State v. Hollist, Docket No. 48295

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtSTEGNER, Justice.
Citation513 P.3d 1176
Parties STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Brian James HOLLIST, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberDocket No. 48295
Decision Date19 July 2022

513 P.3d 1176

STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Brian James HOLLIST, Defendant-Appellant.

Docket No. 48295

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, January 2022 Term.

Opinion Filed: July 19, 2022

Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant, Brian James Hollist. Jacob L. Westerfield argued.

Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent State of Idaho. Justin R. Porter argued.

STEGNER, Justice.

The case involves an appeal by Brian Hollist challenging a district court's denial of his motion to suppress. Hollist was arrested in Idaho Falls after an officer approached him while he was sleeping on a canal bank. Prior to Hollist's arrest, the officer was responding to check on his welfare. Upon the officer's arrival, he asked if Hollist needed medical assistance, to which Hollist responded that he did not. At this point, the officer contacted medical personnel who were advised they did not need to come to Hollist's aid. After advising the officer he did not need medical assistance, Hollist attempted to leave several times; however, each time the officer insisted that Hollist remain. When Hollist declined to identify himself, the officer handcuffed him and ordered him to sit down on the grass. The officer later discovered that Hollist had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Following his arrest, officers found a glass pipe with white residue and a bag with a small amount of methamphetamine inside.

Before trial, Hollist moved to suppress the methamphetamine and pipe, arguing that the officer was not performing a community caretaking function at the time he was detained. He also maintained the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him. Finally,

513 P.3d 1180

Hollist argued that the eventual discovery of the arrest warrant did not purge the taint of his unlawful seizure. The district court denied Hollist's motion to suppress. Hollist timely appealed. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.


On the morning of August 3, 2019, Officer Erik Okopny1 responded to a call for a welfare check for a man lying near an irrigation canal who was either asleep or unconscious. As Okopny approached the man, later identified as Hollist, Hollist awoke. Okopny asked Hollist if he needed medical assistance. Hollist informed Okopny that he did not need medical assistance and then attempted to leave several times.2 Okopny insisted multiple times that Hollist identify himself, which Hollist declined to do. After Hollist refused to identify himself and tried to depart on a child's bicycle, which appeared to be among Hollist's belongings, Okopny placed him in handcuffs, made him sit down on some nearby grass, and informed him that he was "being detained." While in handcuffs, Hollist eventually identified himself and police discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Upon formally arresting Hollist, another officer who had arrived at the scene began to search Hollist's belongings. In doing so, he discovered a glass pipe with burnt white residue inside. When Okopny searched Hollist's person, he discovered a small bag containing a substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine.

Hollist was subsequently charged by a criminal complaint with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. A preliminary hearing took place, at which only Okopny testified. The magistrate court found probable cause for Hollist to be formally charged and bound the case over to district court. The State filed an Information reflecting the same two charges.

In district court, Hollist filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine and paraphernalia, arguing that he had been unlawfully seized without reasonable suspicion. Specifically, Hollist argued that the community caretaking function did not apply because he told Okopny that he was not in need of medical attention and Okopny had called off medical personnel from responding. Hollist also maintained Okopny did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him. Finally, Hollist contended that Okopny's unlawful seizure of him was not sufficiently attenuated from Okopny locating contraband on Hollist.

The State opposed Hollist's motion, arguing that Okopny was originally performing a community caretaking function, and later developed reasonable suspicion that Hollist was intoxicated in public. The State alternatively argued that even if Okopny had unlawfully seized Hollist, the evidence was sufficiently attenuated from the unlawful seizure that it should not be suppressed. At the hearing on Hollist's motion to suppress, the district court concluded that Okopny was engaged in a community caretaking function even after informing dispatch that no medical assistance was needed. The district court further concluded that Okopny had reasonable suspicion that Hollist was under the influence of alcohol or drugs in public. Consequently, the district court denied Hollist's motion.

