State of Utah v. Kartchner

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State v. Kartchner. Filed September 2, 1999 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS

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State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,

v.

Shane Mark Kartchner,
Defendant and Appellant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION
(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 981736-CA

F I L E D
September 2, 1999
  1999 UT App 252 -----

Third District, Salt Lake Department
The Honorable Leslie A. Lewis

Attorneys:
Robert K. Heineman and Ralph Dellapiana, Salt Lake City, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Catherine M. Johnson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee

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Before Judges Bench, Billings, and Orme.

BENCH, Judge:

Defendant first argues that the trial court's factual finding that defendant said he "probably" had outstanding arrest warrants is clearly erroneous. Upon defendant's continued refusal to give his name--after being informed that the name was necessary for the accident report--the officer inquired whether defendant had any outstanding warrants. Defendant's reply indicated the likelihood of an outstanding warrant. At the suppression hearing, the officer testified, "I don't know if he said 'probably.' I think he said 'I may have,' or 'I'm not sure if I have one.' So that put a doubt in my mind that he may have one." Regardless of the precise verbiage used, defendant's response can be reasonably interpreted to mean that it was likely that he had an outstanding arrest warrant. Thus, the trial court's factual finding accurately reflects the substance and implication of defendant's response, and is not clearly erroneous.

Defendant next argues that the trial court erred in refusing to suppress the contraband found in his possession because it is the fruit of an illegal and suspicionless seizure. He contends that a seizure occurred when the officer continued to ask for his name. Despite defendant's assertions to the contrary, the record reveals no factors indicating a seizure, such as "the threatening presence of several officers, the display of a weapon by an officer, some physical touching of the person of the citizen, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled." U.S. v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554, 100 S. Ct. 1870, 1877 (1980). The officer simply wanted defendant's name to complete the accident report, and it was not unreasonable under these circumstances to continue requesting his name. See State v. Jackson, 805 P.2d 765, 768 (Utah Ct. App. 1990) (holding that "'as a matter of law, a request for identification cannot constitute a show of authority sufficient to convert an innocent encounter into a seizure'") (citation omitted). Although the officer could not force defendant to give his name, it was permissible to continue requesting it while defendant remained at the scene. There is nothing in the record to indicate that defendant was not free to leave.

Defendant asserts, in the alternative, that even if no detention occurred by virtue of the requests for his name, an impermissible detention thereafter occurred during the warrants check because the officer had no reasonable suspicion. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1880 (1968) (providing that "in justifying the particular intrusion the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion"). We again disagree. Defendant's admission of the likelihood of outstanding warrants provided sufficient reasonable articulable suspicion to detain defendant while the officer checked for warrants.

Additionally, defendant contends that his statement to the officer regarding possible outstanding warrants was merely a "truism [because] any citizen 'may' or 'might' or may be unsure if they have warrants." He further asserts that "a statement by an individual that he 'may' or 'might' have warrants only states the obvious, and does not raise a reasonable suspicion that there is in fact a warrant." We find both of these contentions to be wholly unconvincing as it is extremely unlikely that a person with no reason to believe that he or she has an outstanding arrest warrant would respond as defendant did when questioned about warrants.

The officer's request for defendant's name, even though repeated, did not constitute a seizure. Defendant's admission that there was some likelihood of an outstanding warrant gave rise to a reasonable articulable suspicion supporting the detention of defendant while the officer performed a warrants check. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress.

 
 
 

 
Russell W. Bench, Judge
 


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WE CONCUR:
 
 
 

 
Judith M. Billings, Judge
 
 
 

 
Gregory K. Orme, Judge