ID: Distinguishing Strieff, when it was obvious the person stopped was not the person the police were looking for, running warrants was unnecessary and continued the stop

Distinguishing Strieff, when it was obvious the person stopped was not the person the police were looking for, running warrants on them was unnecessary and continued the stop. State v. Cohagan, 2017 Ida. LEXIS 250 (Aug. 24, 2017)

The State argues that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Strieff controls the outcome of this case and dictates that we find attenuation rather than suppression. Because Cohagan has not argued that the Idaho Constitution affords greater protection than the U.S. Constitution, we agree that Strieff controls. However, Strieff differs factually from the present case, and we hold that those differences are sufficient to warrant suppression.

In Strieff, an officer received an anonymous tip about drug activity occurring in a residence. Id. at 2059. Over the course of a week, and after observing multiple people make brief visits to the residence, the officer became suspicious that the occupants of the residence were dealing drugs. Id. While watching the home, the officer observed the defendant exit the house and walk toward a nearby convenience store. Id. at 2060. The officer detained the defendant in the store parking lot and asked the defendant what he was doing at the residence. Id. The officer also requested the defendant’s identification and relayed the defendant’s information to dispatch, which reported that the defendant had an outstanding arrest warrant. Id. The officer then arrested the defendant and searched him incident to arrest. Id. The search revealed a baggie of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Id.

In determining whether the officer’s conduct was flagrant, the Supreme Court noted that the officer’s decision to run a warrant check was a “‘negligibly burdensome precaution’ for officer safety” and the officer’s conduct “was at most negligent” and the result of “two good-faith mistakes.” Id. at 2063 (quoting Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 1616, 191 L. Ed. 2d 492 (2016)). It also noted that the officer’s purpose in approaching the defendant was to determine what was going on in the house and that “the stop was an isolated instance of negligence that occurred in connection with a bona fide investigation of a suspected drug house.” Id. Based on those observations, the Supreme Court held that the officer’s conduct did not reflect “flagrantly unlawful police misconduct.” Id.

Here, there was no “bona fide investigation.” Officer Otto had asked Cohagan for his identification just a few minutes before Officer Curtis interacted with Cohagan and confirmed that Cohagan was not the person they suspected. The only proffered purpose for Officer Curtis’s stop of Cohagan was that Officer Curtis suspected that Cohagan might have given Officer Otto a false identification card, but there are no objective grounds to support this belief or the subsequent seizure. Cf. State v. Henage, 143 Idaho 655, 660-62, 152 P.3d 16, 21-23 (2007). Indeed, Officer Curtis admitted that before stopping Cohagan, he knew Cohagan was not the person he suspected.4 Thus, there was no cause for Officer Curtis to stop Cohagan because both Officer Otto and Officer Curtis himself had already confirmed that Cohagan was not the suspected individual. Further, there was no need for Officer Curtis to stop Cohagan and run a warrant check as a precaution for officer safety. Officer Otto had just checked Cohagan’s identification and there was no reason Officer Curtis could not have run a warrant check before he made contact with Cohagan. Indeed, the more prudent and safe approach for Officer Curtis would have been to check for warrants before making contact.

This entry was posted in Attenuation. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.