Hollist reached a plea agreement with the State where the State agreed to dismiss the paraphernalia charge in exchange for Hollist pleading guilty to the possession charge, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. The district court accepted the plea and sentenced Hollist to a unified term of incarceration of four years, with two years fixed. The district court then suspended the sentence and placed Hollist on supervised probation for four years. Hollist timely appealed.


"When this Court reviews a district court's order granting or denying a motion to suppress, the standard of review is bifurcated." State v. Gonzales , 165 Idaho 667, 671, 450 P.3d 315, 319 (2019) (quoting
513 P.3d 1181
State v. Purdum , 147 Idaho 206, 207, 207 P.3d 182, 183 (2009) ). "This Court will accept the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous." Id. (citing State v. Watts , 142 Idaho 230, 232, 127 P.3d 133, 135 (2005) ). Even so, "this Court may freely review the trial court's application of constitutional principles in light of the facts found." Id. (citing State v. Diaz , 144 Idaho 300, 302, 160 P.3d 739, 741 (2007) ).

State v. Amstutz , 169 Idaho 144, 146, 492 P.3d 1103, 1105 (2021). "Determinations of reasonable suspicion are reviewed de novo ." State v. Bonner , 167 Idaho 88, 93, 467 P.3d 452, 457 (2020) (quoting State v. Morgan , 154 Idaho 109, 111, 294 P.3d 1121, 1123 (2013) ).


"Warrantless searches and seizures are presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Rios , 160 Idaho 262, 265, 371 P.3d 316, 319 (2016) (quoting State v. Wulff , 157 Idaho 416, 418, 337 P.3d 575, 577 (2014) ).

"When the defendant challenges the legality of a search based upon the absence of a search warrant, the burden then shifts to the State to prove the legality of the search." [ State v. Holland , 135 Idaho 159, 162, 15 P.3d 1167, 1170 (2000) ] (citation omitted). Once the burden has shifted, the State must "demonstrate that the search either fell within a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement or was otherwise reasonable under the circumstances." State v. Weaver , 127 Idaho 288, 290, 900 P.2d 196, 198 (1995).

State v. Hoskins , 165 Idaho 217, 221, 443 P.3d 231, 235 (2019). "Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is subject to the exclusionary rule, which requires unlawfully seized evidence to be excluded from trial." State v. Cohagan , 162 Idaho 717, 720, 404 P.3d 659, 662 (2017). "When a defendant seeks to suppress evidence allegedly obtained as a result of an illegal seizure, the burden of proving that a seizure occurred is on the defendant." State v. Page , 140 Idaho 841, 843, 103 P.3d 454, 456 (2004) (quoting State v. Reese , 132 Idaho 652, 654, 978 P.2d 212, 214 (1999) ).

A. Officer Okopny was not performing a "community caretaking" function when he seized Hollist.

Hollist first argues that Okopny was not performing a community caretaking function when he unlawfully seized Hollist. Hollist asserts that even if Okopny was performing that function, it ended as soon as Okopny "called off oncoming medical personnel." "Okopny made no further inquiry about Mr. Hollist's health during the encounter after telling Mr. Hollist that he needed to talk to him to make sure he was alright." Hollist points to the incongruity between Okopny's initial report, which stated Okopny's basis for seizing Hollist was to require him to identify himself, and Okopny's statements at the preliminary hearing, where Okopny changed course and claimed to be more focused on Hollist's health and any potential previous medical emergencies.

Citing State v. Cutler , 143 Idaho 297, 302, 141 P.3d 1166, 1171 (Ct. App. 2006) and State v. Jay , 167 Idaho 592, 599, 473 P.3d 861, 868 (Ct. App. 2020), the State responds that the community caretaking exception applied, and Okopny's "genuine and warranted concern that Hollist needed assistance was reasonable, given the totality of the circumstances."

"The community caretaker function arises from the duty of police officers to help citizens in need of assistance." Page , 140 Idaho at 844, 103 P.3d at 457.

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