Submitted on Briefs: February 15, 2017
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
Appellant: Samuel P. Newton, Law Office of Samuel P. Newton,
PC, Kalispell, Montan
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
McGRATH, CHIEF JUSTICE
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
Allen Dale Pippen (Pippen) appeals from an August 24, 2014
District Court order denying his motion to suppress evidence.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 § ...