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State v. Reeves

Supreme Court of Montana

July 2, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BILLY CLAYTON REEVES III, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: May 15, 2019

          District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 17-525 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Damon Martin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Kirsten H. Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Caitlin Williams, Deputy County Attorney, Missoula, Montana

          INGRID GUSTAFSON, JUSTICE

         ¶1 Appellant Billy Clayton Reeves III (Reeves) appeals the order of the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, denying his Motion to Dismiss based on a finding that law enforcement had the requisite particularized suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. We reverse.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On the afternoon of January 14, 2017, Missoula County Sheriff's Deputy Tyler Terrill (Deputy Terrill) noticed a vehicle in a brewery parking lot. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as Reeves. From the hotel parking lot across the street, Deputy Terrill watched Reeves leave his parking space and navigate toward the exit of the brewery parking lot. At the same time, Deputy Terrill drove his patrol vehicle toward the exit of the hotel parking lot. Although the two parking lot exits are somewhat offset across from each other, they essentially form a four-way intersection with the through street, Trumpeter Way. Deputy Terrill arrived at the intersection just before Reeves, giving Deputy Terrill the right of way; however, Deputy Terrill did not take that right of way or indicate to Reeves to proceed into the intersection. According to Deputy Terrill, upon making eye contact from across the intersection, Reeves exhibited a "deer-in-the-headlights" facial expression.

         ¶3 After waiting 8-10 seconds at the intersection, Reeves activated his turn signal. Another 2-4 seconds later, he made a legal left-hand turn onto an icy Trumpeter Way, passing directly in front of Deputy Terrill. Deputy Terrill then initiated a traffic stop, informing Reeves, "the reason I stopped you is that you didn't use your turn signal before that intersection. In a business district, you have to have it at least 100 feet before the intersection." Deputy Terrill later conceded that Reeves' conduct did not constitute a traffic violation. Deputy Terrill also conceded the brewery parking lot did not provide Reeves with a 100-foot approach in which to signal prior to the intersection.

         ¶4 When he approached Reeves' vehicle, Deputy Terrill noted a strong odor of alcohol. After Reeves refused the standardized field sobriety tests and the breathalyzer test, Deputy Terrill took Reeves to the hospital for a blood draw. A subsequent analysis indicated Reeves' blood alcohol content was over twice the legal limit to drive.

         ¶5 On April 26, 2017, Reeves filed a Motion to Dismiss in Missoula County Justice Court (Justice Court), claiming Deputy Terrill lacked the particularized suspicion required to initiate a traffic stop. On August 23, 2017, the Justice Court granted his motion. The State appealed to the Fourth Judicial District Court (District Court). On November 13, 2017, Reeves filed a Motion to Dismiss, again claiming Deputy Terrill lacked particularized suspicion. The District Court denied his motion after finding Deputy Terrill had particularized suspicion. Following a nonjury trial, the District Court entered judgment against Reeves for Aggravated Driving Under the Influence--Third Offense in violation of § 61-8-465, MCA. Reeves now appeals the District Court's order finding Deputy Terrill had the requisite particularized suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. We reverse.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 A district court's finding that particularized suspicion exists is a question of fact, which we review for clear error. State v. Gill, 2012 MT 36, ¶ 10, 364 Mont. 182, 272 P.3d 60 (citation omitted). A finding is clearly erroneous if it is not supported by substantial evidence, if the lower court has misapprehended the effect of the evidence, or if our ...


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