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State v. Pippen

Supreme Court of Montana

March 14, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
ALLEN DALE PIPPEN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 15, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Third Judicial District, In and For the County of Powell, Cause No. DC-14-18 Honorable Ray Dayton, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Samuel P. Newton, Law Office of Samuel P. Newton, PC, Kalispell, Montan

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Madison L. Mattioli, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Lewis K. Smith, Powell County Attorney, Patrick Moody, Deputy County Attorney, Deer Lodge, Montana



         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Allen Dale Pippen (Pippen) appeals from an August 24, 2014 District Court order denying his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.

         ¶3 On April 1, 2014, Trooper Tammy Perkins of the Montana Highway Patrol observed Pippen fail to signal when he turned off of Frontage Road near Anaconda, Montana. Pippen drove down the road, stopped, turned around, and came back. The trooper noticed the vehicle occupants were not wearing seatbelts. She followed Pippen for a mile and observed the vehicle crowding the centerline. After the trooper initiated a traffic stop, it took Pippen thirty-six seconds to stop.

         ¶4 When the trooper approached the passenger's side door she observed Pippen's red face, bloodshot eyes, and noticed the smell of alcohol and marijuana. The trooper inspected and confirmed Pippen's driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration. The passenger had a valid medical marijuana card. The trooper issued a warning to Pippen about his failure to signal, and cited both vehicle occupants for failure to wear seat belts.

         ¶5 The trooper testified that she suspected Pippen was driving under the influence and requested Pippen get out of the car. Once out of the car the trooper continued to smell marijuana and alcohol. Pippen admitted to drinking a couple of beers. The trooper performed field sobriety tests and administered a portable breath test; both indicated Pippen was impaired. The trooper arrested Pippen for driving under the influence.

         ¶6 On April 7, 2014, the State charged Pippen with felony driving under the influence of alcohol, fourth or subsequent offense. On May 23, 2014, Pippen filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained at the scene, alleging the trooper did not have sufficient evidence to form a particularized suspicion[1] to stop him and lacked probable cause to arrest him. On July 25, 2014, the State amended its charges, based on Pippen's blood test results, to felony driving under the influence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannaboinal, and failure to wear a seatbelt.

         ¶7 On August 5, 2014, the District Court held a hearing on the motion to suppress and denied the motion in writing on August 26. The District Court found the trooper had particularized suspicion to conduct a traffic stop, that suspicion ripened into particularized suspicion to conduct a driving under the influence investigation, and that suspicion ripened into probable cause to arrest Pippen for driving under the influence. Pippen entered a guilty plea on May 11, 2015, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. Pippen appeals.

         ¶8 This Court reviews a district court's denial of a motion to suppress to determine if the findings of fact are clearly erroneous and whether those findings were correctly applied as a matter of law. State v. Pratt, 286 Mont. 156, 160-61, 951 P.2d 37, 40 (1997); State v. Murray, 2011 MT 10, ¶ 11, 359 Mont. 123, 247 P.3d 721.

         ¶9 Pippen argues the trooper used the turn signal violation as a pretext to conduct a broader investigation. It is well established that a statutory violation alone is sufficient to establish particularized suspicion for an officer to make a traffic stop. Kummerfeldt v. State, 2015 MT 109, ¶ 11, 378 Mont. 522, 347 P.3d 1233. An officer's observation of a traffic offense satisfies the particularized suspicion requirement. Murray, ¶ 14. The trooper witnessed Pippen fail to signal while turning, a violation of § ...

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