State v. Cobb

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State v. Cobb Case No. 20000854-CA



State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Brent Cobb,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 20000854-CA

(December 6, 2001)

2001 UT App 374



Third District, Tooele Department
The Honorable David S. Young

Julie George, Salt Lake City, for Appellant
Mark L. Shurtleff and Jeffrey T. Colemere, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Jackson, Billings, and Davis.

JACKSON, Associate Presiding Judge:

Brent Cobb challenges his convictions for possession of a controlled substance, a second degree felony under Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-8(2)(a)(i) (Supp. 1999), and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor under Utah Code Ann. § 58-37a-5(1) (1998).(1) We affirm.

Cobb first argues the trial court should have suppressed the evidence found in his car prior to his being placed under formal arrest. An "officer 'may, as a contemporaneous incident of [an] arrest, search the passenger compartment of [the arrestee's] automobile.'" State v. Rochell, 850 P.2d 480, 484 (Utah Ct. App. 1993) (quoting New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 460, 101 S. Ct. 2860, 2864 (1981)). The officer may make this search "if: (1) the arrest is lawful; (2) the search is of the area within the arrestee's immediate control; and (3) the search is conducted contemporaneously to the arrest." State v. Giron, 943 P.2d 1114, 1118 (Utah Ct. App. 1997) (internal citations omitted).

An open container of alcohol inside Cobb's car lay in plain view of the officer standing outside the passenger side of Cobb's car and gave the officer probable cause to lawfully arrest Cobb without a warrant.(2) See Utah Code Ann. § 41-6-44.20 (1998). Thus, Cobb's arrest without a warrant was lawful. Next, Cobb was detained near the car, and the car was within his immediate control. See Giron, 943 P.2d at 118-19. Further, although Cobb was not under arrest at the time the search was conducted, the contemporaneous search was proper because "the formal arrest followed quickly on the heels of the challenged search."(3) Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98, 111, 100 S. Ct. 2556, 2564 (1980); accord In re K.K.C., 636 P.2d 1044, 1046 (Utah 1981); Spurgeon, 904 P.2d at 227.

Moreover, the officers permissibly searched "'the passenger compartment'" of Cobb's car and the "'contents of any containers found within the passenger compartment,'" incident to his arrest. Rochell, 850 P.2d at 484 (quoting Belton, 453 U.S. at 460, 101 S. Ct. at 2864); see also In re K.K.C., 636 P.2d at 1046 (affirming denial of motion to suppress evidence where police officer conducted a search of the cab of defendant's pickup incident to arrest when officer saw beer bottles between seats, and search of cab yielded bags of marijuana stashed under floor mat and in unlocked tape case). Because the search was proper, the trial court properly admitted the evidence, and no evidence submitted resulting from the search was "'fruit of the poisonous tree.'" Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 487-88, 83 S. Ct. 407, 417 (1963).

Finally, Cobb argues that his trial counsel was ineffective because he merely objected to the evidence during the trial, and failed to file a motion to suppress evidence prior to trial and failed to file a motion for a new trial after his conviction. To prove ineffective assistance of counsel, Cobb must show that his trial counsel's performance "fell below an objective standard of reasonable professional judgment," and "that counsel's deficient performance was prejudicial." State v. Litherland, 2000 UT 76,¶19, 12 P.3d 92. "'"The failure of counsel to make motions or objections which would be futile if raised does not constitute ineffective assistance."'" State v. Whittle, 1999 UT 96,¶34, 989 P.2d 52 (quoting Codianna v. Morris, 660 P.2d 1101, 1109 (Utah 1983)). We have concluded that the search was proper under the search incident to arrest exception to warrantless searches, thus any motion or objection by Cobb's trial counsel would have been futile. See id. Accordingly, Cobb's trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance.

We affirm.

Norman H. Jackson, Associate Presiding Judge



Judith M. Billings, Judge

James Z. Davis, Judge

1. Cobb does not contest his conviction for having an open container of alcohol in his car, a class C misdemeanor, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 41-6-44.20 (1998).

2. "'Probable cause exists where "the facts and circumstances are within [the officers'] knowledge and of which they had reasonable trustworthy information [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a [person] of reasonable caution in the belief that" an offense has been or is being committed.'" State v. Spurgeon, 904 P.2d 220, 226 (Utah Ct. App. 1995) (alterations in original) (quoting State v. Dorsey, 731 P.2d 1085, 1088 (Utah 1936)).

3. The results of an illegal search, however, do not give rise to probable cause, and thus could not justify a subsequent arrest. See State v. Arroyo, 796 P.2d 684, 690-91 (Utah 1990); State v. Deherrera, 965 P.2d 501, 505 (Utah Ct. App. 1998).