State v. James, No. 990267.

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtDURRANT, Justice
Citation2000 UT 80,13 P.3d 576
Decision Date03 October 2000
Docket NumberNo. 990267.
PartiesSTATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Petitioner, v. Douglas B. JAMES, Defendant and Respondent.

13 P.3d 576
2000 UT 80

STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Petitioner,
v.
Douglas B. JAMES, Defendant and Respondent

No. 990267.

Supreme Court of Utah.

October 3, 2000.


13 P.3d 577
Jan Graham, Att'y Gen. Christine F. Soltis, Asst. Att'y Gen., Salt Lake City, Tony Baird, Logan, for plaintiff

D. Bruce Oliver, Salt Lake City, for defendant.

ON CERTIORARI TO THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS

DURRANT, Justice:

¶ 1 The State petitioned for review of a court of appeals' decision reversing the trial court's denial of Douglas B. James's motion to suppress evidence. After the trial court denied James's motion to suppress, he was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. On appeal, the court of appeals held that a police officer violated James's Fourth Amendment rights when he opened the door of James's truck, while James was seated inside the truck, for the purpose of investigating a citizen's report of reckless driving. See State v. James, 1999 UT App 17, ¶¶ 11-14, 977 P.2d 489. The court of appeals also held that the inevitable discovery doctrine was inapplicable. See id. at ¶¶ 15-23. We granted certiorari, see State v. James, 984 P.2d 1023 (Utah 1999), and now reverse the court of appeals.

BACKGROUND

¶ 2 On March 16, 1996, a citizen approached Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Kendrick and reported that he had just seen a reckless driver. The citizen stated that a dark-colored pickup truck was "all over the road" and had "hit or ... almost struck" three other vehicles. The citizen was able to provide Kendrick with the truck's license number, approximate location, and direction of travel. Kendrick contacted highway patrol dispatch and confirmed that the license number matched the vehicle description provided by the citizen. Kendrick obtained the registered address of the truck's owner and drove to that address. As he neared the residence, he saw a truck matching the citizen's and dispatcher's description enter the driveway, where it stopped and remained with its brake lights on. Kendrick pulled up behind the truck with his headlights on, left his patrol car, and approached the truck's driver's-side door. During the time it took Kendrick to stop and approach, no one attempted to leave the truck.

¶ 3 Kendrick looked in the window and saw two persons, James, who was in the driver's seat, and a female in the passenger seat.1 Kendrick opened the door and asked the

13 P.3d 578
driver, James, to get out of the truck. Once the door was open, Kendrick saw a 12-pack of beer on the passenger-side floor of the cab, with one can opened. Kendrick and James walked to the front of the truck, where Kendrick asked to see James's driver's license. James dropped his license when he pulled it from his wallet. Kendrick noted that James smelled strongly of alcohol, his face was flaccid, his speech slurred, and his eyes were droopy and bloodshot. Kendrick also observed that James "appeared to be unstable, unable to stand straight" without keeping his feet apart or moving. Kendrick expressed concern about the possibility that James had been involved in an accident. Kendrick and James walked around the truck and scanned it for signs of damage, but found none

¶ 4 At about this time, the female passenger left the vehicle and "was very upset ... yelling, screaming, that kind of thing." Kendrick became concerned for his safety, told James to remain where he was and returned to his patrol car to call for backup. James instead went inside his home. When the backup officer, Trooper Arlow Hancock, arrived, he and Kendrick entered the attached garage through the open garage door. They knocked on the door leading from the garage into the house and told James that if he did not come out they would come in to get him. James came out and performed a standard field sobriety test, which he failed. When James attempted to walk away again, the officers arrested him. James was taken to the Cache County jail, where he refused to take any further sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test. The State charged James with driving under the influence and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle.

¶ 5 At trial, James moved to suppress evidence of his intoxicated condition. He asserted three Fourth Amendment grounds for suppression: (1) Kendrick initially lacked reasonable suspicion to stop his truck or detain him; (2) Kendrick opened the door to his truck without probable cause; and (3) Kendrick and Hancock lacked the probable cause and exigent circumstances necessary to enter his garage without a warrant. The trial court denied James's motions. A jury convicted James of driving under the influence, but acquitted him on the open container charge.

¶ 6 On appeal, the court of appeals addressed only the argument relating to Kendrick's opening of the truck door. The court of appeals ruled that the officer's opening of the vehicle door constituted a search of the vehicle rather than an investigative detention and that the search was illegal. See James, 1999 UT App 17, ¶¶ 12-14, 977 P.2d at 489. It then discussed the "inevitable discovery" exception to the warrant requirement and concluded that the exception was inapplicable. See id. ¶¶ 15-22.

