State v. Lawrence, No. 02-181

Docket NºNo. 02-182.
Citation834 A.2d 10
Case DateJuly 18, 2003
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

834 A.2d 10

STATE of Vermont
v.
Leland LAWRENCE

Nos. 02-181, 02-182.

Supreme Court of Vermont.

July 18, 2003.


834 A.2d 12
Present: AMESTOY, C.J., and DOOLEY, JOHNSON, SKOGLUND, JJ

ENTRY ORDER

¶ 1. Defendant Leland Lawrence appeals from orders of the Orleans District Court denying his motion to suppress evidence secured pertinent to his arrest for driving while under the influence of intoxicants, in violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201, by a Vermont state police officer at the United States Port of Entry in Derby Line, Vermont, and denying his motions to dismiss the resultant criminal prosecution and companion civil suspension proceeding. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erroneously concluded that defendant's detention in the customs building at the border crossing prior to the arrival of the arresting officer was objectively reasonable. Defendant also claims the trial court erred in failing to find that defendant was unlawfully arrested by a United States customs inspector for violating 23 V.S.A. § 1201. We affirm.

¶ 2. On September 19, 2001, defendant and three adult male companions attempted to reenter the United States from Canada at the Derby Line Port of Entry. United States customs inspector A. Michael Richard was on duty at the primary inspection lane arriving from Canada when, at approximately 8:14 p.m., a vehicle driven by defendant entered the lane and was stopped for inspection. Inspector Richard posed customary screening questions to defendant and his companions regarding their citizenship and the purpose of their trip. Defendant informed the inspector that the group was returning from an adult entertainment club where they had consumed alcohol. In the inspector's opinion, the answers provided by defendant and his passengers were given in a manner that was out of the ordinary for the current situation; that is, in the heightened security at the border eight days after the September 11 attacks on the United States. Inspector Richard then asked to examine the four men's driver's licenses and to inspect the vehicle. Inspector Richard kept the men's licenses in his possession throughout the rest of the inspection process.

¶ 3. Inspector Richard then inspected the interior of the vehicle. Upon opening the back area of the vehicle, Inspector Richard smelled alcohol. He found, among other things, empty beer cans and an ice chest containing a partially empty, half-gallon bottle of vodka. After completing his search of the vehicle, inspector Richard asked defendant to pull his vehicle out of the primary inspection lane, park, and then enter the customs building for a secondary inspection. As defendant drove to the secondary inspection station, inspector Richard called the Vermont state police and notified them that he believed defendant "had consumed too much alcohol."

¶ 4. After entering the customs building, inspector Richard asked defendant and his companions to complete baggage declarations.

834 A.2d 13
Unable to immediately complete the secondary inspection, inspector Richard left defendant and the others in the customs building and returned to his post in the primary inspection lane to continue his inspections of other vehicles entering the country. According to inspector Richard, it was not unusual for people to have to wait "for whatever time period is necessary in order to complete the inspection." Inspector Richard then alternated between conducting primary inspections and finishing defendant's secondary inspection. When traffic subsided in the primary lane, Richard would "try to continue the processing [of defendant] by reviewing baggage declarations, [and] by inspecting the car."

¶ 5. At 9:23 p.m., Vermont state police Corporal Albert Stringer arrived at the border crossing. Inspector Richard relayed his observations to Corporal Stringer and showed the officer defendant's vehicle, the empty beverage containers, and the contents of the cooler. Inspector Richard then brought Corporal Stringer to the customs building, where Stringer confronted defendant. Corporal Stringer observed that defendant was unsteady on his feet, that his eyes were bloodshot and watery, and that a strong odor of intoxicants emanated from his person. Defendant admitted to Corporal Stringer that he had consumed four to five drinks prior to 8:00 p.m. Accordingly, Corporal Stringer administered three field sobriety tests, which provided further indicia of intoxication. Stringer also administered a non-evidentiary breath test, which indicated that defendant was impaired.

¶ 6. Defendant was then taken into custody by Corporal Stringer and transported to the state police barracks for processing, where he was advised of his Miranda rights. Defendant invoked his rights, and no further interrogation occurred. Defendant was then advised of his rights under the state's implied consent law, 23 V.S.A. § 1202. After acknowledging these rights and consulting with an attorney, defendant provided a breath sample for evidentiary testing. The results of this test indicated a blood alcohol content of 0.114%.

