State v. Willoughby, No. 35289.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtHorton
Citation211 P.3d 91,147 Idaho 482
Decision Date12 May 2009
Docket NumberNo. 35289.
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Christopher WILLOUGHBY, Defendant-Respondent.
211 P.3d 91
147 Idaho 482
STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Christopher WILLOUGHBY, Defendant-Respondent.
No. 35289.
Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, February 2009 Term.
May 12, 2009.

[211 P.3d 93]

Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Honorable Charles W. Hosack, District Judge. Honorable Benjamin Simpson, Magistrate Judge.

The decision of the district court is affirmed.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Jessica Lorello argued.

Frederick G. Loats, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent.

HORTON, Justice.


This appeal arises from a magistrate judge's order granting Respondent Christopher Willoughby's motion to suppress. The trial court held that law enforcement seized Willoughby without reasonable suspicion. The State appealed to the district court, which affirmed the trial court, and the Court of Appeals, which also affirmed. We granted the State's petition for review. We affirm the district court's decision affirming the trial court.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 4, 2005, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Officers Josh Gillmore and Timothy Carroll of the Coeur d'Alene Police Department received a dispatch report of a "physical fight" in the parking lot of an apartment complex located at 1053 W. Emma Avenue in Coeur d'Alene. Driving separate marked police

211 P.3d 94

cars, both officers "ran code" to the scene with their overhead lights and sirens activated. Officer Gillmore arrived in the parking lot first, followed closely by Officer Carroll.

Officer Gillmore observed Willoughby's car parked perpendicularly to other cars in the parking lot, blocking the other cars in their stalls. Willoughby was in the driver's seat and there were four other people around his car, one of whom had just gotten out of the car as Officer Gillmore arrived. Officer Carroll observed Willoughby's vehicle and two other people walking away towards an apartment. Neither officer observed a fight upon arrival.

Officer Gillmore parked his police car approximately fifteen feet from Willoughby's vehicle and Officer Carroll parked his car somewhat behind and on the driver's side of Officer Gillmore's vehicle. Both officers left their emergency lights on after their arrival. Although each officer created a diagram of the scene during their testimony before the trial court, the diagrams were not preserved for the record. Thus, the record does not clearly demonstrate where the officers' vehicles were in relation to Willoughby's car nor does the record reflect whether the patrol cars were parked in a fashion so as to prevent Willoughby from driving away.

Officer Carroll first made contact with the two people walking away and asked them if they had any information regarding a fight in the parking lot. They reported that they did not. As Officer Carroll was speaking to these individuals, Officer Gillmore identified himself and approached the group of people outside Willoughby's vehicle and asked if they had any knowledge of a fight. Each person in the group denied awareness of a fight. Officer Gillmore then moved closer to Willoughby's vehicle and Willoughby stepped out. While asking Willoughby if he had any information regarding the fight, Officer Gillmore noticed the odor of alcohol and that Willoughby's eyes appeared glassy. As a result of these observations, Officer Gillmore suspected that Willoughby might be under the influence of alcohol. By this time, Officer Carroll had finished speaking to the two people that had been headed towards the apartment complex and had returned to make contact with Officer Gillmore. Officer Gillmore asked Officer Carroll to conduct a further investigation to determine whether Willoughby was under the influence of alcohol. Officer Carroll subsequently arrested Willoughby for driving under the influence.

Willoughby moved to suppress all evidence acquired as a result of the contact with the officers. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law and suppressed the evidence. The State timely appealed to the district court, which affirmed the decision of the trial court. The State timely appealed and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. This Court granted the State's Petition for Review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a decision of the district court acting in its appellate capacity, this Court reviews the trial court record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate judge's findings of fact and whether the magistrate judge's conclusions of law follow from those findings. Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d 758, 760 (2008) (citing Nicholls v. Blaser, 102 Idaho 559, 561, 633 P.2d 1137, 1139 (1981)). If the district court affirmed the trial court's decision because the trial court's findings were so supported and its conclusions followed therefrom, then, as a matter of procedure, this Court affirms the district court's decision. Id. When considering a case on review from the Court of Appeals, this Court gives serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals. State v. Jenkins, 143 Idaho 918, 920, 155 P.3d 1157, 1159 (2007) (citing State v. Benefiel, 131 Idaho 226, 228, 953 P.2d 976, 978 (1998)).

When reviewing a motion to suppress, the standard of review is bifurcated. This Court defers to the trial court's findings of fact unless the findings are clearly erroneous. State v. Hankey, 134 Idaho 844, 846, 11 P.3d 40, 42 (2000) (citing State v. Reese, 132 Idaho 652, 653, 978 P.2d 212, 213 (1999)). This

211 P.3d 95

Court freely reviews the trial court's application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. Hankey, 134 Idaho at 846, 11 P.3d at 42 (citing State v. Harvill, 131 Idaho 720, 721, 963 P.2d 1157, 1158 (1998)).

III. ANALYSIS

The State argues that the trial court erred when it concluded that law enforcement seized Willoughby and alternatively, that if Willoughby was seized, the seizure was based upon reasonable suspicion.

A. On the record before this Court, we must conclude that Willoughby was seized.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. When a defendant seeks to suppress evidence that is alleged to have been obtained as a result of an illegal seizure, the defendant bears the burden of proving that a seizure occurred. State v. Page, 140 Idaho 841, 843, 103 P.3d 454, 456 (2004) (citing Reese, 132 Idaho at 654, 978 P.2d at 214). "The test to determine if an individual is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes is an objective one" requiring an evaluation of "the totality of the circumstances." State v. Henage, 143 Idaho 655, 658, 152 P.3d 16, 19 (2007).