¶ 7 We granted the State's petition for certiorari. On certiorari review, the State argues that the court of appeals construed cases prohibiting police from opening a vehicle door in certain circumstances too broadly and out of context. Specifically, the State contends that where an officer has the right to order a person to temporarily leave a vehicle, the officer's mere opening of a vehicle door cannot constitute an illegal search. The State also argues that the court of appeals erred in its application of the inevitable discovery doctrine.

ANALYSIS

¶ 8 "On certiorari, we review the decision of the court of appeals, not the decision of the trial court." State v. Harmon, 910 P.2d 1196, 1199 (Utah 1995). "`We review the court of appeals' decision for correctness and give its conclusions of law no deference.'" Carrier v. Pro-Tech Restoration, 944 P.2d 346, 350 (Utah 1997) (quoting Newspaper Agency Corp. v. Auditing Div., 938 P.2d 266, 267 (Utah 1997)).

¶ 9 We begin our analysis with a brief statement of two fundamental and related tenets of Fourth Amendment caselaw. First, the presumptive rule relating to reasonable searches and seizures is that searches may not be conducted without a warrant supported by probable cause. See Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967). There are a number of "exceptions" to the presumptive rule, however. See id. The application of

13 P.3d 579
those exceptions is guided by the second tenet, which is that the fundamental right protected by the Fourth Amendment is a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. See United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1984)

¶ 10 Due to the mobile nature of vehicles and their highly-regulated status, persons traveling in vehicles have a lesser expectation of privacy than they would have within a private dwelling. See California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 391, 105 S.Ct. 2066, 85 L.Ed.2d 406 (1985); South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 368, 96 S.Ct. 3092, 49 L.Ed.2d 1000 (1976); see also Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 442, 93 S.Ct. 2523, 37 L.Ed.2d 706 (1973); Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U.S. 42, 52, 90 S.Ct. 1975, 26 L.Ed.2d 419 (1970); Cooper v. California, 386 U.S. 58, 59, 87 S.Ct. 788, 17 L.Ed.2d 730 (1967). The so-called "automobile exception" to the warrant rule applies regardless of whether the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
35 practice notes
  • State v. Baker, No. 20080351.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • March 12, 2010
    ...upon reasonable suspicion of criminal activity for the purpose of conducting a limited investigation of the suspicion." State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10, 13 P.3d 576. This "automobile exception" to the warrant rule arises because occupants of a vehicle have a lesser expectation of privacy "......
  • Brigham City v. Stuart, No. 20021004.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • July 18, 2005
    ...to create an exigent circumstance is minimal, reflecting the high value we place on the security of peace officers. See State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10 n. 3, 13 P.3d 576 (citing Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 117-18, 119 S.Ct. 484, 142 L.Ed.2d 492 (1998)) (noting that the threat to an offi......
  • State v. Trane, No. 20010068.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • September 17, 2002
    ...52 P.3d 1252. We review the decision of the court of appeals for correctness, affording its legal conclusions no deference. State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 8, 13 P.3d 576. Further, the questions of whether an arrest or a search is constitutional are questions of law that we review for correct......
  • State v. Rigby, No. 20140553–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • March 3, 2016
    ...principle as justification for the automobile exception. See, e.g., State v. Baker, 2010 UT 18, ¶ 11, 229 P.3d 650; State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10, 13 P.3d 576; State v. Anderson, 910 P.2d 1229, 1234–37 (Utah 1996)(plurality opinion); Limb, 581 P.2d at 144–45; State v. Farnsworth, 30 Utah......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • State v. Baker, No. 20080351.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • March 12, 2010
    ...upon reasonable suspicion of criminal activity for the purpose of conducting a limited investigation of the suspicion." State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10, 13 P.3d 576. This "automobile exception" to the warrant rule arises because occupants of a vehicle have a lesser expectation of privacy "......
  • Brigham City v. Stuart, No. 20021004.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • July 18, 2005
    ...to create an exigent circumstance is minimal, reflecting the high value we place on the security of peace officers. See State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10 n. 3, 13 P.3d 576 (citing Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 117-18, 119 S.Ct. 484, 142 L.Ed.2d 492 (1998)) (noting that the threat to an offi......
  • State v. Trane, No. 20010068.
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • September 17, 2002
    ...52 P.3d 1252. We review the decision of the court of appeals for correctness, affording its legal conclusions no deference. State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 8, 13 P.3d 576. Further, the questions of whether an arrest or a search is constitutional are questions of law that we review for correct......
  • State v. Rigby, No. 20140553–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • March 3, 2016
    ...principle as justification for the automobile exception. See, e.g., State v. Baker, 2010 UT 18, ¶ 11, 229 P.3d 650; State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 10, 13 P.3d 576; State v. Anderson, 910 P.2d 1229, 1234–37 (Utah 1996)(plurality opinion); Limb, 581 P.2d at 144–45; State v. Farnsworth, 30 Utah......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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