¶ 7. Defendant was charged with a violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201(a)(2) for operating a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of intoxicants and was issued a notice of driver's license suspension pursuant to the civil suspension statutory procedure. See 23 V.S.A. § 1205. A civil suspension hearing was held, at which defendant moved to dismiss the civil suspension case, averring that he was unlawfully seized and detained by inspector Richard, and that evidence resulting from that seizure must be excluded. Subsequently, defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence emanating from his detention and arrest in the criminal case and renewed his motion to dismiss in the civil suspension case. The trial court denied defendant's motions. Relying primarily on this Court's decision in State v. Garbutt, 173 Vt. 277, 790 A.2d 444 (2001), the trial court found that the "period and circumstances of the detention in secondary inspection... were not objectively unreasonable, in consideration of the totality of the circumstances," and that Corporal Stringer had "reasonable grounds to believe that the Defendant had been operating a motor vehicle in violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201." Judgment for the State was entered in the civil suspension proceeding. Defendant subsequently pled nolo contendere by waiver to the criminal charge against him. This appeal followed.

¶ 8. We have routinely observed that this Court reviews motions to suppress de novo. State v. Chapman, 173 Vt. 400, 402, 800 A.2d 446, 448 (2002); State v. Pierce, 173 Vt. 151, 152, 787 A.2d 1284,

834 A.2d 14
1286 (2001) (reviewing denial of motion to suppress evidence obtained in connection with defendant's traffic stop de...

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27 practice notes
  • State v. Webster, No. 2016-063
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 20, 2017
    ...¶ 7, 180 Vt. 567, 908 A.2d 408 (mem.). We review the court's legal conclusions de novo. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). ¶ 9. As a threshold matter, we reiterate that "[t]he PDA does not establish a set of substantive rights in addition to the Miranda rig......
  • State v. Pitts, No. 07-077.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 22, 2009
    ...the trial court's legal conclusions and a clear-error standard to its factual findings. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 9, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). Yosef contends that he was effectively seized during the encounter with the police outside his sister's home; that the police lacked r......
  • State v. Bryant, No. 05-252.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • March 28, 2008
    ...Court applies a deferential standard of review to the trial court's findings of fact. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). If the findings of fact are not clearly erroneous, we then review the legal issues de novo. Id. ¶ 8. Here, defendant does not challenge ......
  • State v. Webster, No. 16–063
    • United States
    • October 20, 2017
    ...¶ 7, 180 Vt. 567, 908 A.2d 408 (mem.). We review the court's legal conclusions de novo. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.).179 A.3d 160¶ 9. As a threshold matter, we reiterate that "[t]he PDA does not establish a set of substantive rights in addition to the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • State v. Webster, No. 2016-063
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 20, 2017
    ...¶ 7, 180 Vt. 567, 908 A.2d 408 (mem.). We review the court's legal conclusions de novo. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). ¶ 9. As a threshold matter, we reiterate that "[t]he PDA does not establish a set of substantive rights in addition to the Miranda rig......
  • State v. Pitts, No. 07-077.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 22, 2009
    ...the trial court's legal conclusions and a clear-error standard to its factual findings. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 9, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). Yosef contends that he was effectively seized during the encounter with the police outside his sister's home; that the police lacked r......
  • State v. Bryant, No. 05-252.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • March 28, 2008
    ...Court applies a deferential standard of review to the trial court's findings of fact. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.). If the findings of fact are not clearly erroneous, we then review the legal issues de novo. Id. ¶ 8. Here, defendant does not challenge ......
  • State v. Webster, No. 16–063
    • United States
    • October 20, 2017
    ...¶ 7, 180 Vt. 567, 908 A.2d 408 (mem.). We review the court's legal conclusions de novo. State v. Lawrence, 2003 VT 68, ¶ 8, 175 Vt. 600, 834 A.2d 10 (mem.).179 A.3d 160¶ 9. As a threshold matter, we reiterate that "[t]he PDA does not establish a set of substantive rights in addition to the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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