entered a conditional guilty plea pursuant to I.C.R. 11(a)(2), reserving his right to appeal the district court's order denying his suppression motion. Brumfield was sentenced to a unified prison term of fifteen years with eight years determinate.

A. Suppression Motion

Brumfield asserts that the marijuana found in the vehicle's trunk should have been suppressed because it was the product of a detention that was unlawfully prolonged.

A traffic stop by an officer constitutes a seizure of the vehicle's occupants and implicates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1395, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 667 (1979); State v. Atkinson, 128 Idaho 559, 561, 916 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ct.App.1996). An investigative stop must be justified by a reasonable suspicion, derived from specific articulable facts, that the detained person has committed or is about to commit a crime. Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 498, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1324, 75 L.Ed.2d 229, 237 (1983); State v. Fry, 122 Idaho 100, 103, 831 P.2d 942, 945 (Ct.App.1991).

Brumfield acknowledges that the initial vehicle stop was justified by probable cause to believe there was a violation of Idaho's vehicle registration statute, I.C. § 49-456(1), but he contends that the stop was transformed into an illegal detention for a drug investigation. Brumfield argues that there was no justification for Lieutenant Black's lengthening the detention beyond the period necessary for issuance of a citation for the registration violation. Consequently, he contends, the search of the trunk occurred during an unlawful detention and the marijuana must be suppressed. Because Brumfield does not challenge the district court's factual findings, but contests only the court's legal conclusions, the issue presented is one of law, which we independently review. State v. Morris, 131 Idaho 562, 565, 961 P.2d 653, 656 (Ct.App.1998); State v. McIntee, 124 Idaho 803, 804, 864 P.2d 641, 642 (Ct.App. 1993); State v. Heinen, 114 Idaho 656, 658, 759 P.2d 947, 949 (Ct.App.1988).

We disagree with Brumfield's position, for while Lieutenant Black was still investigating the vehicle registration matter, he gained information giving rise to reasonable suspicion of unrelated criminal activity. Although an investigative detention must ordinarily last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop, Royer, 460 U.S. at 500, 103 S.Ct. at 1325, 75 L.Ed.2d at 238, a detention initiated for one investigative purpose may disclose suspicious circumstances that justify expanding the investigation to other possible crimes. Thus, in State v. Pabillore, 133 Idaho 650, 654, 991 P.2d 375, 379 (Ct.App.1999), we held that a vehicle stop initiated for investigation of a car theft was legitimately expanded to encompass possible drug-related offenses because, in patting down one of the vehicle occupants, officers found drug paraphernalia. See also State v. Parkinson, 135 Idaho 357, 362, 17 P.3d 301, 306 (Ct.App.2000)

("[A]ny routine traffic stop might turn up suspicious circumstances, which could justify an officer asking questions unrelated to the stop."); State v. Myers, 118 Idaho 608, 613, 798 P.2d 453, 458 (Ct.App.1990) (same).

In the present case, even before Lieutenant Black effectuated the stop, he had observed circumstances that contributed toward development of reasonable suspicion of drug activity, for he saw Brumfield slouched low in the front seat puffing "excessively" on a cigar while the driver was hunched forward toward the steering wheel in what may have been an effort to conceal Brumfield's activity from the officer's view. The officer knew from training and experience that cigar smoke was sometimes used to mask the odor of drugs. Then, while investigating the vehicle registration matter, Black observed a more suspicious circumstance: the inability of Brumfield and Houston to agree on the purpose of their trip. Houston initially told Black that he was driving to North Dakota, but then changed the destination to say he was going to Montana to attend the funeral of Houston's uncle. Brumfield, on the other hand, claimed to be going to Montana for the funeral of Brumfield's grandmother. It is difficult to envision an explanation, other than an effort at officer deception, for such divergent responses from co-travelers. Subsequently, while performing a consensual search of luggage and waiting for dispatch to respond to a driver's license and...

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