West Valley City v. Temblador-Topete, 041620 UTCA, 20190279-CA

Docket Nº:20190279-CA
Opinion Judge:POHLMAN, JUDGE
Party Name:West Valley City, Appellee, v. Fernando C. Temblador-Topete, Appellant.
Attorney:Joseph Jardine, Attorney for Appellant Ryan D. Robinson and Yvette Rodier Whitby, Attorneys for Appellee
Judge Panel:Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Diana Hagen concurred.
Case Date:April 16, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Utah
 
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2020 UT App 64

West Valley City, Appellee,

v.

Fernando C. Temblador-Topete, Appellant.

No. 20190279-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 16, 2020

Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S. Trease No. 171910479

Joseph Jardine, Attorney for Appellant

Ryan D. Robinson and Yvette Rodier Whitby, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Diana Hagen concurred.

POHLMAN, JUDGE

¶1 Fernando C. Temblador-Topete entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession or use of a controlled substance, preserving his right to appeal the district court's ruling on the suppression of evidence. On appeal, he contends that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence seized after a traffic stop of his vehicle. He argues that the officer had no reasonable articulable suspicion to justify the stop. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶2 A police officer (Officer) received information from the Utah Criminal Justice Information System (UCJIS) that indicated the motor vehicle Temblador-Topete was driving might not be insured. Because operating a motor vehicle without insurance violates Utah law, Officer stopped the vehicle. When Officer asked whether Temblador-Topete had insurance, Temblador-Topete said, "No." Temblador-Topete handed Officer some papers, but they were not helpful in determining the vehicle's insurance coverage. Officer then asked for Temblador-Topete's driver license, but Temblador-Topete admitted that he did not have one.

¶3 Thereafter, Officer discovered that Temblador-Topete had outstanding warrants and placed him under arrest. A search incident to arrest yielded methamphetamine in Temblador-Topete's front pocket. West Valley City (the City) then brought charges against Temblador-Topete for possession or use of a controlled substance and driving without a valid driver license.

¶4 Temblador-Topete moved to suppress the evidence found incident to his arrest, arguing that the traffic stop was illegal from its inception because Officer lacked reasonable suspicion of a traffic offense.

¶5 At the hearing on the motion, Temblador-Topete elicited testimony from the president of Insure-Rite, the company that conveyed to UCJIS the information on the insurance status of Temblador-Topete's vehicle. Insure-Rite's president testified that Insure-Rite's database relies on information provided by insurance companies and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), it is updated twice a month, and it "could be out of date" when cars are newly registered or insured. According to Insure-Rite's president, Insure-Rite has four possible responses to an inquiry from law enforcement on the insurance status of a vehicle: insured, not insured, the insurance company is out of service, or no insurance found. And the information Insure-Rite conveyed to UCJIS-i.e., no insurance found-was accurate, as Insure-Rite had not received any proof of insurance for the vehicle Temblador-Topete was driving on the day of his traffic stop. Instead, Insure-Rite had proof of insurance for the vehicle days later, after it had received new registration information from the DMV. Insure-Rite's president testified that Temblador-Topete's vehicle actually had been continuously insured for at least a month before the stop and that Temblador-Topete's vehicle was, in fact, insured at the time of the stop.

¶6 Temblador-Topete also introduced records from Insure-Rite showing that Insure-Rite responded to Officer's inquiry on the vehicle with "Insurance: Registration not found." The records indicated that the vehicle was "newly registered" and had been insured since at least a month before the traffic stop, but that the "DMV registration process was not completed and submitted" until days after the stop.

¶7 The district court denied Temblador-Topete's motion to suppress. It explained that a routine traffic stop "includes traffic stops for speeding, driver license violations, registration violations, and checks for insurance and warrants." It found that Officer "received information from UCJIS that [Temblador-Topete] drove a vehicle that was not insured," in violation of Utah Code section 41-12a-301. The court stated that Officer "reasonably believed that the vehicle was uninsured." The court further stated that no evidence suggested that Officer believed he was mistaken. Thus, the court concluded that Officer "had a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop the car [Temblador-Topete] drove, based on the information he received from UCJIS."

¶8 After the denial of the motion to suppress, the City dismissed the...

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