An encounter between a law enforcement officer and a citizen does not trigger Fourth Amendment scrutiny unless it is nonconsensual. State v. Baker, 141 Idaho 163, 165, 107 P.3d 1214, 1216 (2004) (citing Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 2386, 115 L.Ed.2d 389, 398 (1991)). "A seizure under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment occurs only `when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.'" State v. Nickel, 134 Idaho 610, 612, 7 P.3d 219, 221 (2000) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1879, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 904 (1968)).

A seizure initiated through a show of authority requires words or actions, or both, by a law enforcement officer that would convey to a reasonable person that the officer was ordering him or her to restrict his or her movement. State v. Maland, 140 Idaho 817, 820, 103 P.3d 430, 433 (2004) (citing California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991)). If a reasonable person would feel free to disregard the law enforcement officer, then the encounter is consensual. Page, 140 Idaho at 843-44, 103 P.3d at 456-57 (citing Nickel, 134 Idaho at 613, 7 P.3d at 222); see also Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, ___, 127 S.Ct. 2400, 2405-06, 168 L.Ed.2d 132, 137-38 (2007). There is no seizure unless the individual actually submits to the officer's show of authority. Hodari D., 499 U.S. at 626-29, 111 S.Ct. at 1548-52, 113 L.Ed.2d at 697-99; State v. Agundis, 127 Idaho 587, 590-91, 903 P.2d 752, 755-56 (Ct.App.1995).

Thus, in this appeal, we must decide two questions in order to determine whether Willoughby was seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment: (1) whether the officers' show of authority was such that a reasonable person would not feel free to leave; and (2) whether Willoughby submitted to that show of authority.

1. The absence of a complete record requires us to conclude that the officers' show of authority was such that a reasonable person would not feel free to leave.

The district court, citing State v. Mireles, 133 Idaho 690, 991 P.2d 878 (Ct.App.1999), concluded that "[a] police officer's act of turning on the overhead lights, although not necessarily intended to create a detention, does constitute a technical, de facto, detention commanding the individual to remain in place pursuant to I.C. § 49-625." In Mireles, a sheriff's deputy received a radio communication regarding suspicious activity involving a vehicle. Id. at 691, 991 P.2d at 879. The deputy located the vehicle and followed it for a quarter of a mile. The vehicle, driven by Mireles, then abruptly pulled over to the shoulder of the road, stopping with half of the vehicle still in the traffic lane. The deputy also pulled his patrol car over to the side of the road and then activated his emergency lights, intending to find out whether

211 P.3d 96

the motorist needed assistance. Id. The Court of Appeals concluded:

[The deputy's] act of turning on the overhead lights, although not necessarily intended to create a...

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49 practice notes
  • State v. Carriero, No. 35560-8-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • April 25, 2019
    ...; State v. Edmonds , 323 Conn. 34, 145 A.3d 861 (2016) ; State v. Clark , 297 Conn. 1, 7-8, 997 A.2d 461 (2010) ; State v. Willoughby , 147 Idaho 482, 487-88, 211 P.3d 91 (2009) ; State v. Garcia-Cantu , 253 S.W.3d 236 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008) ; Riley v. State , 892 A.2d 370, 374 (Del. 2006) ......
  • State v. Martinez-Gonzalez, 37737.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • January 3, 2012
    ...they are clearly erroneous, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 485–86, 211 P.3d 91, 94–95 (2009) ; State v. Fees, 140 Idaho 81, 84, 90 P.3d 306, 309 (2004). At a suppression hearing, the power to asses......
  • State v. Martinez-Gonzalez, No. 37737.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • May 9, 2012
    ...they are clearly erroneous, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 485–86, 211 P.3d 91, 94–95 (2009); State v. Fees, 140 Idaho 81, 84, 90 P.3d 306, 309 (2004). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess......
  • State v. Perez-Jungo, 41158.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • May 20, 2014
    ...that use of emergency lights created a de facto detention based on I.C. § 49–625 and I.C. § 49–1404 ); but see State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 487, 211 P.3d 91, 96 (2009) (distinguishing Mireles and holding that the use of overhead emergency lights is a significant factor when consideri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • State v. Carriero, No. 35560-8-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • April 25, 2019
    ...; State v. Edmonds , 323 Conn. 34, 145 A.3d 861 (2016) ; State v. Clark , 297 Conn. 1, 7-8, 997 A.2d 461 (2010) ; State v. Willoughby , 147 Idaho 482, 487-88, 211 P.3d 91 (2009) ; State v. Garcia-Cantu , 253 S.W.3d 236 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008) ; Riley v. State , 892 A.2d 370, 374 (Del. 2006) ......
  • State v. Martinez-Gonzalez, 37737.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • January 3, 2012
    ...they are clearly erroneous, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 485–86, 211 P.3d 91, 94–95 (2009) ; State v. Fees, 140 Idaho 81, 84, 90 P.3d 306, 309 (2004). At a suppression hearing, the power to asses......
  • State v. Martinez-Gonzalez, No. 37737.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • May 9, 2012
    ...they are clearly erroneous, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 485–86, 211 P.3d 91, 94–95 (2009); State v. Fees, 140 Idaho 81, 84, 90 P.3d 306, 309 (2004). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess......
  • State v. Perez-Jungo, 41158.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • May 20, 2014
    ...that use of emergency lights created a de facto detention based on I.C. § 49–625 and I.C. § 49–1404 ); but see State v. Willoughby, 147 Idaho 482, 487, 211 P.3d 91, 96 (2009) (distinguishing Mireles and holding that the use of overhead emergency lights is a significant factor when consideri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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