State v. Tuton, 060920 NMCA, A-1-CA-37467

Docket NºA-1-CA-37467
Opinion JudgeZACHARY A. IVES, Judge
Party NameSTATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CARROLL J. TUTON, Defendant-Appellant.
AttorneyHector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellee Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender MJ Edge, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant
Judge PanelWE CONCUR: J. MILES HANISEE, Chief Judge, MEGAN P. DUFFY, Judge
Case DateJune 09, 2020
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

CARROLL J. TUTON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-1-CA-37467

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 9, 2020

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF DOÑA ANA COUNTY Douglas R. Driggers, District Judge

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellee

Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender MJ Edge, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant

OPINION

ZACHARY A. IVES, Judge

{¶1} Defendant Carroll J. Tuton appeals his conviction for possession of methamphetamine in violation of NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-23(A) (2011, amended 2019), arguing that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress 0.73 grams of methamphetamine a police officer found while searching his wallet during a traffic stop. We agree with Defendant that the expansion of the scope of the stop violated Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. Specifically, we conclude that the State did not establish that asking Defendant to name the friend whose house he had come from was reasonably related to his traffic offenses or that this questioning was based on reasonable suspicion of any other offense. Because this violation of the State Constitution tainted Defendant's consent to search his wallet, we reverse the order denying Defendant's motion to suppress the fruits of that search.

BACKGROUND

{¶2} At the suppression hearing, the State relied on the testimony of Officer Manuel Frias and Officer Kassidee Plumley of the Las Cruces Police Department. Officer Frias testified that he stopped Defendant's vehicle after observing Defendant fail to use his turn signal and fail to stop at a stop sign. During the stop, Defendant was "very nervous [and] shaky" and, at first, "belligerent" and "[un]cooperative." When Officer Frias asked Defendant for his driver's license and proof of vehicle registration and insurance, Defendant produced his license but not the other two documents. Officer Frias directed Defendant to step out of his vehicle to advise him of the traffic citation he was receiving and have him sign that citation.

{¶3} With Defendant outside of his vehicle and before Defendant had signed the citation, Officer Frias asked Defendant where he was coming from; Defendant responded that he was coming from a friend's house. When Officer Frias asked which friend, Defendant identified the friend as Josh. Officer Frias then asked whether it was Josh Dimas-a person Officer Frias knew was under investigation for and had been previously convicted of drug trafficking-and Defendant replied that it was. Officer Frias then asked for and received Defendant's consent to search his vehicle. After completing this search, Officer Frias asked for and received Defendant's consent to pat him down and search his pockets. During the search of Defendant's pockets, Officer Frias found a wallet, which he handed to Officer Plumley, who had arrived as backup during the stop. Officer Plumley searched the wallet and found a clear plastic bag containing methamphetamine.

{¶4} Officer Plumley testified that she observed Officer Frias talking to Defendant at the driver's side of Defendant's vehicle when she arrived at the scene. Defendant "appeared to be very nervous" inside of his vehicle, more so than most people are during traffic stops: he "kept grabbing for the steering wheel and then [putting his hands] back down" and "his hands were shaking." During the time that Officer Plumley was observing the interaction between Officer Frias and Defendant, they were having a "good natured discussion," and "nobody was being belligerent."

{¶5} At the conclusion of the suppression hearing, the State argued that the law allowed the officers to expand the traffic stop to ask questions about where Defendant was coming from and that the request for consent was lawful. Defense counsel responded that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to expand the scope of the stop, arguing, among other things, that Officer Frias expanded the stop illegally, which tainted any consent Defendant might have given. The district court denied Defendant's motion to suppress without explanation.

{¶6} Defendant pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine in violation of Section 30-31-23(A). He appeals pursuant to a plea agreement that includes a provision allowing him to withdraw his guilty plea if he obtains a reversal of the order denying suppression.

DISCUSSION

{¶7} Defendant argues that Officer Frias violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution by expanding the scope of the traffic stop to question Defendant about where he had been before the traffic stop and, based on his responses, to request consent to search Defendant and the vehicle he was driving. Defendant contends that Officer Frias unreasonably extended the duration of the traffic stop and impermissibly deviated from the original justification for the stop by asking questions that were not reasonably related to traffic violations.

{¶8} Our "review of a...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP