State of Utah v. Peterson

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State v. Peterson. Filed October 15, 1999 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Blake Peterson,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 981675-CA

October 15, 1999
    1999 UT App 295 -----

Fourth District, Provo Department
The Honorable Ray M. Harding, Sr.

Margaret P. Lindsay, Provo, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Catherine M. Johnson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Davis, Jackson, and Orme.

DAVIS, Judge:

Defendant appeals his conviction following a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of a controlled substance, a third-degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-8(2)(a)(i) (Supp. 1998). Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence. "We review the factual findings underlying the trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to suppress under a clearly erroneous standard, and review the legal conclusions for correctness." State v. Parra, 972 P.2d 924, 926 (Utah Ct. App. 1998).

Defendant first argues that the officers lacked the reasonable suspicion necessary to effectuate a level two stop.

The trial court's factual findings are not disputed; we must therefore determine whether the trial court's legal conclusion that reasonable suspicion existed was in error. See State v. Preece, 971 P.2d 1, 4 (Utah Ct. App. 1998) ("Although we afford some '"measure of discretion"' to the trial court's application of the standard, whether a set of facts supports a reasonable articulable suspicion is a question of law that we review for correctness.") (citations omitted). "[R]easonable suspicion must be 'based on specific, articulable facts drawn from the totality of the circumstances facing the officer at the time of the stop.'" State v. Shepard, 955 P.2d 352, 355 (Utah Ct. App. 1998) (citations omitted).

The officers pulled in behind defendant for the sole purpose of determining whether defendant's blue car was the vehicle they were looking for.(1) As the patrol car approached defendant's vehicle, defendant got out of his vehicle and threw a metallic object into the woods. This conduct, taken together with defendant's furtive movements created an articulable, reasonable suspicion that defendant was engaged in some type of criminal activity, even if it was only littering. Thus, the trial court's legal conclusion that reasonable suspicion existed to detain defendant was not in error.

Defendant also argues that the stop and detention was not in furtherance of the community caretaker function, as the trial court determined in its alternative ruling. While we tend to agree, because we affirm the trial court's determination that reasonable suspicion existed, we need not address this argument.

We accordingly affirm the trial court's denial of  defendant's motion to suppress the evidence and affirm defendant's conviction.

James Z. Davis, Judge



Norman H. Jackson, Judge

Gregory K. Orme, Judge

1. Defendant argues that by simply pulling in behind defendant, the officers conducted a level two stop for which they had no reasonable suspicion. However, the evidence was uncontroverted that the pull-out was a narrow, one lane road and the only way the officers could determine whether defendant's car was the vehicle they were looking for was to pull in behind it. Moreover, defendant obviously thought he was free to leave because he exited the vehicle on his own initiative, albeit to hurl an object into the woods.