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State v. Questo

Supreme Court of Montana

May 14, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
RANDALL QUESTO, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: April 24, 2019

          District Court of the Tenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Fergus, Cause No. DC-2017-29 Honorable Jon A. Oldenburg, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Torger S. Oaas, Attorney at Law, Lewistown, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Madison L. Mattioli, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Kent M. Sipe, Fergus County Attorney, Lewistown, Montana

          Jim Rice Justice

         ¶l Randall Questo appeals the Order entered by the Tenth Judicial District Court, Fergus County, denying his motions to suppress. We affirm.

         Did the District Court err by denying Questo's Motions to Suppress?


         ¶2 At approximately 6:00 p.m. on April 24, 2017, the Lewistown Police Department received a call from two employees at the local Boys and Girls Club reporting that an adult male, who "smelled of [an] alcoholic beverage," had just picked up his minor children from the Club and was leaving with them in a muddy blue truck. The callers identified themselves, provided dispatch a description of the vehicle, and identified the driver as Randall Questo. Lewistown Police Officer William Routzahn, who received this information from dispatch while on patrol, was familiar with Questo. Routzahn proceeded to the area near the Boys and Girls Club, attempting to locate Questo and the vehicle described by the callers.

         ¶3 Officer Routzahn located a truck matching the description provided by the Club employees parked at a gas station fuel pump, and observed an adult male, who he recognized as Questo, standing beside the truck and filling it with fuel. Routzahn had not observed Questo driving. Routzahn drove his patrol car into the gas station's parking lot and parked next to the curb, away from the fuel pumps. He did not activate his vehicle's overhead lights. Routzahn's vehicle was facing the front of Questo's truck, but was parked on the opposite side of the parking lot's driveway. Routzahn estimated that he parked thirty or more feet away from Questo's truck, which provided space enough for Questo to exit and a "right of way so that people in the parking lot could get in and out as well."

         ¶4 Officer Routzahn approached Questo on foot and advised him a call had been received from the Club, reporting that Questo had smelled of alcohol when he picked up his children. Questo admitted driving the truck from the Club to the gas station, and indicated his girlfriend and two children were inside the vehicle, but denied that he smelled of alcohol. Routzahn said that he detected an odor of alcohol coming from Questo or his truck. Questo replied that he had empty beer cans in the back of his truck and suggested those might be causing the smell. Routzahn expressed doubt that the empty cans could be causing such a smell, given the windy conditions. He then asked if Questo had been drinking. Questo answered no, stating he had drunk alcohol the night before but not that day.

         ¶5 Routzahn asked if Questo would perform some field sobriety tests, and Questo agreed. To conduct the test out of the wind, Routzahn and Questo moved across the parking lot to a location near the gas station building. Routzahn testified that, removed from the truck, he could "still detect an odor of alcoholic beverage" emanating from Questo. Routzahn conducted the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and noted that Questo scored a three out of six, which he testified indicates "a certain level of impairment." Routzahn advised Questo of the test results and again asked whether he had been drinking. This time, Questo stated that "he'd had a couple beers a few hours prior" and had recently consumed Dayquil. Routzahn asked Questo if he would perform a preliminary breath test (PBT), and Questo agreed. Questo provided a breath sample, which registered an illegal blood-alcohol content for purposes of driving. Officer Honeycutt, who had arrived as backup, did not formally arrest Questo at the time, but transported him to the Sheriffs office for additional testing. A breath test conducted at the Sheriffs office indicated Questo had a blood-alcohol content of 0.121.

         ¶6 Questo was arrested and charged by Information in Count I with Criminal Endangerment, a felony in violation of § 45-5-207, MCA, and in Count II with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI), a misdemeanor in violation of § 61-8-401(1)(a), MCA. Questo filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing Officer Routzahn "lacked particularized suspicion for the investigatory stop based on a citizen's report." ...

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