State v. Vargas, Docket No. 44843

CourtCourt of Appeals of Idaho
Writing for the CourtHUSKEY, Judge
Citation163 Idaho 688,417 P.3d 1014
Parties STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Tanya Andrea VARGAS, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date04 May 2018
Docket NumberDocket No. 44843

163 Idaho 688
417 P.3d 1014

STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Tanya Andrea VARGAS, Defendant-Appellant.

Docket No. 44843

Court of Appeals of Idaho.

Filed: May 4, 2018

Barnum Howell & Gunn PLLC, Boise, for appellant. Matthew Gunn argued.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Lori A. Fleming argued.


163 Idaho 689

Tanya Andrea Vargas appeals from the district court's decision affirming the magistrate's denial of Vargas's motion in limine, which sought suppression of the officer's out-of-court and in-court identification of Vargas. Vargas contends that the magistrate and district court erred in concluding that an officer's identification of a suspect does not raise due process concerns—and therefore does not require the court to employ the two-step reliability test for identifications made pursuant to suggestive identification procedures—if the identification stems from a photograph obtained as part of that officer's investigation. Vargas further argues that the magistrate and district court erred in failing to suppress the officer's in-court identification, as it was the result of a tainted out-of-court identification. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court's decision.



At approximately 10:50 p.m. on May 8, 2015, an officer noticed that a vehicle had a nonfunctioning taillight and began to follow the vehicle. After calling the vehicle's license plate number into dispatch, the officer attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver slowed but did not stop. The officer, who pulled to within fifteen feet of the vehicle, was able to observe the driver's face in the driver's side mirror, as the driver kept glancing into the mirror. After the officer activated her siren, the driver accelerated rapidly. The officer, pursuant to department policy, did not give chase.

The license plate number led the officer to the registered owner of the vehicle. The registered owner told the officer that the owner had provided the vehicle to Vargas. After obtaining Vargas's photograph from a copy of her state-issued ID, the officer was able to identify Vargas as the driver of the vehicle.

On June 5, 2015, Vargas was charged with one count of eluding a police officer. Vargas pled not guilty. Before trial, Vargas filed a motion in limine seeking suppression of the officer's identification of Vargas, both in and out of court. The magistrate denied the motion. On March 15, 2016, the case proceeded to trial and a jury found Vargas guilty. The magistrate sentenced Vargas to 166 days in jail, but credited her with 166 days served. Vargas timely appealed the judgment of conviction to the district court. The district court affirmed the judgment of conviction, holding that the magistrate did not err in denying Vargas's motion in limine. Vargas timely appealed the district court's decision.



For an appeal from the district court, sitting in its appellate capacity over a case from the magistrate division, this Court's standard of review is the same as expressed by the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reviews the magistrate record to determine whether there is substantial

417 P.3d 1016
163 Idaho 690

and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. State v. Korn , 148 Idaho 413, 415, 224 P.3d 480, 482 (2009). If those findings are so supported and the conclusions follow therefrom, and if the district court affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the district court's decision as a matter of procedure. Id . Thus, the appellate courts do not review the decision of the magistrate. State v. Trusdall , 155 Idaho 965, 968, 318 P.3d 955, 958 (Ct. App. 2014). Rather, we are procedurally bound to affirm or reverse the decision of the district court. Id .



A. Out-of-Court Identification

To determine whether evidence of an out-of-court identification violates due process, this Court applies a two-step test. See State v. Hoisington , 104 Idaho 153, 162, 657 P.2d 17, 26 (1983). First, the defendant must establish that the identification procedure was overly suggestive. United States v. Wade , 388 U.S. 218, 240 n.31, 87 S.Ct. 1926, 18 L.Ed.2d 1149 (1967) ; Hoisington , 104 Idaho at 162, 657 P.2d at 26. Second, if the defendant meets that burden, courts consider whether the identification was nonetheless reliable under the totality of the circumstances. Id. This second step entails considering the witness's opportunity to view the perpetrator, his degree of attention, the accuracy of his description, his level of certainty, and the time between the crime and pretrial confrontation, and then weighing those factors against the "corrupting effect of the suggestive identification." Manson v. Brathwaite , 432 U.S. 98, 114, 97 S.Ct. 2243, 53 L.Ed.2d 140 (1977) ; Hoisington , 104 Idaho at 162, 657 P.2d at 26. Thus, greater indicia of reliability may be necessary the more egregious the suggestive procedures.

However, the preliminary issue for this Court is whether the identification stemmed from police suggestiveness. State v. Almaraz , 154 Idaho 584, 593, 301...

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