State v. Marchand

Decision Date05 June 1984
Docket NumberNo. 5640-III-6,5640-III-6
Citation37 Wn.App. 741,684 P.2d 1306
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Rodney Wayne MARCHAND, Appellant.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Richard C. Fitterer, Moses Lake, for appellant.

Paul A. Klasen, Jr., Pros. Atty., Ephrata, for respondent.

MUNSON, Chief Judge.

Rodney Wayne Marchand appeals his convictions for unlawful possession of marijuana in excess of 40 grams and unlawful possession of cocaine. He contends: (1) the evidence of marijuana and cocaine should have been suppressed on the basis the initial stop of his vehicle constituted an unreasonable seizure; (2) the seizure of a marijuana cigarette from the ashtray of his automobile was the product of an unlawful search; and (3) the seizure of an additional quantity of marijuana from a suitcase in the vehicle trunk was also the result of an unreasonable search. We affirm the cocaine conviction, but reverse the marijuana conviction in light of State v. Ringer, 100 Wash.2d 686, 674 P.2d 1240 (1983). 1

On July 22, 1982, Troopers G.L. McNinch and D.C. Richmond of the Washington State Patrol, Ephrata detachment, conducted a roadblock on SR 28, roughly a quarter of a mile from Highway 17, for the purpose of checking vehicle registrations, drivers' licenses, and equipment. Trooper Richmond arrived at the location and established the roadblock by placing a single traffic cone on the divider area of the four-lane roadway. Trooper McNinch was instructed to return to patrol headquarters before reaching the location, but joined the roadblock in process a short time later. A vehicle would be stopped, checked for violations, released, and the next oncoming vehicle would be stopped. During the inspection of any given vehicle, other traffic was permitted to pass uninterrupted.

While Trooper McNinch was checking another vehicle, Trooper Richmond stopped Mr. Marchand's vehicle. Trooper Richmond had just completed an inspection of a motorcycle. The motorcyclist had elected to remain at the roadblock, rather than receive a notice of violation, until such time as the trooper could verify the vehicle license and registration.

Mr. Marchand was advised of the purpose of the stop. Following Trooper Richmond's inspection of the vehicle, he walked to the passenger side of the car and crouched down to speak with Mr. Marchand through the open passenger window. While Trooper Richmond was advising Mr. Marchand of his failure to sign his vehicle registration and the fact his right front signal was not properly functioning, he observed an alligator clip attached to a small hand-rolled cigarette in the car ashtray.

Trooper Richmond then opened the car door and removed the alligator clip and the cigarette butt. He asked Mr. Marchand to step out of the vehicle and then searched him. Two baggies, one containing marijuana and the other cocaine, were retrieved from Mr. Marchand's boots. Following the discovery of this contraband, the trooper searched the interior and trunk of the vehicle. An unzipped suitcase found in the trunk was opened and an additional quantity of marijuana was discovered.

Mr. Marchand moved to suppress pursuant to CrR 3.5 and CrR 3.6. The State conceded the fact Mr. Marchand's statements to the trooper were subject to exclusion, but argued the contraband was lawfully seized. The court concluded the roadblock was an acceptable seizure under Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979); and the discovery of the marijuana cigarette in the ashtray provided probable cause to arrest Mr. Marchand. The court also held the search of the remainder of the vehicle was authorized under United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798, 102 S.Ct. 2157, 72 L.Ed.2d 572 (1982). The State now agrees State v. Ringer, supra, decided while this case was on appeal, requires reversal of the conviction based upon the trunk search.

Mr. Marchand advances several grounds for suppression of the contraband. First, he contends the initial detention of his vehicle constituted an unreasonable seizure and the subsequently discovered evidence was tainted by its illegality. RCW 46.64.070 states in pertinent part:

To carry out the purpose of RCW 46.64.060 and 46.64.070, officers of the Washington state patrol are hereby empowered during daylight hours and while using plainly marked state patrol vehicles to require the driver of any motor vehicle being operated on any highway of this state to stop and display his or her driver's license and/or to submit the motor vehicle being driven by such person to an inspection and test ascertain whether such vehicle complies with the minimum equipment requirements prescribed by chapter 46.37 RCW, as now or hereafter amended. No criminal citation shall be issued for a period of ten days after giving a warning ticket pointing out the defect.

The Washington State Patrol procedures further provide:

For the purpose of this procedure, spot checks are defined as the stopping of motor vehicles by a highway roadblock for the purpose of inspecting vehicle licenses, driver's licenses, and vehicle equipment.

Inspections will be in groups of vehicles without discrimination; however, in order to prevent unnecessary delay, no more vehicles should be stopped at any one time than can be effectively inspected by the available officers conducting the spot check. One officer may flag the vehicles over, inform the driver of the intention to inspect, and direct the operators to a waiting officer.

Officers shall hold spot checks during daylight hours only, using plainly marked patrol cars. The location selected shall provide an adequate and safe place for drivers to stop their cars off the roadway.

A Notice of Infraction will not be issued for defective equipment found at the scene of the spot check.

Motorists will be advised to repair their vehicles immediately, however, correction notices will allow ten days before reinspections are required. Vehicles with dangerous defects may be prevented from further operation, impounded, or directed to a place for repair in accordance with RCW 46.32.060.

We conclude Troopers Richmond and McNinch acted in conformity with RCW 46.64.070 and Washington State Patrol procedures. The purpose of the roadblock was to check for vehicle infractions. In terms of safety, the roadblock was conducted during daylight hours, using plainly marked patrol cars, by uniformed troopers, as well as a traffic cone to establish the roadblock. The location was a rural four- lane highway, selected for its high visibility to oncoming travelers.

There is no evidence of the traffic count at the roadblock but it appears the vehicle inspection was conducted without discrimination. Although traffic remained uninterrupted while a particular vehicle was undergoing inspection, no vehicle was allowed to pass once an inspection was completed. In short, a single vehicle would be detained, checked for possible infractions as described in RCW 46.64.070, released, and the next oncoming vehicle would be stopped. The fact no more than one vehicle was stopped at any given time is of no consequence, since the guidelines specify no more vehicles should be stopped than can be effectively inspected by the available officers conducting the roadblock. Thus there was a minimum of inconvenience to the traveling public. The fact the motorcyclist, who had been stopped immediately prior to Mr. Marchand, had chosen to remain at the scene did not impact upon the neutrality of the roadblock procedure; the motorcycle inspection had been completed.

The next issue is whether the guidelines comport with the requirements that all seizures be reasonable. Mr. Marchand relies heavily upon Delaware v. Prouse, supra. He contends RCW 46.64.070 and the Washington State Patrol procedures for roadblocks provide law enforcement officers with unbridled discretion to stop and search vehicles. While RCW 46.64.070 may be susceptible to two interpretations, one of which would render it constitutionally infirm, we are required to adopt the interpretation which sustains its validity. See Poolman v. Langdon, 94 Wash. 448, 457, 162 P. 578 (1917); State ex rel. Campbell v. Case, 182 Wash. 334, 341, 47 P.2d 24 (1935); Woodson v. State, 95 Wash.2d 257, 261, 623 P.2d 683 (1980). We interpret RCW 46.64.070 as containing the element of reasonableness. In effect, vehicles may only be stopped when the procedure followed is neutral and indiscriminate.

The purpose of RCW 46.64.070 is to protect the health and safety of the public by assuring that only qualified drivers and vehicles which meet minimum equipment standards will operate on state highways. Washington has no annual vehicle inspection requirement. 2 See RCW 46.64.060. Whether a particular seizure is lawful depends upon a balancing of the public interest in law enforcement against the severity of the interference with individual liberty and privacy. Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 61 L.Ed.2d 357 (1979); State v. Larson, 93 Wash.2d 638, 611 P.2d 771 (1980). We conclude the brief detention of a vehicle without probable cause is permissible when based upon neutral criteria, as was employed here, as a valid exercise of the police power of the state in ensuring the health and safety of the public on the state highways. See Delaware v. Prouse, supra 99 S.Ct. at 1398-99.

While it is true the Supreme Court held in Prouse that absent at least an articulable and reasonable suspicion a motorist is unlicensed or the vehicle is not properly registered or either the vehicle or an occupant is otherwise subject to seizure, stopping an automobile and detaining its driver are unreasonable; the court also expressed the following caveat to this general rule:

This holding does not preclude the State of Delaware or other States from developing methods for spot checks that involve less intrusion or that do not involve the unconstrained exercise of discretion. Questioning of all oncoming traffic at...

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5 cases
  • State v. Bell
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • 14 Mayo 1987
    ... ... Courts in this state, however, have time and again recognized that exigency is not a necessary element to a "plain view" seizure. State v. Lair, 95 Wash.2d at 716, 630 P.2d 427; State v. Marchand, 37 Wash.App. 741, 749, 684 P.2d 1306 (1984), rev'd on other grounds, 104 Wash.2d 434, 706 P.2d 225 (1985); State v. Johnson, 17 Wash.App. 153, 159, 561 P.2d 701, review denied, 89 Wash.2d 1001 (1977). A search can be upheld under the plain view doctrine in the absence of exigent circumstances, ... ...
  • Com. v. Person
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 7 Julio 1989
    ... ... 199 (D.Del.1981), rev'd on other grounds, 690 F.2d 60 (3d Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1214, 103 S.Ct. 1212, 75 L.Ed.2d 450 (1983); State v. Bell, 108 Wash.2d 193, 737 P.2d 254 (1987). See generally Annot.,[385 Pa.Super. 205] Admissibility, in Criminal Case, of Evidence Discovered by ... State v. Lair, 95 Wash.2d at 716, 630 P.2d 427; State v ... Page 768 ... Marchand, 37 Wash.App. 741, 749, 684 P.2d 1306 (1984), rev'd on other grounds, 104 Wash.2d 434, 706 P.2d 225 (1985); State v. Johnson, 17 Wash.App. 153, 159, ... ...
  • Com. v. Tarbert
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • 6 Diciembre 1985
    ... ... ADEQUATE AND INDEPENDENT STATE GROUNDS ...         Initially, we are compelled to note that our decision today is based entirely upon the Constitution of the Commonwealth ... Commonwealth, 660 S.W.2d 677 (Ky.Ct.App.1983); State v. Shankle, 58 Or.App. 134, 647 P.2d 959 (1982); State v. Marchand, 37 Wash.App. 741, 684 P.2d 1306 (1984) ...         While the arguments supporting the constitutionality of systematic roadblocks are ... ...
  • State v. Marchand
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • 12 Septiembre 1985
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